The AC Ryan Playon! HD Essential is a very capable media player, based on the technology used in previous players we have tested. Almost every video type is supported. AVI/ MKV/ TS/ TP/ TRP/ M2TS/ MPG/ MP4/ MOV/ M4V/ VOB/ ISO/ DVD-ISO/ IFO/ DAT /WMV /ASF /RM / RMVB /FLV Resolution (up to 720p) /1080i/ 1080p/ BD-ISO.
Many people reading this will want a high level of support for HD files based around the MKV container. We are pleased to report that none we tested refused to play, even those with unusual audio codecs embedded. The image quality is fantastic, although if you move from AMD or nVidia graphics cards be prepared to have much lower levels of ‘fine tuning’ capability.
For the ultimate test we ripped our BluRay of Terminator Salvation to a folder and the machine managed to play it without any quibbles. We did have an issue with the supplementary material which has director McG chatting about the development and creation of the movie. Getting out of this menu and into the actual movie was a little troublesome. Generally however the ISO and raw folder support for DVD’s is excellent.
Folders of MP3’s were easily found and all files played, from 128bit constant bit rate to 320kps. The sound quality is going to depend on your speaker system, but it seemed clear and free from false sound enhancements which often ruin the clarity of the audio.
All the major image files are supported, from Jpeg to BMP and this would be handy to show friends and family your holiday snaps in the comfort of your living room. The fact it can also read media cards directly is a useful addition.
The noise level is not intrusive at all, and even though the system incorporates a tiny 40mm fan, it is configured to spin slowly and to remain as quiet as possible, even in a warmish room when the hard drive is active.
We removed the internal drive and disconnected the 40mm fan and experienced no instability issues, reading from a diode, we noticed that ambient temperatures increased by a few degrees, but the internals do not generate much heat, even when playing 1080p material. We wouldn’t suggest you disconnect the fan however if you are using the internal drive.
We also hooked up the Playon!HD Essential to a networked hard drive under the NTFS format and the product was able to read all the files on the external, networked drive. We found that the AC Ryan unit wasn’t able to ‘live update’ a drive which was constantly connected and receiving files across a network, but a simple restart would cause it to recache the folder structure and files within.