The PlayOn!HD Mini is made confusing by a plethora of unnecessary options and audio tracks don't play as smoothly as we'd have wanted.
The PlayOn!HD Mini is the cheapest media streamer yet from A.C. Ryan. It’s not much to look at, but this little black box packs plenty of ports on to its compact backplane, including HDMI, component and composite video outputs, stereo phono and optical S/PDIF for audio, 10/100 Ethernet and a couple of USB ports.
A.C. Ryan’s standard remote control is fairly simple, but it’s missing a few buttons that we’d find useful. For instance, there’s no shortcut to the photo browser but there is one for music. Meanwhile, the largely redundant number pad can’t even be used to enter text – that’s done by selecting letters from an onscreen keyboard.
The media streamer’s main interface looks crude, with big blue icons that don’t accurately represent their associated menus and features. Even at 1080p, the interface looked as though it was running at a lower resolution.
You’ll spend most of your time using the basic file browser, which lets you view supported files on local USB drives as well as UPnP and network shares. There are other ways to browse your media, but you’ll need to create index files to use them properly. The Media Library was designed to work on A.C. Ryan streamers with built in hard disks, but can be used with remote network shares or a USB disk if you’re prepared to spend some time messing around the PlayOn!HD’s Linux command line.
Another alternative browser is the Movie Jukebox, which integrates with a free software package called YAMJ (Yet Another Movie Jukebox) running on your PC to create a glossy, browsable index of all your movies, complete with box artwork. You can use the File Copy feature to move content between various devices.
The Internet Feeds menu provides access to Flickr, Picasa and customisable RSS feeds. A Shoutcast-powered Internet Radio option can be sorted by station or genre. With so many options, the PlayOn!HD Mini feels like it’s designed to do too many things, many of which it’s not very well suited for. Despite this, it actually works rather well in basic browser mode. It successfully played the video content of our Blu-Ray rips, gave us full menu control over DVD ISO files.
The standard media browser doesn’t support video playlists but will happily play an entire directory full of videos in sequence. We noticed a slight glitch as each file started to play, and a similar glitch at the beginning of audio files, which seems to happen whenever it switches to a new track, even if you’re just playing back to back tracks from an album.
Album art and track info displayed correctly, but tracks weren’t in the right order when we browsed SMB shares. Flicking through photo slideshows was made frustrating by slow load times, even from a directly connected USB drive, but at least there are a variety of options for displaying thumbnails and configuring slideshows. The PlayOn!HD Mini works, but it’s nothing like as easy to use as the similarly-priced Western Digital WD TV Live Hub.
|Media Streamer type||streaming multimedia receiver|
|Audio MP3 playback||Yes|
|Audio WMA playback||Yes|
|Audio WMA-DRM playback||No|
|Audio AAC playback||Yes|
|Audio Protected AAC playback||No|
|Audio OGG playback||Yes|
|Audio WAV playback||Yes|
|Audio Audible playback||No|
|Other audio formats||FLAC, COOK, RA-Lossless|
|Other video formats||MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, APC, H.264, WMV9, RealVideo, XVID, DIVX|
|Image BMP support||Yes|
|Image JPEG support||Yes|
|Image TIFF support||Yes|
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100|
|Wireless networking support||Yes|
|Minijack line outputs||0|
|Minijack headphone outputs||0|
|Stereo phono outputs||1|
|Coaxial S/PDIF outputs||0|
|Optical S/PDIF outputs||1|
|Total SCART sockets||0|
|Other connectors||2x USB|
|Power consumption standby||0W|
|Power consumption on||6W|
|Software included||Yet Another Movie Jukebox, Samba Extension Package|
|Warranty||one year RTB|