One of the highlights with the new Playon! HD Essential product is the new user interface, called Playon! GUI 2.0. This is based on the Realtek SDK 4.0 which allows for the in house A.C. Ryan team to modify the layout and graphic design.
The main interace is split into five sections. Movies. Music. Photo. Files Manager and Setup. The new operating system has an automatic index feature, so when you insert a USB drive, it scans all the contents and files the relevant files into the subsections. MKV’s for instance will be logged into the Movies submenu, and jpgs will be logged into the Photos.
We used the 128 GB Kingston Hyperx Max 3.0 drive for our external drive testing today, this is a USB 3.0 drive, but will fall back to USB 2.0 speeds when used with the Essential product.
When the drive is connected, it takes a few minutes to scan all the contents. On the home page, a list of all the recently added files appears.
Drives can be accessed directly via the Files Manager menu, with vector based icons depicting the relevant drives.
The user interface is very well designed and files can be copied from the external drive to the internal unit. Transfer speeds seemed to be as fast as our USB 2.0 test systems – recording just under 2 minutes for a 1.1gb MKV video file.
Listing the files is a simple process and further information can be gained via the remote. Quick previews can be played and files can be deleted if so desired.
Video and audio settings are held within the Setup submenu and while not as indepth as the previous A.C. Ryan players, offer enough options to satisfy most users. The 1080p 24hz will be a much desired feature for HD movie fanatics. Night mode is also very useful as it flattens the dynamics of the audio content to present clearer vocals and dialogue, ideal for late evening viewing.
The only negative aspect to the interface would be the speed with which some of the menus come to life. After pressing actions on the remote, there can be delays of often up to 2 seconds between your finger leaving the remote and the Essential doing what you wanted. Initially I was unsure if the remote was at fault, but after slowing down my brain a little, it became acceptable. I do hope however they can speed this up via a software update and it isnt caused by a random hardware limitation on some level.