These media based products are centered around ease of use in a social, living room environment, and as such their interfaces are streamlined, easy to navigate systems suitable for parents, grandparents and children.
The main menu system is arranged in a circle which will immediately confuse those who have tried an A.C. Ryan product because to navigate on the Asus unit you push up and down rather than left and right. Again it may sound anal of us to even mention this but personally I feel ‘left’ and ‘right’ makes much more sense.
Aesthetically the interface is acceptable, with clearly labeled icons for all the subsections. You will notice that when the icons aren’t taking primary focus in the foreground that they lose their labels, which makes things slightly more difficult than they should be.
This is something unpleasant we find with most of these systems, the interface design seems somewhat secondary to the functionality which makes it hard to move from an Apple TV unit with its beautiful interface to something so clunky and gaudy.
There are four main sub menus, music, movies, photos and all media, which consist of a list of browsing options on the left with a preview and playback window on the right. Video, images and all media can be browsed by folder, date or recently played while music allows for album, singer and genre options. MP3 indexing only works on USB devices and not memory cards or networked areas – meaning you lose artist and album information.
The setup option on the main screen is a good first port of call to configure the Asus unit for your specific panel and audio equipment.
The system menu is a helpful way to get a complete overview of the unit – detailing firmware, menu language options and the means to adjust the times via the internet for automatic correction.
Unlike the A.C. Ryan products the Asus O!Play Air HDP-R3 unit has built in wireless N connectivity which is very good to see. This saves an additional purchase requirement and helps keep the physical footprint to a minimum.
Night mode, which is identical to the A.C. Ryan units, offers compressed audio which means that vocal tracks are easier to hear so the overall volume can be reduced. It actually works very well and we use it a lot for late night viewing.
There are a handful of audio output options catered for meaning everyone will find an output setting to suit their specific configuration.