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Monday, August 22, 2011
AC Ryan Playon!HD Mini 2 review

4. Using the player

The latest v4585 firmware brings many improvements and fixes to the PlayOnHD2! series. Generally, the player is faster and more responsive than with the previous v3966 firmware installed, especially after disabling autoscan media function.

Proceeding to the real performance, the first test we did was a simple copy of a file from external USB2.0 device and through the local network to the player. The result was a writing speed of 7.70MB/sec, which is slow for a Gigabit Lan device. According to AC Ryan: "...The HD2 Gigabit applies only to streaming media over your network, not to file transfer from your PC to your HD2 or vice versa. The Realtek chipset is designed for media playing and is not a universal PC chipset...". Apart from the "low" performance figures, the LAN speeds were very good even with Blu-Ray ISO images. No surprises here.

Next, we tried to playback a variety of media files we have in our labs for evaluating media players. Since the PlayOnHD2! and PlayOnHD! Mini 2 share the exactly same "engine", the performance of the Mini was very good, with all tested files including 1080p movies and DTS soundtracks. In fact, we were impressed that this player could even handle H.264 main@Level 5 encoded files, with just a few minor visual issues. With the "PassThrough" audio settings, the player also managed to playback all audio files we tested it with (DTS HD, DTS DD + 7.1, etc). Don't forget that this player also supports Blu-Ray ISO menus.

We noticed a visual glitch with the Blu-Ray image of Casino Royal. The "Special Features" menu was not displayed well. Of course that's a minor issue since the main movie was perfectly displayed with clear subtitles.

The zoom function that was somewhat problematic in previous players now works great, although we would like to see WMV high-res files to be automatically stretched to fill the whole screen (Stretch Zoom mode).

The subtitles were perfectly displayed:

Finally, we checked the highest supported bitrate for media files. M2ts files were fully playable up to the bird90.m2ts file. Regarding MKV, the player gave a perfect playback of files up to bird60.mkv. More demanding files such as the bird70.mkv and bird90.mkv showed a choppy playback performance. This means that files encoded with up to 60mbit can be playbacked without any issues - which of course is more than enough for the majority of users.

- Online services

The PlayOnHD! Mini 2 has exactly the same "Internet Media" services for users to explore as we described in our PlayOnHD2! review. What has been improved is the fact that Mouse and Keyboard are more usesable, supporting a scroll down function and having a better typing response. Most USB devices will work just fine. However, the player has only 2 USB ports so you might need to use a USB hub in order to keep your external storage devices installed.

The Facebook application now is much more useable, although loading of pictures was slow:

The same happened with the ebuddy application so we assume that the problem is related to the processor of the player:

We also tried the Youtube XL application, which offers videos optimized for watching on large screens.

Here there is also an option to turn off HD clips. However we couldn't find any way to run a video at full screen and of course we couldn't understand whether the displayed Video was actually an HD.

Overall, while the Internet experience has been improved compared to previous models, although we feel that these features cannot provide you the experience you get when you are using your PC or tablet, at least yet. Most of these applications were not well scaled to our test TV and their response is not so fast.

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