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ASUS O!Play HD2 Review: It’s All About HD Media

A Closer Look: The O!Play HD2’s Exterior

The O!Play series of media players have traditionally been available in any colour you want as long as it is glossy black, and the O!Play HD2 carries on with this tradition. Of course, there is something to be said about the lack of choice, but one must also take into account that most devices sold for home theatre setups are also available in that color. At the very least, this helps to ensure that the O!Play HD2 does not stick out like a sore thumb when integrated into one’s home theatre setup.

The O!Play HD2 is a bit of a looker, thanks to the combination of both a simple, unassuming ‘boxy’ design and the shiny black plastic used for its construction. And we can assure you that it will become even more attention grabbing after sufficient fingerprints have been plastered over it. Not that it is a bad thing, of course.

The front part of the O!Play HD2 houses the I/O ports for conventional external storage devices. Located here are the ports for a CF card, an SD/SDHC/MMC card reader, Sony’s Memory Stick, an eSATA/USB compbo port and a standard USB 2.0 port.

Located at the rear are where the important AV output connectors are. The standard analogue video outputs (component and composite video) are both present, while sound can be transmitted either via coaxial or optical cable, as shown in the image below.

HDMI support is also present as exhibited by the inclusion of a HDMI-out port, while an Ethernet port (RJ-45) provides the O!Play HD2 with the network connectivity required to access and stream media files from online storage mediums. Last but not least, an additional USB 2.0 port is also located here, along with a hi-speed USB 3.0 PC-Link port for even faster data transfer.

Those who prefer local access to their media files instead of streaming them over a network via the Ethernet port will probably find the the inclusion of an empty 3.5-inch hard disk bay a godsend. While some may argue that a hard disk should have been shipped along with the media player by default (a practice found in some of the competition), we actually preferred ASUS’s move of letting the user decide how much extra storage they need, or if they want to use their existing hard disk.
For the sake of both completeness and fairness, we decided to include the use of a hard disk for our review, as operating the O!Play HD2 without one will disable access to one of the selling points touted by ASUS. More on this later.
A Closer Look: The O!Play HD2’s Innards
As far as most consumer electronic products go, they are generally designed to prevent end-users from gaining access into and tinkering with the hardware used in its construction. This rule of thumb extends to the ASUS O!Play HD2 media player as well, and suffice to say gaining access to its hardware is not a straightforward process. However, that was not going to stop us from trying to take it apart, as shown in the image below.
Unfortunately, we were greeted with a single obstacle which effectively ended our journey to discover the type of hardware used in the O!Play HD2 media player. This is due to the fact that in addition to the six screws securing the O!Play HD2’s PCB to the unit, ASUS has installed three additional ‘inverted’ screws which do a very good job of clamping the board down to the unit’s upper body.

Needless to say, ASUS’s move was very successful at frustrating our attempts to examine the chip used to provide the O!Play HD2’s A/V functionality. Fortunately, ASUS later informed us that the chipset used to power the HD2 is a Realtek 1073 C+. For those who really need to know, the 1073 C+ chipset hails from the Realtek RTD1073 family and shares most of the features listed in Realtek’s webpage, but with the added ability to support HD Audio (7.1 channels).

A Closer Look: Remote Control

Like most media players, the ASUS O!Play HD2 is designed to be purely remote control operated, a fact which more than speaks for itself thanks to the complete absence of any buttons on the main unit itself. As a result, the remote control’s design is critical, as it is the only device the user can rely on to interact with the O!Play HD2.

Asus clearly went for functionality over form in the remote control’s design; just about every single feature available in the O!Play HD2 has a dedicated button on the remote control, which is somewhat of a time saver should one decide not to navigate the media player’s menus with the directional buttons.

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