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Back to the menu system and there are three basic routes to your media; photos, music, and videos. Each option opens up the same folder-driven interface, whereby you're given a choice of either a storage or network device and you browse the devices just as though they were folders on your computer. There's no scanning of your media and creation of a media library as you get in iTunes or the like - you just trudge through the folders until you get to the files you need. When files are sorted into Photos, Music, and Videos, unrelated file types are simply hidden from view so if you have a folder containing multiple file types and browse it through Videos it will only show video files; through Music, only music files, etc.
It's all pretty basic and it can take a while to get to the folder/file you want if it's buried deep in a folder tree. However, assuming you keep your files reasonably organised it is a simple and intuitive system to get around, which is more than can be said of some seemingly more sophisticated interfaces on other devices.
One particularly useful addition, courtesy of the network connection, is the ability to copy files between USB/eSATA devices and network locations. This makes it possible to swap and share files without the need to start up a computer. Transfer speeds are also pretty decent with it taking 35 seconds to transfer a 108MB video file from our USB drive to a folder on our NAS box.
When browsing video and photo files, previews appear in the right panel, which is quite useful though we would prefer a proper thumbnail view instead. Also, this preview mode suffers in the same way that the Seagate FreeAgent Theater did: you must wait until the preview has finished loading until you can actually tell the player to play it. The wait is only a second or two but it's enough to be mildly frustrating at times.
Other features include the ability to zoom up to x16 into video and photos and pan around them. There's also support for multiple audio tracks and subtitles for those video formats that support it. Repeat and shuffle functions are available for music, and like the other features just mentioned, there are dedicated buttons on the remote to control this. Indeed, the clear plastic shuffle button is the most prominent button on the whole remote.
Finally we come to how the HDP-R1 actually performs when it's playing all your precious multimedia and in this respect we can find no fault whatsoever. All the major video file formats are supported including mkv and rmvb and resolutions of up to 1080p are all playable. Playback is smooth and loading times are near instantaneous. Likewise music and image format support is also up there with the best (for a full list, see the next page).
There is little in the way of extra video processing going on, like that found on high-end AV equipment, but assuming you use the digital connections you can always rely on your TV's and/or AV receiver's processing to do its best with the digital signal.
The Asus O!Play HDP-R1 is in many ways a fairly uninspiring HD media player; its interface is very stark, the device itself and the remote are hardly works of art, and there's no support for more sophisticated network functions like reading iTunes servers etc. However, if all you want is a cheap media player for browsing your network folders and playing just about any file you throw at it then we have no problem recommending the HDP-R1.