Functionality

The Playon! DVR streams (plays) content across your network, USB Host-connected portable hard-disks or from its internal SATA2 hard-disk. You can record content to either the internal hard disk or to an externally connected portable USB  hard disk.

The hard disk is easily formatted using the internal software of the Playon! DVR. Partitions can be created for recording and storage. The type of formatting can also be selected, either FAT32 or NTFS. The latter format is read-only, it is a god-send as many of the media players I have come across doesn’t support NTFS at all. This is very useful because if you rip movies onto our laptops or workstations a single file may exceed FAT32’s maximum file size limitation of 4GB.

An interesting  quirk of the PlayOn! DVR is that after powering on for the first time, it “activates’ itself before going into Stand-by mode. Turning it back on, you will see the “Home” menu, which is clean, neat and intuitive.

acryan 06a ACRyan Playon! HDMI Network Digital Video Recorder Review (Updated: 13 Oct)

There is an informative text tip at the bottom that indicates the root functions of; Video In (switches to the source of which the RGB Composite cable is being fed), Playback, Browser, Setup and Playlist. These functions can all be accessed via the infra-red remote control or the buttons on the device.

A great feature that usually escapes notice is translucent menu screens. While navigating the menus you will still be able to see behind. Besides being visually pleasant, this has proved to be very useful and practical.

Video output can be toggled between 576P, 720P or 1080i resolutions with 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios. I was very happy to see how the movies I had copied onto the NTFS partition played on my 720P HD-Ready LCD screen using the RGB Component output. The quality is very good and there wasn’t a single trace of jerkiness or any video stream buffering.

Another nifty feature of the Playon! DVR sadly missing in other media players I have used is a small video preview screen while toggling through your video files. This allows quick inspection of the video before you deciding to play it full screen. Yet another useful visual is the appearance of the text tip at the top of TV screen that shows the detected network speed while watching the video preview This is invaluable should you decide to broadcast a large HD movie over your current network settings.

There is an informative text tip at the bottom that indicates the root functions of; Video In (switches to the source of which the RGB Composite cable is being fed), Playback, Browser, Setup and Playlist. These functions can all be accessed via the infra-red remote control or the buttons on the device.

A great feature that usually escapes notice is translucent menu screens. While navigating the menus you will still be able to see behind. Besides being visually pleasant, this has proved to be very useful and practical.

Video output can be toggled between 576P, 720P or 1080i resolutions with 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios. I was very happy to see how the movies I had copied onto the NTFS partition played on my 720P HD-Ready LCD screen using the RGB Component output. The quality is very good and there wasn’t a single trace of jerkiness or any video stream buffering.

Another nifty feature of the Playon! DVR sadly missing in other media players I have used is a small video preview screen while toggling through your video files. This allows quick inspection of the video before you deciding to play it full screen. Yet another useful visual is the appearance of the text tip at the top of TV screen that shows the detected network speed while watching the video preview This is invaluable should you decide to broadcast a large HD movie over your current network settings.

 In terms of video and audio format playback, the Playon! DVR supports the following formats:

VIDEO

MPEG-1 / MPEG-2 / MP4 ASP : XviD

DAT (VCD) / VOB (DVD) / IFO (DVD) / MPG / AVI (MPEG-4-XviD) / TS (MPEG-2)

AUDIO

 

MP2 / MP3 / OGG / WAV

Non-DRM WMA

IMAGEJPG / JPEG / BMP

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my opinion, is one of the necessary formats to support in the Windows dominant market is the Windows Media Video (WMV) format. Many standard and high-definition movies, including home movies are encoded in WMV format on the PC, and the fact that the Playon! DVR doesn’t support this format at the moment means you cannot view those movies using this device. I really hope that this is just an oversight and that supportability for WMV, WMV9 (WMV-HD) will come in later firmware upgrades. For now, high-definition media is limited to XviD / DivX.
Audio playback worked well for me with the PlayOn! DVR hooked up to a set of powerful home theatre speakers. Streamed music piped through my network from my PC with great clarity.

acryan 07a ACRyan Playon! HDMI Network Digital Video Recorder Review (Updated: 13 Oct)

acryan 08a ACRyan Playon! HDMI Network Digital Video Recorder Review (Updated: 13 Oct)

The Playon! DVR device does not support Internet Radio or come with an FM tuner and I was surprised by the lack of Internet Radio because it doesn’t take much to incorporate. So the lack of Internet Radio and WMV is a big set back for me.

Recording is very versatile. Besides the usual recording functions, repeatedly pressing the record button repeatedly will vary recording length between 30 – 240mins. In 30 minute intervals, there is an instant replay button that lets you go back by 10 seconds during playback. You can delete specific sections of recordings, or split them into separate tracks and vice versa, as well as combine several files into one. Basically, it is a mini video editor.

You can also create and edit detailed recording schedules, and add chapter marks at selected intervals to new recordings. You can even choose which frame from a recorded clip you would like to use as a thumbnail.

acryan 09a ACRyan Playon! HDMI Network Digital Video Recorder Review (Updated: 13 Oct)

Pressing the Display button at Video In mode root function will trigger a “status bar” to appear at the bottom of the screen. This shows the hard disk space and recording time left based on the different recording modes (HQ, SLP, EP, LP and SP). This is useful if the hard drive is close to full and you need to make that one recording you can see instantly which recording mode will support the required recording time.

Recorded content is stored on the UDF partition that’s not readable by PCs. To be able to access recorded content through a network like a NAS, you have to copy them onto the FAT32 partition (The NTFS partition is Read-Only). This is easily done with a click of a button on the “Copy to FAT32 Partition” function.

acryan 10a ACRyan Playon! HDMI Network Digital Video Recorder Review (Updated: 13 Oct)

I tried a 5 minute recording in LP mode, which yields a good quality 768 x 576 res MPG file of about 120MB in the FAT32 partition. Going with a simple, predictive linear approach, a 2 hour long movie with the same attributes will be about 2.9GB large.

I hit upon a software bug which shows the recording status as a static elapsed time (8 seconds, in my case. See acryan_10.jpg) no matter how much I refreshed it and how much recording time has already been elapsed. Hopefully, this can be resolved with a firmware upgrade.
I was surprised by the amount of heat the PlayOn! DVR generates after about 30 minutes of activity. It was way too hot for my liking and I was concerned. I I wondered how hot this unit would be if I slotted in a 10,000 RPM hard-disk in there.

The heat may have affected the Wi-Fi dongle after the 30 minutes of heat. Concerned with the excess heat I removed the dongle but in the process the metal edges of the adapter literally burnt my fingers.  This led me to suspect that the heat may have caused the Wi-Fi dongle to fail.

The PlayOn! DVR uses a small cooling fan, approximately 2-inches in diameter, at the rear panel but I don’t see any  ventilation slots to provide cool air circulation. The fan is not enough to dissipate the heat and I would strongly advise against modders disconnecting the fan unit (to reduce the noise from the unit’s operations) as there would be no other way for the heat to escape. I foresee that some hardcore modders may just cut some slots in the casing to improve air circulation and heat dissipation. I would do this if I were to leave it running 24 x 7 recording shows and functioning as a NAS.