Firstly, playing media from a USB device works like a dream. The interface is a bit clunky, and there's always a split second delay between you pressing a button in the supplied remote control and the menu system responding. But in general, it's easy to navigate to your files on a USB stick and playback is pretty snappy.
So far, so good then. But the bad things start happening when you try to use the O!Play on a network.
Technically, what should happen is that you plug the O!Play into either your office or home network via an Ethernet cable. And then you should be able to navigate to your PC in the O!Play interface, navigate your shared folders, and play your videos and music.
Sadly, that's not quite how things transpired in our test. We tried to get the O!Play streaming content from both Windows 7 and Windows Vista machines but to no avail. While the device could detect the PCs on the network, it persistently asked for username and passwords before it would access the content on those PCs.
This is despite there not being any password protection enabled any of our machines. We had various other devices set up in our testing room, including both an Xbox 360 and a PS3. Both of these devices could stream from our PCs without a problem. But the O!Play would not play ball.
We even gave the device to our colleagues on the Official Windows Magazine to try. They had the same problem we did – it just wouldn't work.
And somewhat perplexingly, the user manual which comes on a CD-ROM, only had instructions for how to set the device up to work with Windows XP – an operating system that's completely defunct in all sectors other than the netbook market.
NAS access works
The O!Play accessed our NAS box happily enough, but as most people are unlikely to have one of these, the device should seamlessly work with Windows PCs. But it doesn't.
Our other gripe with the network connectivity is the lack of a wireless connection. We can only think it must be a cost-cutting measure to no include WiFi, because the benefits of having Wireless in a device like this are obvious - even if streaming HD would require 802.11n rather than the more prevalent 802.11g.
Faffing around with wired connections is a hassle – plus, the overwhelming majority of broadband-connected homes out there are Wi-Fi only. By not including Wireless, Asus has alienated the vast majority of its potential market.
It's not going too well then – and unfortunately there are more black marks to come.