A.C. Ryan Playon!HD media streamer

A feature-packed A.C. Ryan media streamer

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A.C. Ryan Playon!HD
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Supports most media file types, reliable during playback, up to 2TB of internal storage

Cons

  • Confounding user interface, annoying remote control, bulky design

Bottom Line

The A.C. Ryan Playon!HD is a feature-packed media streamer with plenty of codec support. On the downside, its user interface leaves a lot to be desired.

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The A.C. Ryan Playon!HD is a network media streamer that doubles as a NAS device. It boasts a Full HD Realtek 400MHz processor and supports a dizzying array of video file formats, including AVI, DAT, FLV, MKV, M2TS, MP4, MOV, M4V, RM, TS, TRP, WMV, and DivX. Other features include two USB ports, Internet radio, DVD playback (via an external optical drive) and YAMJ movie jukebox support.

If you're looking for a feature-packed media streamer that does more than just the basics, the A.C. Ryan Playon!HD is an interesting proposition. However, it isn't particularly user-friendly and it is also on the bulky side. Nevertheless, those who get to grips with the interface will be more than satisfied by its playback performance: it will play almost any media file without a hitch.

With dimensions of 227x165x60mm, the A.C. Ryan Playon!HD is probably the largest media streamer we've ever tested. (The Western Digital WD TV Mini measured just 91x91x21mm for example, though it naturally lacks many of the same features.) Unlike most media streamers, the Playon!HD comes with a 3.5in hard drive bay with support for up to 2TB of internal storage. This eliminates the need for protruding thumb drives or external HDDs (you will need to source the hard drive and install it yourself, however). For an added premium, A.C. Ryan also offer a version with a built-in Greenlife low energy consumption hard drive.

Despite its looming size, the A.C. Ryan Playon!HD is a surprisingly attractive device. The chassis’ matte black finish contrasts well with the glossy black face plate; although you’ll want to keep your fingers away from the latter, as it smudges easily. A blue LED logo and indicator light dominate the front panel. All in all, it's an elegant offering that we'd have no qualms about placing in our home theatre.

The A.C. Ryan Playon!HD comes with all the usual connectivity options: component video (YPbPr), composite AV and HDMI are naturally present, along with coaxial and optical digital audio outputs. A pair of USB ports is located on the side of the device, along with an SD memory card slot. A.C. Ryan has sportingly included a HDMI cable in the sales package; this is something that most media streamers skimp out on.

To test the A.C. Ryan Playon!HD’s playback performance, we hooked it up to a 50in Pioneer KURO PDP-C509A307112 plasma TV using the supplied HDMI cable. We then previewed a handful of media files on our external hard drive.

The initial setup process proved to be a little confounding. For some reason, the menus were all in Cantonese and it took a lot of trial-and-error to revert back to English. [Note: AC Ryan has assured us that all Playon!HD media players will have English menus out of-the-box, so there's no need to keep a Chinese interpreter on hand, thankfully.] Once we had the Playon!HD westernised, things ran a bit more smoothly. But only a bit.

The menu adopts a crossbar interface that is attractive, if less than straightforward. Novices will be particularly mystified by the setup menu, which presents an exhaustive list of options without any explanations. Media playback is divided into the usual categories (Music, Photos, Movies, All) — or you can elect to browse through your folders manually.

We didn’t come across any problems when it came to media playback. We viewed files in a variety of formats and video codecs, and all of them played without a hitch. We were also impressed by the Playon!HD’s slideshow options: the pans and transitions between photos looked smooth and professional. The media streamer supports Full HD (1080p) output. Standard definition also holds up well.

We weren’t fans of the A.C. Ryan Playon!HD’s remote control, however. While the remote is nice and chunky, the buttons are far too small — this makes it difficult to use in the dark. To make matters worse, they also suffer from an unconventional arrangement (the rewind button is directly above the fast-forward button, for example). In addition, we found the IR receiver to be quite weak — if you're not pointing the remote directly at the device, your command will fail to register.

As mentioned, the A.C. Ryan Playon!HD has NAS functionality, which means you can stream content to and from the device using any computer on your home network. However, to get the most out of this feature you will need to purchase a wireless USB dongle, sold separately. Alternatively, you can hook the Playon!HD up to your router using an Ethernet cable.

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