Grab 'n' Go Full HD Media Player - £150
Conceptronic's aesthetically pleasing machine is all matte-black, heavy duty brushed aluminium and fairly singing the song of weighty technology.
At over £150 it's knocking on the gilt-edged door of the Compro machine in price terms, but simply can't compete in terms of connectivity. Sure it's got the requisite HDMI connector and, like the AC Ryan devices, comes with an actual HDMI cable, but the feature set is rather limited.
It's got a single USB port on the rear, a thoroughly fugly remote control and the ugliest on/off switch I've seen. I initially thought it was a factory reset switch.
The Grab 'n' Go is fully wired up in network terms too, with no acknowledgement of the finer things in life such as wireless connectivity. But it will drag content willingly from your networked media libraries, and from locally attached storage via that solitary USB port.
Fortunately, file support is pretty impressive and it's not too shabby in timings when opening files and videos. Playback was also fairly responsive, offering decent subtitle support too.
The boot time of thirty seconds isn't bad, but it's not the easiest thing in the world to actually use. We had a hell of a time actually getting the device to output properly, with a strict regimen of resetting and hammering the video output button on the remote. Easy access this isn't.
That said though, it's a very capable player, but at this sort of price it's severely lacking, when compared to the far more capable opposition.
PlayOn!HD - £133
Manufacturer: AC Ryan
This is more like it; this is how we want our media players to be: simple, straightforward, fast and functional. The PlayOn!HD has got all that in spades and does it all without making a great fuss in the process.
Initial setup was an absolute doddle. This larger version allows the installation of a full 3.5-inch HDD and will support flavours up to and including 1.5TB. Now that's a whole lotta storage for your multimedia needs! Okay, that does add a hell of a premium to the price, but considering you can pick up 1TB drives for around £50 it's not out of the question.
This also has the benefit of not having to rely on speedy network connections to facilitate in the playing of the full 1080p experience you can get out of the PlayOn!HD.
The software interface is simple and easily navigable, with a responsive, though chunky, remote control to boot. It was also remarkably quick to get onto my network and quickly found all the media on my network PC with barely any setup required.
Like the ASUS O!Play Air box it also gives you a quick mini-preview of the files you are hovering the cursor over, but like the rest of the boxes, it gives you only six filenames on screen at any one time. This means if you've got a large media library, a lot of time is going to be spent trawling through your files one at a time.
We did find that it was lightening fast to boot from a cold start, in comparison with some of the tardy devices on this test, and suffers from none of the subtitle problems.
Where it does fall down is in the online capabilities. There's a whole host of functionality here though, better than anything else at this price.