To those familiar with the latest technology but with limited budgets, the arrival over the last couple of years of simple and affordable HD multimedia players like the Western Digital WDTV, and the original Asus O!Play HDP-R1 will have brought joy to your hearts. For under £100 you could buy a single box that could playback just about any multimedia file you could think of. You just plugged it into your HDTV, popped in a USB stick and away you went. However, as always, progress marches on so today we're looking at the Asus O!Play Air HDP-R3, which adds inbuilt Wi-Fi and a memory card reader to the mix.
The Air arrives well protected in a simple but sturdy cardboard box and comes with a mains adapter with cables for UK and European sockets, a remote, a combined composite and stereo audio cable, and various manuals. Notably absent, however, is an HDMI cable, which is likely to be the primary choice of connection for anyone buying a device like this. Given that the price of HDMI cables has dropped significantly to just a few pounds, though, this is less of a worry than it was a couple of years ago.
Looking at the device itself, it's essentially identical to its predecessor (or, as both will continue to be on sale, its little brother) being around 18cm wide by 12cm deep and 4.5cm tall. It's made of very sturdy black plastic with a matt black finish to the top, bottom, and back while the front and sides have a clear/gloss panel that wraps around them. Overall it looks tidy, if a little bland and clearly it's not a premium device. Meanwhile, four rubber feet give the Air a good purchase on most flat surfaces.
Round the back are the main AV connections with three phono plugs for stereo audio and composite video, followed by optical digital audio, HDMI, an Ethernet port, and power. In an ideal world we would like to see component video as well, as it gives a better quality analogue signal than composite and has greater backwards compatibility than HDMI. However, considering most TVs of the last four to five years have HDMI sockets, we don't think it's too much of a problem.