Customer Review

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for total noobs, but excellent for everyone else., 1 Mar 2011
This review is from: Asus O!play Hd 1080p Hdp-r1 Live Internet Media Streamer (Personal Computers)
Many people go the Home Theatre PC (HTPC) route and have a minimally sized PC in the living room. That approach has its attractions and I have done that: However the HTPC approach has some problems, for example it's running a multi-purpose operating system, it needs anti virus protection, it costs to keep it all the products needed up to date, it wants to do continual Windows and product updates and so on. All of which conflicts with the need to use the power of the HTPC to play smooth uninterrupted video at HD rates.

Okay, you can use Linux which is supposedly a better platform for these kinds of uses, or you can use a media centre version of Windows which does them better than standard Windows versions (+cost): Also, many of these HTPC issues can be resolved by making the appropriate configuration and product choices. However, all that is an ongoing chore - and, in any case, a machine of the right spec is going to cost you several (or many) hundreds. So, the stand-alone media player route has many potential attractions - but only if it works as well, or better.

Having had experience of the HTPC route, the idea of a dedicated media player that just connects to your network and can play content via your wired LAN from any of your PCs or the Internet is a very appealing one. This product especially appeals because it is cheap, it plays a huge variety of media formats (up to and including Blu-Ray backups - files secured by creating backups to hard drive of your precious Blu-Ray purchases using products such as AnyDVD etc). It also has superb connectivity of various kinds.

You can connect a local hard drive to it using USB or E-Sata, you can plug in a memory stick containing video or audio and you can connect it to your broadband router or your network hub using a CAT5 or CAT6 cable (AKA LAN or Ethernet cable) and of course it connects to your TV using HDMI (which carries audio and video to the TV set). (see footnote below about connecting this, or any other media player, via a wireless connection).

Because it can connect to the Internet you can also play numerous radio stations and TV stations that broadcast only on the Internet, and set-up to receive RSS feeds (for example news) which you can sometimes use as overlays on your videos (I think this depends on the video format being played).

So, how did it seem to me as compared to a HTPC? Well, not all good, but not bad. Firstly, I tried to play the Blu-Ray backup of "The Aviator" that my HTPC failed miserably to play (because it lacked the processor and graphics card power). The O!Play does that movie pretty well, a lot better than the HTPC did, but not flawlessly. There is a just a suggestion of motion lag sometimes, but it's very watchable. The file containing that backup is 22GB and the movie bit-rate is very high so it's quite impressive that a box bought at this price can do it so well. I haven't upgraded the players firmware yet, so when I do that, I hope it may fix this little problem - I'll let you know.

DVD backups and Off-Air TV captures (made on a PC using a Hauppage DVR4000 card) play on this little box absolutely flawlessly. None of the intermittent jitter that I occasionally get on the HTPC from background tasks kicking in, this does it fine.

Over the last few days I have watched 3 movies (two of which were at 8 Mbits/sec) on the Asus, with no problems at all. If you attach a 2.5" USB hard disk (such as you might ordinarily use with a laptop) to the USB port, it plays movies and anything you want from that just as well.

The menu system is a little clunky. For example, it would be nice to be able to set an entry point into a network file system as the default start point. But maybe that is all sorted in an updated version.. I will update this review when I am up to the latest version.

If you know a little about networks and connectivity of IT kit, I think you will get on very well with this bargain box.

FOOTNOTE: I grimly note the many people reviewing these kinds of products here on Amazon who use wireless LAN connections for media streaming boxes to their network. Sorry guys, it's simply not suitable. Even the best wireless kit isn't up to the real-time requirements of streaming media. It will work fine some days and not others, or okay some days and not at all the day after. Wireless can be okay for normal applications, such as Internet browsing and email: If there is a one second pause in your page loading or your email updating you really hardly notice it. However, if there are just a few one second pauses midway through your viewing of "Avatar" or the latest episode of "Lost" - you really DO notice it and it's unacceptable.

I used to do streaming media systems and networks as a profession and my strong advice would be to NEVER use wireless networks (even the latest N standard) for streaming video except as an absolute last resort.

Alan T
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Mar 2011 23:46:03 GMT
S. Robinson says:
Hi Alan.
Thanks for the review.
I'm looking for something to replace my PC as a media player due to the fact that my brand new £1700 computer insists on playing 720p and 1080p mkv files with lots of jerks and stutters. Grrrrrrr!
Does this machine deliver 5.1 surround sound from high-def media? Whatever I get, it needs deliver surround sound to my Onkyo receiver.

Thanks (in advance) for your help.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2011 06:34:02 GMT
AlanMusicMan says:
Hi there.

Yes, I am increasingly not a fan of using PCs for these purposes. If perchance you are running Windows Vista on your machine you may do better upgrading to Windows 7 or go back to Windows XP, but the problem could be caused by a number of things so going down the dedicated player route might be best of all. After all, you can use the Pc for other things...

Yes, this has an optical audio output that can deliver 5.1 audio to a sound system with an appropriate input.

As I said in my review the MKV playback on this box isn't QUITE perfect, but it's pretty damn good and watchable. I haven't upgraded the firmware yet to see if that makes playback perfect, must try to get around to that this week!

Best regards
Alan
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AlanMusicMan
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: North Cornwall

Top Reviewer Ranking: 295