A Closer Look: Exterior
If you have been reading our past reviews on media players, it should probably be a given that this class of consumer home entertainment devices always feature certain characteristic design elements which all OEMs are seemingly reluctant to go against. And one of these design elements mandate that all media players must be built to resemble big, plastic boxes, which is exactly what the A.C. Ryan PlayOn!HD2 is, along with the majority of its competitors.
Okay, maybe that was a little mean, but one cannot deny that the humble media player is desperately in need of an injection of fresh blood, especially where design is concerned. Don't get us wrong: there is absolutely nothing wrong with the 'box' design. Rather, the bone of contention lies in the fact that no OEM is willing to take a risk and improve on the existing 'box' form factor, which has resulted in media players starting to stagnate in the looks department.
Lastly, it seems that home entertainment devices are also bound by a second 'mandatory' design element; they are only supposed to be available in black. And this is a fact that is only all too obvious in the market today, considering how most of the media players we have previously reviewed are sold in only that particular colour.
A Closer Look: I/O and Connectivity ports
Suffice to say, the rapid advancement of technology means that any device that is designed to be used for home entertainment purposes must be able to support a wide variety of external storage devices and a/v-output methods. In this section, we take a look at the variety of I/O and connectivity ports available on the A.C. Ryan PlayOn!HD2 media player to see if it has enough of such options to satisfy the average consumer.
Most media players are designed to accommodate at least one internal hard disk for storage purposes, and our A.C. Ryan PlayOn!HD2 review unit is no exception. Like most decent media players out there, accessing the PlayOn!HD2's hard disk bay is quite the snap.
By the way, the hard disk bay is located on the left side of the device:
Gaining access into the hard disk bay is as simple as snapping the two catches on the bay cover and removing it, as shown in the image below. Users may want to take note that there is an additional lever supporting the back of the hard disk: you will need to use a finger to hold down the lever in order to extract the internal hard disk from the device.
The Playon!HD2 uses standard 3.5-inch hard disk drives as its primary storage media, although A.C. Ryan claims that it also sells (separately) adaptor frames for users wishing to make use of the smaller, notebook-grade 2.5-inch hard disks.
Based on information we managed to obtain from A.C Ryan's home page, it appears that the PlayOn!HD2 can be purchased with or without a hard disk pre-assembled into the unit. Our review unit came bundled with a 500GB hard disk (from Samsung), although A.C. Ryan states that it also offers other configurations of the Playon!HD2 that comes bundled with either a 1TB, 1.5TB or 2TB hard disk.
The A.C. Ryan Playon!HD2 comes equipped with only a few expansion ports, a trait which appears to be a common practice among most OEMs producing such devices. There is the obligatory multimedia card reader which supports common storage card standards such as SD, SDHC, MMC, and Sony Memory Stick, along with two USB2.0 ports for one to connect mass storage devices such as flash drives and external hard disks to the media player.
However, the Playon!HD2 has a certain triumph card which comes in the form of a high-speed USB3.0 slave connection. In theory, this will allow users who own USB3.0-compatible storage devices to achieve extremely high transfer speeds. Here's the caveat though: this port can only operate in slave mode.
That being said, having a million expansion ports on a media player accounts for nothing if the device does not have the tools and means needed to output its content to a large display such as a projector or a television set. Fortunately, it seems that the A.C. Ryan Playon!HD2 is by no means lacking in this area.
Users of analog video will be pleased to know that traditional analog video output methods are well supported on the A.C. Ryan Playon!HD2 media player, as can be proven by the availability of various coloured jacks meant for use with either component or composite video output. Of course, tech-savvy media junkies are more than likely to eschew the analog video jacks in favour of a digital connection in the form of a HDMI-out port, which is conveniently present on the Playon!HD2. Also available are an Ethernet port, options for audio output via optical cable or coaxial cable, and the all-important DC-in jack.
Turning the Playon!HD2 media player over reveals the exhaust vent for what appears to be an additional fan
In addition, A.C. Ryan was considerate enough to ensure that users were given everything they would most likely need to set up and operate the PlayOn! HD2. Bundled in the retail box are the all-important HDMI-out cable, the standard composite and component video cables, as well as a PC-link cable which is capable of transferring data at USB 3.0 speeds. Of course, it goes without saying that users will need to have a USB3.0-enabled device before they can take advantage of any performance gains in data transfer over the USB protocol.