PlayOn!HD Mini - £87
Manufacturer: AC Ryan
All the PlayOn!HD Mini is lacking in comparison with it's big brother is the space for a internal HDD. It's still using the same Realtek chipset and is just as fast.
It comes with a virtually identical operating system and that same chunky remote. In fact, when it's hidden from view you'd be hard pushed to tell from your experience alone which version of the PlayOn!HD you were using.
It is far smaller than its brethren, making it an incredibly neat little package. It's around the same sort of size as the Asus box, but outperforms it on pretty much all fronts despite using the same Realtek chip.
The AC Ryan interface is more useable though this diminutive device still has the same dearth of online content capabilities as the big un. All it has is YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, bittorrent and an almost unusable RSS client.
Considering the otherwise rubbish Netgear device had such a huge amount to offer, this feels like an over-sight. That said this version of the PlayOn!HD is just as functional, despite the removal of the option to add an internal storage. With a decent USB drive this becomes less of an issue, and with the same array of connectivity in the wee beastie as the larger one you can well do without it.
The Compro box may have the double whammy of internal storage and a digital tuner to boot, but if all you need is a decent network media player, then at half the price the AC Ryan PlayOn!HD Mini will take care of all those needs without breaking a sweat, or a decibel.
Digital Entertainer Live - £90
Things didn't start off too badly for Netgear's li'l Entertainer, unfortunately by beginning with that statement you already know that things don't end up that way…
It's a neat-looking box, with the same low-profile stylings as the Netgear routers we know and loathe. As such it comes with a weighty line up of online goodies.
Straight out of the box and hooked up to the network I had immediate access to a host of live internet streams, such as BBC1 to 4, ITV1 to 4, Film Four, Channel 4 and E4 to name a few.
There's the ubiquitous YouTube plug-in, but you also get access to a fair few other internet video repositories. It even comes with a trial of the paid-for VuNow service which grants access to around 200 other sites, but would seem to be a little irrelevant in real terms. But it can hook up to your Netflix account, though much of the other stand out connections are US-only feeds.
So far so good, but things take a turn for the worse when you actually try and use it as a standard media player. Despite claiming to support HD media the unit refused to cope with the commonplace .MKV file format. It was also a bit of a nightmare trying to get it to talk to my home PC on which sits my media library.
As most of the files are on a separate HDD to my OS drive the Digital Entertainer Live couldn't see it. It also committed the cardinal sin of not playing subs files, which is definitely unforgivable.
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