Dutch company A.C. Ryan has certainly been prolific in its attempts to create the perfect media player. Pre-2009, models like the Network DVR lacked high definition capabilities, however the Playon!HD we reviewed last year offered not only HD but more features than any other media player we had looked at. Unfortunately, the Playon!HD was also large, heavy and not exactly silent – all of which prevented it from taking the media player crown. Now A.C. Ryan is back with the Playon!HD Mini, the “little brother of thePlayon!HD”.
A.C. Ryan’s latest certainly holds a lot of promise. It supposedly offers the same features as the Playon!HD in a smaller (151 x 102 x 42mm compared to its predecessor’s 227 x 166 x 60mm), lighter (600g versus 1.5kg), quieter and cheaper package! What’s not to like? Well first off the bundle isn’t quite as extravagant as its predecessors, consisting of a more modest HDMI cable, composite video and stereo audio cable, power brick and remote.
The remote is still the same model as found with the Playon!HD, which if you read our review you’ll know we weren’t overly enthusiastic about. It has its plus points: it's large and comfortable; uses AA batteries that could be exchanged for rechargeables, and has colour-coded rubberised buttons that offer pleasant feedback. Unfortunately a few layout quirks make it less than intuitive. For example, the tiny play, stop and volume buttons are clustered together between large track control buttons, making it too easy to accidentally stop your video when you only meant to turn up the volume.
Onto the device itself, as one might expect this is essentially a smaller version of the Playon!HD. And that’s no bad thing, as aside from its size the original was a pretty attractive box. In fact, with the few design tweaks A.C. Ryan has implemented we would go so far as to say that the Playon!HD Mini is probably the most attractive media player we’ve reviewed, if not as cute as the tiny Western Digital WDTV Live HD.
A.C. Ryan has sensibly refrained from the completely glossy shells so many others use. The Mini has matte, textured sides and the only glossy section is the front, with its Playon!HD logo illuminated in red when in standby or blue when the device is active. Below this is a flush power button, which is the only control present so you’ll always need the remote to hand to operate the Playon!HD Mini. One small downside is that the unit has hard plastic feet rather than the usual rubber ones, so you'll need to be careful if putting it on surfaces that scratch easily.