AC Ryan PlayOn! HD review

Full review: 1080p media streamer with excellent file support

Image 1 of 2 PlayOn HD
PlayOn HD
Image 2 of 2 PlayOn HD box
PlayOn HD box

Stream music, movies and photos and listen to internet radio

Streamers like this one from Netherlands brand AC Ryan are something of a luxury. Your PlayStation3, Xbox 360 or perhaps even your TV can already play digital files from USB and/or even provide online content.

The heavyweight 1.5kg PlayOn takes things little further. Able to play virtually any music, photo or video file format in common use, it contains a 1.5TB and can even get online via ethernet or with a WiFi adaptor.

AC Ryan PlayOn HD: Features

As you might expect, connectivity is all encompassing. Strapped to the back of the unit is an Ethernet LAN port, while video is output via HDMI, component video or composite video.

Sound is dealt with by both digital optical and coaxial audio outputs, while there’s also a set analogue stereo audio outputs. The side of this pleasingly solid unit also houses two USB 2.0 ports, a Type-B USB port for attaching (and transferring files from) a PC, and a card slot that can accept MMC, MS/Pro and SD/SDHC memory cards.

Inside – and easy accessible from the bottom of the unit – is a generous 1.5TB hard disk drive (you can go up to 2TB) and you can transfer files from USB or memory card.

AC Ryan PlayOn HD: Performance

Choose USB from the simple browser home screen and a list of files is presented; hover over a video file and a large preview screen starts playing with sound. The unit played everything we threw at it – including AVC HD files (.m2ts and .mts), DivX (.avi), DiVX HD (.mkv), MP4, MOV, MPEG, RM, WMV and WMV HD. You won’t find anything like that on a flatscreen TV or a games console.

Files play stably and the hi-def files look fabulous, albeit with one or two jagged edges. During our test the unit also played WMA, FLAC and OGG music files. For photos, JPG, BMP and TIFF files are all displayed quickly both as thumbnails and full screen.

The Media Library icon accesses content stored on the HDD, while Internet Feeds takes you to third party hubs from Picasa, Flicr and a RSS feed app. The latter displays news feeds from any URL you manually enter, as well as from CNN, the BBC and NPR. There's also an internet radio.

While the interface is straightforward, we're not a huge fan of the remote. It seems over-complicated with some buttons duplicating each other.

AC Ryan PlayOn HD: The cost

If you’re planning on buying a mid-range flatscreen TV, with USB playback support or if you have a PlayStation3 or Xbox360, you'll may not need the PlayOn HD. But if you like the thought of its extensive file support, the PlayOn HD is a fantastic all-in-one media server, that will easily let you store and stream content from your TV or home computer. And if it's too expensive or you don't need the hard drive, go for the streamer only version the PlayOn HD Mini for £90.

The PlayOn HD is out now from Play.com and Scan.co.uk, find out more here