Review: AC Ryan Playon!HD2

This set-top media player includes an internal 3.5-inch drive bay for a SATA hard drive or SSD to store your movies, TV shows and music.

NameMedia player: AC Ryan Playon!HD2
At a glance:Gigabit network media player (WiFi dongle optional),Internal 3.5-inch SATA drive bay ,Good codec support,Serious bugs and performance issues
Summary:Could be a great media player with a few performance tweaks and bug fixes, but decidedly avoidable as-is.
Rating:2/5
RRP:$229 (media player), $49 (Wireless-n adapter)
Contact:acryan.com

Two years ago we reviewed the A.C. Ryan Playon!HD Mini media player. We liked it so much that we rated it 9 out of 10. Here we have a new, bigger model from A.C. Ryan called the Playon!HD2. It’s available in NZ stores for around $199 (RRP $229).

The shiny, black Playon!HD2 is quite big for a media player, thanks to the inclusion of an internal 3.5-inch hot-swap drive bay. That allows you to slot in your own hard drive – no drive is included in the purchase price.

If your media is stored on a PC, you could transfer it to a 3.5-inch SATA hard drive, put that drive into the Playon!HD2, and have instant access to that data on your TV.

If you don’t fancy cracking your PC open to swap drives in and out, then you could simply put a new hard drive into the unit and transfer files from a PC via the supplied USB 3.0 cable.

Along with the USB 3.0 port you also get two USB 2.0 ports that connect devices such as portable hard drives, keyboards and wireless dongles. Speaking of which, the wireless dongle is an optional extra which sells for $49. Products priced similarly to the Playon!HD2, like the Western Digital WD TV Live, come with built-in Wi-Fi adapters, so A.C. Ryan loses points for this in our books.

There’s a wired Ethernet port for a standard LAN connection, plus HDMI, component and composite video outputs for connecting to your TV. Digital audio is provided via both optical and coax outputs.

I hooked up the Playon!HD2 to my 1080p Plasma telly and found that the user interface has been completely redesigned since the older Mini series. The remote has an excellent layout, and the entire thing looks great and is easy to navigate. However, there’s a noticeable lag between pressing a button on the remote and the corresponding action on screen. This might not be a deal-breaker for most people but I found it very frustrating.

File support was excellent, just like the previous A.C. Ryan unit, and all the standard-issue internet apps such as Facebook, YouTube, Shoutcast and Picasa were present.

The feature that killed the Playon!HD2 (literally) was YAMJ – ‘Yet Another Movie Jukebox’. In theory, you connect the unit to your PC, run the YAMJ client, and it will download meta data for your media: movie artwork, synopses, and critic ratings. Sounds great, right?

In reality, the YAMJ client is the worst program I’ve ever had the displeasure of using. The graphical menu gives only the most basic of library location options, everything else is controlled via either command line interface or manual editing of configuration files.

What’s worse is that after running the client and trying to access the jukebox on the television, the unit froze and wouldn’t restart. Not even a hard reset would bring it back to life. Looking at user comments online it appears I’m not the only one to encounter this problem.

Even assuming A.C. Ryan fixes this catastrophic bug in an update, the Playon!HD2 is a pretty average media player. The internal drive bay is a cool feature but the menu system needs some serious performance tuning, and including a wireless adapter wouldn’t hurt.

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Paul Urquhart

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