ASUS O!Play - TV HD Media Player

Introduction
I have been collecting HD movies and music videos for quite a while now. I purchased a LaCie 301340U 1 TB D2 Ethernet Network Attached Storage to store all of the files.  In addition to the video files I have a lot of photos and mp3 files plus home movies I have taken over the years.  Playback or display of these files is fine through my PCs, but sometimes I would like to play them back on other TVs in the house that are not PC connected.  The first thing I did was to get a Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player for each of the other HDTVs.  At the time the WD player was the only media player I could find at the $100 price point.  There was not any LAN capable media players at or near the $100 price point and that was all I wanted to pay.  The WD players is handy to take to other people’s locations to allow easy playing of my media files.  Many of my friends and relatives do not have a PC connected to their HDTVs and all I have to do is take my HDMI cable, WD player and power supply as well as a memory stick or USB hard drive with the files to be played.  Very handy for movie nights anywhere there is a HDTV with a HDMI input.

But the WD player has its drawbacks.  Namely, the lack of LAN connectivity.  With the WD player files that reside on my network drive have to be transferred to a memory stick or hard drive in order to play them.  With the $100 price point in mind, the ASUS O!Play - TV HD Media Player fits the bill perfectly. 

What You Get and What You Need

Included in the box the following is included:

  • The ASUS O!Play media player
  • 12vdc @ 3 amp power supply with 2-prong power cord
  • A/V (Red-White-Yellow) cable
  • Full size Remote Control with batteries
  • Quick Start Manual
  • Users Manual on CD

What you will need in addition is a HDMI cable, LAN connection and possibly a USB or eSATA hard drive for local storage.  The hard drive is optional and if one is used, I’d recommend the use of an eSATA drive so the USB port is available for memory stick or wireless bridge (if needed) connection.

Connection of the Unit
Connecting the player is very simple. Just attach the power supply to a 120vac source and plug the dc cord in to the player. Then connect the HDMI cable between the player and the HDTV. Alternately the player may be connected via the A/V cable furnished, but realize the video will be downconverted to 480i standard definition video. This is only recommended for use with TVs that do not have a HDMI input. There are  HDMI to Component Video Converters available if your HDTV does not have a HDMI or DVI input and would be preferable to the use of the A/V cable.  Finally, connect the player to your LAN.  There are wireless bridges that may be used in lieu of a cable, but your wireless network will need to be fast enough to handle the bandwidth required for HDTV file bit rates and such use is outside of the scope of this document.  If you want local storage, it could also be connected at this time.

One note about local storage.  If you get a network drive or have a PC that is left powered up or has the standby function which allows media files to be retrieved while in standby and you wire the LAN or have a fast wireless LAN connection, then the local storage would not be necessary.  However if you don’t have a situation where the source for the media files will be available at all times when required, then the local storage could make sense.  Also if you have a slow wireless bridge in use, the local storage would allow file transfer to the local storage for playing after the transfer is complete.  The ASUS O!Play - TV HD Media Player actually has a file move/copy function built in so you can find the files you wish to play and initiate a file move or copy operation right from your TV!

If you use a home theater receiver for surround sound, you should connect the optical audio to your surround receiver.  According to the specs I read, the HDMI digital audio is converted to stereo, so it may not supply multi-channel surround through the HDMI connector.

From the users manual they supply this diagram:

Operation
The operation of the unit is very similar to operating a disc player.

There is a startup menu which allows for the following selections:

  •  Movies - This selection allows you to play video files either from the local storage or from any shared folder on the network.  Once selected the navigation is very similar to what would be done on a PC to play a video file.  Only valid video files will show up, so if folders with several file types is selected, only the video files will be shown for selection.
  • Music - This selection like the Movies selection will allow you to play music files. 
  • Photos - This selection allows thr viewing of photos.  Once started the player will show all of the photos in the selected folder as a slide show.
  • Setup - This selection allows for various setup parameters to be entered.
  • File Copy - This selection will allow you to copy or move a file from a PC or network drive to the local drive right from your TV.

Files That Can Be Played
This player will play  and/or display practically any file format and extention type that can be thrown at it. The single exception I have found is the .dvr-ms files my HP Media Center HDTV tuner makes. By using VideoReDo to convert them to .mpg file types they are playable, so if there is a program I want to save I can. That is not too much of a problem for me because I would be using VideoReDo to remove the commercials anyway.

But back to the files the player will play. From the amazon.com product listing:

O!Play may be compact, but it’s fully equipped to play most formats in your digital library. O!Play supports these formats:

  • Video Compression: MPEG1/2/4, RM/RMVB, VC-1, H.264
  • Video File Extension: .MP4, .MOV, .XVID, .AVI, .DIVX, .ASF, .WMV, .MKV, .RM, .RMVB, .FLV, .TS, .M2TS, .DAT, .MPG, .VOB
  • Audio: MP3, WAV, AAC, OGG, FLAC, AIFF
  • Image: JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF, TIFF
  • Subtitle: SRT, SUB, SMI, SSA

O!Play can also bitstream Dolby Digital and DTS Surround audio to your receiver to bring realism to the next level. If you plan on plugging the O!Play directly to your TV set, HDP-R1 can decode those formats and provide a stereo output without headache or hassle.

With such a wide range of compatibility, you can enjoy your media without waiting for conversion.

Photo Slide Shows
There is the possibility of showing all of the photos in a folder as a slide show. There are various transitions available and the duration is settable. In addition you can set up a music folder to provide background music for the slide show.

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