The Asus O!Play unit is a great product which is well made and offers the prospective customer a well balanced and capable media experience with non intrusive design elements.
1080p HD content is easily streamed across a network and the quality of the image is excellent, holding totally in line with the A.C. Ryan units we tested last month. We also like the inclusion of wireless N ‘out of the box’ without having to rely on an additional purchase with a messy external transmitter attached. eSATA support is also an pleasing addition to see as we use it regularly in the KitGuru offices.
Sadly, when compared with the latest A.C. Ryan firmware update which massively overhauled the Playon! user interface, the Asus unit looks very dated with simple, clunky panels and a rather bland submenu methodology.
We are also disappointed that Asus didn’t feel the need to include an HDMI cable because we are positive that 75% of people buying this unit will be using that interface. It just feels like penny pinching to me and it irritated me when I noticed it.
When everything is taken into consideration however the positive points outweigh the negatives and with a current asking price of around £82 inc vat in the UK this is a great value for money purchase. The A.C. Ryan Mini is £89.99 inc vat and doesn’t come with wireless N support, you would need to purchase the additional Wireless Adapter for £20, bringing the total cost to £109.99 inc vat. It does however come bundled with a high quailty HDMI cable.
If you add the extra £10-15 cost to the Asus O!Play for the HDMI cable then it still ends up being around £15 less expensive than the A.C. Ryan Mini. That said, it is worth taking into consideration that A.C. Ryan update their firmware on a regular basis.
EDIT: 20th August 2010. It appears the link for the Asus o!Play is no longer working and the best price we are able to find now is £100 inc vat for the Asus unit. This makes the A.C. Ryan V Asus battle rather one sided now. The A.C. Ryan unit is clearly much better value.
KitGuru says: If you need wireless support and aren’t that bothered with regular firmware updates or lack of a bundled HDMI cable then the Asus is a good choice, if you can find it on sale.