Our first reaction to the Playon!HD was one of surprise - though not in a good way. At 227 x 165 x 60mm and weighing a considerable 1.5kg, this is the largest media player we've come across, a far cry from A.C.Ryan's relatively svelte previous Playon! DVR boxes. It's also a shame that the brushed metal finish of its predecessors has made way for matt plastic.
Despite the Playon!HD's bulkiness, it's by far the cleanest-looking model we've seen from A.C.Ryan, as the usual buttons and indicators are all absent here. There's only a single blue-backlit power button (red when in standby), with "Playon!HD" illuminated in blue below it. The disadvantage to this minimalist design is that the box can no longer be operated without the remote, which will lead to much frustration if you're the type who mislays remotes on a regular basis.
Most of the Playon!HD's generous connectivity resides at its rear. This includes composite, component and HDMI ports for video; stereo analogue outputs and optical plus co-axial digital audio outputs; an Ethernet port, and the power input.
On the right side are two Type-A downstream USB ports for connecting storage drives and/or the optional wireless dongle. However, as these ports are mounted close together, if you use the wireless dongle you'll have trouble inserting any but the slimmest USB memory sticks, though this is easily remedied by using a USB extension cable. A Type-B upstream USB port for hooking up your PC and managing content stored on the Playon!HD is also located on the right side, along with a card reader compatible with SD/HC, MMC, and MS/Pro formats.
On the Playon!HD's base is an access panel covering the bay for a 3.5in SATA hard drive. After undoing two screws it's easily removed, and the panel itself is the mounting mechanism for the hard drive, which requires a further four screws to attach. You can get the Playon!HD either as a bare-bones unit as priced in this review or with a SATA HDD drive of up to 1TB pre-installed from the Playon!HD mini site for a total of 267.50 Euros. (the Playon!HD supports HDDs to a maximum capacity of 1.5TB). If you want internal storage, we'd of course recommend buying a hard drive separately to save money.
Opening the device up also lets you see how much space is wasted inside, where you could easily fit two 3.5in drives with room to spare. We can only surmise that A.C.Ryan has made the unit so large for better cooling, even though there's a rather noisy fan at the back.