After CES 2011, we had written about A.C.Ryan trying to get into the US market with their new product lineup. One of the products we covered in the write up was the second generation PlayOn!HD2, an updated version of their flagship product from last year. While the first generation product was based on the Realtek 1073DD chipset, the second generation is based on the Realtek 1185DD.

In order to provide A.C.Ryan with feedback prior to the units reaching the hands of the consumers, we opted to go in for a prototype review unit. A.C.Ryan sent us their top configuration, the ACR-PV73700-2TB. This model has a 2 TB Samsung hard drive bundled with the base unit, and will have a suggested retail price of $289 when it launches later this month.

A.C.Ryan warned us that the unit we were receiving was a prototype and even though the hardware was final, the firmware bundled with the unit was not. We weren't expecting the streamer to work wonder right off the box, but that didn't prevent us from connecting the unit to our streamer test bed.

One of the main concerns with the PlayOn!HD2 platform's specifications was the absence of any mention of DTS-HD audio downmix or bitstreaming. Also, we were suspicious of the claimed BD-ISO playback.

Right after hooking up the box, I tried to playback some MKV and M2TS files with DTS-HD MA audio. Bitstreaming of the HD audio worked without a hitch! Like many other media streamers, there is no official support for DTS-HD audio. However, that doesn't prevent the streamer from handling it within the constraints placed by the user's setup and the licensing agreements in place. In this context, the WDTV lineup is the odd one out, refusing to support DTS-HD bitstreaming. Other licensees feel that a license is necessary only for decode and downmix of the HD audio and not for bitstreaming. We feel this is correct, since the end user has already paid the licensing fees for the decoding of DTS-HD audio when purchasing the AV receiver.

Anyway, getting back to the PlayOn!HD2, we tried to look into the claimed BD-ISO support. While both BD-ISOs and folder structures played the movie, the support is still in the form of BD-Lite, i.e, A.C.Ryan's own menu instead of the BD-J enabled one. There are still some tweaks necessary for titles with branched structures, and other areas where the firmware could use some improvement. We have informed A.C.Ryan of the same. A detailed review of the functionality enabled by the firmware will come later.

However, being given an exclusive, we couldn't resist publishing a overview of the hardware platform right away. First, we will have a look at the unboxing experience, following which we will cover the internal hardware platform in detail.

Unboxing the PlayOn!HD2
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  • probedb - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Excellent, can't wait for a review of this. I'm particularly interested in how good it is at deinterlacing DVD content. I rip mine and stream to my PlayON!HD mini but I would upgrade to this if it's better.
  • Bartjes - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    I'm very very interested in the real speed of the USB3 and Gbit network. And if supplied the WiFi speed with a USB dongle.
    Having Gbit and USB3 doesn't mean the filling up of the HD goes fast (see previous generation of mediaplayer).
  • SlyNine - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    My WDLive HD does do DTS HD, My reciever sees it as a DTS stream, so unless its encoding a DTS ( Doesn't support DTS MA) stream from a DTS MA stream ( highly unlikely, na impossible) It does support DTS MA It just sends the core audio(DTS.

    In fact its the Dolby True that I cannot play back. My Receiver only supports Dolby Digital and DTS, Its a harman Kardon from about 2004.

    My Files are MKV remuxes of full Bluray ( no re-encoding) movies. I use DVDFab, ClownBD,MKVMerge, and ANYDVD HD.

    Software I use Twonky Media center in Virtualbox ( It didn't play nice with my Windows 7).

    The WDLive is connected though component to the TV and through Fiber for Audio.
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    I am sorry if my comment about the WDTV Live series wasn't clear.

    I meant to convey the fact that the WDTV Live series can't decode to full LPCM / bitstream the full DTS-HD MA soundtrack. Yes, core DTS is taken advantage of.. but that is hardly what the people with the latest AV receivers want.

    Btw, over fiber, you will get only DTS or Dolby and not any of the HD audio bistreamed.
  • SlyNine - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Yea I understand that you need HDMI for any of the HD Audio formats.

    What leads to my confusion is the fact that I have yet to get Dolby TrueHD's core audio to stream through my WDlive HD. Right now I have to demux the core Dolby Digital sound track and if I want to retain the TrueHD I have to have that as a separate audio track. Not a big deal but it is one extra step I'd love to remove.

    Any Ideas? Does the WD Live simply not support this?
  • SlyNine - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the preview, I love these.

    If you guys could tell us how the Media streamer handles/ Builds the libraryies i'd appreciate that. Expecially the libraries located on a network drive.

    This is important for us who want to set it up for people less tech savy. The most important thing is how clean the selection is, How many different folders/screens do they have to navigate to find the content.

  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    For $300, what can this do that a zacate mini itx cannot do?
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    For starters,

    1. Ease of use for the non-DIY crowd

    2. No messing around with codecs

    3. Play 1080p60 H264 videos in a reliable manner

    Don't get me wrong.. I build and use HTPCs too, but there is a market for each of these products :)
  • Trefugl - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    Also, the $290 comes with a 2TB HDD. I for one, would want to just stream all my video from my NAS, so a cheaper version of this w/o HDD would be interesting and less expensive than building something with the same features from scratch.
  • probedb - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - link

    Then you want the Mini2 :)

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