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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  • MGSsancho - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Speaking as an anime fan with TBs of stuff... mkv is great but support for dual audio? Can I change audio tracks while playing? Must I pause it or do I have to restart the video? Can I select a seperate subtitle file? Does the subtitle file have to have the exact same name and path? can subtitles be enabled/disabled while playing? Support for supplied fonts in the mkv? Antialiased fonts? Support for fancy font effect found in some anime openings? I'm sure someone will figure out the exact encode settings for h264 but if I'm lazy and I use common encoders and select (base, main and high) profiles does it play? If it plays BD I assume high profile 60fps as per spec, if it can play everything defined in the official specs that is helpfull. Real media formats are still popular. Storage is cheap so what if I have a folder with dvd .isos? If I have an .iso folder, when I browse does it dynamically mount each one or what ever is needed to show a thumbnail and possibly movie info? I don't care if nfs, cifs, samba performance isn't 125MBs random read and write (it won't be) but can I play the spec on all types of shares? Play back BD spec on usb3? Will the device organize my files and do tagging? Read and execute required for playback assuming I don't want tagging/updated info/etc? Will it arange things if I tell it to do so? Iscsi work? Assuming it supports iscsii, read performance enough for mentioned specs? Testing network with zfs and caching with ssds might be cheating but would be interesting to help point out where weaknesses are like how good is the buffer and seek/fast forward performance. Seek and fast forward performance on local storage as well? I didn't see anything about wireless but if it has it then test that as well? Many people still have old tvs with analog imputs so how good is the color and stuff on the composit/componet out? Not asking for perfect but good enough so yellow isn't mustard red isn't magenta is good. I think you get my point about good enough analog performance. Same aplies the analog audio, is it good enoug for say older systems/tvs and possible people who have a bose like system? Yes I know they can dts blah blah but is the analog performance overall acceptable? I know you already do calibration on with your video test suite with hdmi. But possibly on analog as well? Again not asking for a perfect score on there but good enough for parents who bought a plasma when they came out and they want to recoupe their $13k investment lol. Audio streaming? Shoutcast? Pandora? and other common streaming? I'm personaly more interested in shoutcast since I can set up my own and maybe take this device on vacation or a friends house or RVing or what ever and connecting to public/private shoutcast servers. Analog audio better than logitech and other audio streamers? Dvd audio .isos? Sacd .isos? Flacc? If I can think of more ill add to it
  • probedb - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - link's all about paragraphs!
  • Drizzt321 - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Can you set this up to play files from a Samba server? This would be very important to me, since I put all my media on my home NAS server. As well, can this use DNLA (I'd think about trying this as well). As a final question, does it support Homegroup? I doubt it, but that might be a nifty thing to play around with, even if I wouldn't really use that.
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Yes, in the initial testing, I could enable or disable DLNA functionality (not quite stable in the pre-release firmware, but should be fixed soon)

    It could also play off SMB and NFS shares, and it is tested to work (got only 34 Mbps in the pre-release firmware, over GbE, so still some work left to do for BD-ISOs to not stutter over the network).

    What do you mean by supporting 'Homegroup'? It could easily gain access to the home group network in my testbed and play the files, but I am not sure what else you want us to test out in that case.
  • Shiitaki - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    In searching for a media player for music I found a disregard for audio codec support. HD video playback is ubiquitous, however hd audio is nonexistent. I am most interested in lossless audio playback, namely high bit rate flac at 96/24 in surround via hdmi, and Apple lossless unprotected(via the Nero aac codec set to lossless). The details on how music is organized, is the album art tiled across the screen like Kaleidescope's interface(ideal)? Or are music files simply listed in a unimaginative and seemingly endless list of text or cheesy one icon of a musical note for every item like the WDtv live plus? It's easy to find information on video, much harder to find specifics on audio support. Thanks in advance.
  • SlyNine - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    If I may ask, where do you get your music files? CDs should only be 16bit 44.1hz, But I'm all for better quality.
  • alleyezonme - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    can you please check can this play blu-ray subtitles streams in an mkv container?

    eg: you remux .sup (PGS) bluray subtitles streams into the mkv container and play them properly. Avatar would be a good test to check out. Thank you.
  • tecsi - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - link

    Please review ability to play BD-ISOs and extracted BDs from server, complete with LPCM, DolbyHD and DTS MA pass-thru over HDMI.

    What sort of navigation support to organize DVDs and BDs?
  • Tinface - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    Does the specs say anything about UPnP AV compatibility? I have all my media stored on a Synology box. I have never been pleased with the GUI of media streamers and would like to use an UPnP Control Point on a tablet, smart phone, or other suitable device to control the PlayOn. The flexibility to customize the interface is quite valuable to me.

    In any case, I would like to have tested whether the PlayOn is picked up as an UPnP renderer by other UPnP devices.

    Thank you for your time.
  • ruzveh - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    It would be nice to see a compact media player with facility to provide on top sata6 docking station that will not only play media files but can also be used as storage device as well as transfer facility. Wouldnt it be nice if they had bundled integrated bluetooth wifi direct and other connectivity? I would also like to see some HDMI 1.4 connection for ARC and higher resolution video support to make it future proof as we in Asian countries do not change our device once a year like some western countries.

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