We've looked at a few products from Dutch company A.C.Ryan. Back in 2008 there was the ACR-PV72100 Playon! Network DVR, which was a well-featured if not spectacular HDD recorder for its time. However, by May 2009's Playon! DVR TV, straight media player devices like the Western Digital WDTV HD Media Player had moved the goalposts away from recorders, and with its lack of format support the Playon! DVR TV simply couldn't keep up.
Now A.C.Ryan is looking to fix that with the new Playon!HD media player, and if the specifications are anything to go by it's onto an absolute winner. It supports every video format in popular use, including not just MOV and MKV but also such rarities as ASF, FLV and RMVB, all at up to 1,080p over both HDMI and component - and for home cinema buffs there's even 1,080p 24 support. It caters to both Dolby and DTS audio (pass-through or down-mixed to stereo), features extensive audio codec and subtitle support, and offers both wired and wireless-n networking with NAS functionality, YouTube and BitTorrent. Uniquely, it can even read media from external CD/DVD drives!
So far, that pretty much makes it the most capable sub £150 media player we've reviewed, beating even the Popcorn Hour A110 and new WDTV Live HD. Best of all, it's quite affordable, with prices starting at £130. However - as the unfortunate ViewSonic VMP30 Digital Media Player proved - you can't always go by what the spec-sheet claims, so it's a good thing we're here to let you know if it's worth your hard-earned cash.
The Playon!HD comes with a very generous bundle. A highlight is the two-metre HiFX Evolution HDMI cable, which costs around £40 on its own. There are also component and composite video cables, and a USB A-B cable to hook the Playon!HD up to a computer. A compact, glossy black wireless USB dongle supporting speeds of up to 802.11n is available direct from A.C.Ryan and should soon be sold in UK shops for between £20-25.
Last though not least is the remote control, which together with the main unit has received a complete overhaul. It's still large, with a solid black plastic body that lies comfortably in the hand, but its buttons are completely different. However, though it fixes some quirks with the old layout, it adds a few new ones of its own.
For example, the tiny play, stop and volume buttons are now nestled between large green track control buttons, making them hard to get at as well as increasing the chances of stopping your video when you only meant to turn up the volume.
Factor in other annoyances such as the ‘pause' button being too far from the ‘play' one, and we'd say the old remote definitely comes out the winner by comparison, even though this version's soft but sturdy buttons offer good feedback. The remote still uses AA batteries so you can swap the provided set with some rechargeable ones when they die.