AC Ryan PlayOn! HD2 Mini £93

13th Jun 2011 | 11:08

AC Ryan PlayOn! HD2 Mini

Small and almost-perfectly formed

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Almost excellent, but the simplicity of design is held back by a clunky menu system.

Like:

Excellent playback quality; Audio and USB ports;

Dislike:

Clunky menu; Slow boot;

AC Ryan PlayOn! HD2 Mini: Overview

A trimmed-down version of the AC Ryan PlayOn! HD2 networked media player, the HD2 Mini is almost identical in terms of specs with one obvious exception: there's no internal hard drive.

The HD2 Mini is a pure streaming device, which finds videos and music from local computers and NAS boxes via UPnP, network shares or from a selection of internet sources, and puts them on your TV.

That means it's cheaper than the full PlayOn! HD2 and also smaller. Smaller than, say, an Xbox controller. And its glossy black lines are sleek and uninterrupted, save for a glowing logo on the front and a selection of connectors round the back.

These include ethernet and HDMI, as well as surround RCA audio jacks, optical SPDIF and USB ports for attaching portable hard drives full of films or an optional Wi-Fi adaptor.

It's silent, and the picture quality is good. If you've got a lot of videos on a networked drive, what's not to like?

AC Ryan PlayOn! HD2 Mini: Performance and verdict

Just like the PlayOn! HD2, our biggest complaint with the HD2 Mini is the lack of polish that's gone into the interface. It's even worse here, though, since the main menu has lots of redundant options carried over from its bigger brother.

Selecting 'Video', for example, tells it to search a hard drive that isn't there. So it does nothing. Getting to a film held on a UPnP share, meanwhile, is just as tedious as on the HD2. There are no less than six levels of menu to cut through - each of which takes a few seconds to load - before you can get to the file you want to play.

What the HD2 Mini should be about is navigational polish and speed. But boot times from standby are just as slow. The litmus test for a separate media-streaming device must be that it's quicker and simpler than firing up a laptop and plugging that into the HDMI input of your TV. The HD2 Mini isn't and that's a problem.

We'd also like to see a UPnP server built into both the HD2 and HD2 Mini for when USB drives full of files are attached.

If all this sounds negative, it's only because the HD2 Mini is so likeable in almost every other way.

It's a charming size, can stream almost every codec known to man and the picture quality is very good, especially over Ethernet. But it's up against a lot of competition for space by your TV, and there's definitely room for improvement.

We liked

The PlayOn! HD2 Mini is tiny, silent and a cinch to set up. As well as HDMI out and gigabit Ethernet, there's a full suite of analogue and digital audio connectors, USB ports and a Wi-Fi option, too. Most importantly, it finds files on the network easily and playback quality is great.

We disliked

It's slow to start up and the selection of internet sources is very limited, but the main problem is that the interface just isn't as well-thought-through as it should be. Redundant options and a long-winded process to get to a shared drive let down an otherwise peerless player.

Verdict

Almost excellent, but the simplicity of design is held back by a clunky menu system.

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