After CES 2011, we had written about A.C.Ryan trying to get into the US market with their new product lineup. One of the products we covered in the write up was the second generation PlayOn!HD2, an updated version of their flagship product from last year. While the first generation product was based on the Realtek 1073DD chipset, the second generation is based on the Realtek 1185DD.

In order to provide A.C.Ryan with feedback prior to the units reaching the hands of the consumers, we opted to go in for a prototype review unit. A.C.Ryan sent us their top configuration, the ACR-PV73700-2TB. This model has a 2 TB Samsung hard drive bundled with the base unit, and will have a suggested retail price of $289 when it launches later this month.

A.C.Ryan warned us that the unit we were receiving was a prototype and even though the hardware was final, the firmware bundled with the unit was not. We weren't expecting the streamer to work wonder right off the box, but that didn't prevent us from connecting the unit to our streamer test bed.

One of the main concerns with the PlayOn!HD2 platform's specifications was the absence of any mention of DTS-HD audio downmix or bitstreaming. Also, we were suspicious of the claimed BD-ISO playback.

Right after hooking up the box, I tried to playback some MKV and M2TS files with DTS-HD MA audio. Bitstreaming of the HD audio worked without a hitch! Like many other media streamers, there is no official support for DTS-HD audio. However, that doesn't prevent the streamer from handling it within the constraints placed by the user's setup and the licensing agreements in place. In this context, the WDTV lineup is the odd one out, refusing to support DTS-HD bitstreaming. Other licensees feel that a license is necessary only for decode and downmix of the HD audio and not for bitstreaming. We feel this is correct, since the end user has already paid the licensing fees for the decoding of DTS-HD audio when purchasing the AV receiver.

Anyway, getting back to the PlayOn!HD2, we tried to look into the claimed BD-ISO support. While both BD-ISOs and folder structures played the movie, the support is still in the form of BD-Lite, i.e, A.C.Ryan's own menu instead of the BD-J enabled one. There are still some tweaks necessary for titles with branched structures, and other areas where the firmware could use some improvement. We have informed A.C.Ryan of the same. A detailed review of the functionality enabled by the firmware will come later.

However, being given an exclusive, we couldn't resist publishing a overview of the hardware platform right away. First, we will have a look at the unboxing experience, following which we will cover the internal hardware platform in detail.

Unboxing the PlayOn!HD2
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  • conejo99 - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Doesn't the Popcorn Hour A210 support a hard drive without needing a fan?
  • Sharro - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Yes it does, got 2 at home.


    I wish Anandtech would cover more or PCH products.
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    I should have mentioned -- amongst the streamers we have reviewed :)

    Btw, a 3.5" HD without fan is asking for trouble wrt component longevity unless there is quite a bit of airflow in the case.
  • AmdInside - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    What video streaming services will be supported? Netflix?
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    A.C.Ryan is working on this, but you should never assume the feature is going to come in until it is announced. As of now, there is no Netflix, but it MIGHT change in the future.
  • bertrandr - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    When doing the final review try to compare features with: the also new Netgear NeoTV-550, the Dune SMART (D1) and the current gold standard for HD streamers -the Popcorn A-210.

    The NeoTV-550 seems very promising, and the latest beta firmwares are quickly fixing any serious issues.


  • ganeshts - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Got the NTV-550 and it is a great streamer for the price to feature ratio. Still needs some firmware tweaks. Will definitely compare it against the PlayOn!HD2 though there are a lot of features in the 550 which are not in the POHD2, while there are some features in the POHD2 not in the 550 (this is reflected in the price of the base model.. the POHD2 is cheaper)

    Don't have the Dune D1 or the A210 for comparison, though :( (unless the manufacturers contact us for reviews, we don't want to take them up because we already have quite a number of streamers lined up for review)
  • hohowan - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Can you please test for proper stylized-ASS subtitle support?
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Sure, I will do that.. Just wanted to mention that the Boxee Box is the only streamer I have tested so far to do flawless stylized-ASS.
  • ckryan - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    I've got streaming devices falling out of my closet (and off my desk, and draped off my tv). I like what I have seen with the ACRyan devices. My hope is that interest will continue to climb and perhaps ACRyan will reconsider their decision to not offer their more interesting devices here in the US.

    I'll be looking for the update.

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