Overall, in terms of looks and design, the Playon! DVR is pretty much in a league of its own for a product for around £150. Thankfully, its rear-mounted connections are no less impressive. At the top is a mini-USB port for hooking it up to your PC. Below this are proper, separated component inputs (not like the cheap and nasty component-from-a-single-socket cables many rival products sport), and two sets of composite connections (in and out). Then there’s HDMI for the highest possible quality link between the unit and your PC monitor or television. For audio, there are no less than two high quality digital outputs, namely optical and coaxial.
What sets the Playon! DVR apart from others of that ilk is its added flexibility and upgradeability, provided by the network jack and two USB 2.0 ports. Admittedly, one of the latter is taken up by an included gadget: a 54Mbps wireless adapter, but the other could quite easily be used for adding a memory card reader or external hard drive. It’s a rare feature to get wireless at all for this kind of money, and the other advantage to having an external wireless adapter is that you can use it with other devices, or not use it all, thereby freeing up the USB port.
Speaking of the two USB ports, it’s also worth noting that the wireless dongle is rather chunky and, if plugged in directly, leaves little room to add another USB device or cable in the other port. It’s therefore a little disappointing that a third USB port or even an extension cable is not included to solve this.
So mostly great news up to here, and it isn’t finished yet. Apart from the two usual composite cables, there is the rarity of a component cable. In addition, you get a separately boxed, full retail version of A.C.Ryan’s premium HiFX Evolution one-metre HDMI cable, with triple shielded, braided cabling and a 24K gold-plated connector, plus a lifetime warranty. The cheapest I was able to find this cable online was £28, so kudos to A.C.Ryan for the nice addition.
To round things off, we’ve got a decent remote, rather than a reject from the land of cheap. It might not be an all-in-one like the Neuros’ model, but it’s so much easier on the eyes and fingers. The only niggle is that the layout is not the most logical – the volume and playback controls, for instance, aren’t exactly where you’d expect them to be – so you might have some trouble using it in the dark.
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