At first glance AC Ryan’s PlayOn! HD Essential seems like many other media players on the market, but on closer inspection, this is actually a bit of a unusual beast as media players go. The HD Essential is a solidly built device, measuring 185x150x55mm and coming in at a bit over 600g – weighty enough to feel well-made and the right size for even a small lounge room.
Port-wise, the device has the standard HDMI and composite a/v plugs, plus optical out and coaxial audio. More interesting is the card slot, capable of reading SD, SDHCm MMC, MS and MSPro, plus the two USB ports and the USB slave port – all 2.0. In case you didn’t spot it, the missing ingredient is an Ethernet port. Unless you opt for an optional Wi-Fi dongle, the PlayOn! HD Essential won’t attach to your network.
While this sounds like a negative, the big upside comes when you look at the price – you can find this device for $160 with a 1TB drive installed. That’s fantastically cheap and puts this device well within the entry-level
It also plays practically anything, with over 20 different formats listed, including Blu-ray ISO files.
The interface is impressively simple, with an intuitive system that made it easy for us to transfer files from USB devices to the Essential’s own hard drive. The player also scanned any USB device we connected and made all playable files immediately available, with only a very small pause before playback.
People looking for a player to hook into an existing network or to work with a NAS or media storage hub will find better options, but people looking for a clever stand-alone media player that can handle pretty much any file thrown at it will find a lot to like about the AC Ryan PlayOn! HD Essential – especially the great price.