The only real way to test a device such as this was to play around with it for a few days and write up my experiences, so that’s exactly what I’ve done. During the testing I watched a few movies, used several of the internet and social applications, and transferred all my media to the Playon!HD2.
Coming from the original ACRyan Playon!Hd, I had quite high expectations for the V2.0, and I was pleasantly surprised. There are no massive changes with this latest iteration, but many of the little additions and tweaks that make the upgrade worth it in many ways.
During viewing, the information panel gives you plenty more info than before and appears at the bottom of the screen, keeping itself tucked away. This is easily accessed with the new remote which feels a bit more grown up than the brightly coloured original. However, one problem I did have with it was the strength of it. The new remote is unable to change volume through glass or over a distance greater than a few metres. Not the end of the world, but perhaps something to think about in the future; the original remote didn’t have this issue.
Movie/video file organisation is much better now with the drive being indexed with all files instead of you having to always go through the antiquated system. However, ACRyan havn’t removed this option should you wish to access content in a more old school fashion, or you simply can’t find a certain movie or music track.
Speaking of music, it’s now far easier to set going and enjoy your collection as not only does this new Playon support HD audio qualities, but it also has a built in shuffle function, meaning you can just set it up and relax.
These were a bit more hit and miss unfortunately, but I’m told it’s a work in progress. To be fair, if the upgrades ACRyan have made to their UI in the past year are anything to go on, I imagine these will be working properly in short order.
The youtube applications worked flawlessly. They accepted keyboard input which made video searching much easier. The only complaint I have about the text input is that it doesn’t recognise “shift” on the keyboard, and you have to use the remote when you want to put capitals in, as if you set it to caps, the keyboard isn’t recognised.
Twitter and Facebook worked ok, but I couldn’t find a mouse that would show up. Unfortuantely the list of supported mice is a bit short at the moment. Anything that needs drivers won’t work and I imagine anything remotely complicated will throw a bit of a s&%* fit. In my case, the rather cut down original Roccat Kova would work, but the mouse pointer wouldn’t display. However, in both cases I was able to login using the ever useful tab key. I even got a tweet posted but it is a bit difficult without being able to see the mouse pointer.
I have done my best reviewer campaign to try and get ACRyan to add a full browser to their Playon units, and apparently that will be coming in their currently in-development Fluxx unit, but not in this one. I imagine they will add some more widgets in the coming months. Seeing BBC iPlayer or perhaps channel 4′s 4OD would be nice
There are a few other points I wanted to touch on that don’t come under the above headings. The first is that I like the inclusion of a gigabit network port. Its certainly a lot faster than the original, though I have yet to see it run at true Gigabit speeds; this is most likely limited by the interior HDD speed. In reality, still expect it to take a couple of hours to transfer your hundreds of GBs of data to it when you get this thing.
I also think it’s a bit of a shame that the USB 3.0 can only be used as a slave; IE. as a USB device itself. This means you can’t plugin your USB 3.0 pen drive, you can only use the included cable to attach your laptop to the Playon, thus transferring information from there. Hopefully when the Realtek chipset supports this at some point you’ll be able to plugin a USB A standard female cable in order to gain access.
Speaking of gaining access, I didn’t find the EZ drive feature as intuitive as it was intended. While it is certainly easy to insert a drive into the Playon HD2, it’s another matter entirely to remove it. There simply isn’t enough grip to pull it out. In order to check what drive was found in there at stock I had to open the whole thing up in a more traditional manner (with a screwdriver). This isn’t the end of the world – the drive went back in via the EZ slot, but I think some little grips to pull the drive out would makes things a lot easier.
Price for the Playon!HD2 is dependant on what capacity you got for. You can get it with a 500GB drive for “only” £150, or just under £200 for this 1TB version.If you don’t fancy the storage option, you can pickup the “mini” – which you’ll see a review of here soon – for much less.