ASUS O!Play HDP-R1 HD Media Player Review

Author: Carl Poirier
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/hdp-r1/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

 

Introduction

 

The market for media players has really exploded over the past half-year. By 'media player' I do not mean DVD or music players; I mean the ones with all these wicked features like accessing shared media via a LAN connection, from a USB and even an eSATA external storage device -- the ones that usually set on top of a HDTV. HD media players can output video and sound through to the most advanced home theaters, up to a 1080p definition. These functions are what I discovered when first reading about the O!Play HDP-R1 on ASUS' website late last year, and I tend to think that today there are still plenty of people who are not aware that such devices exist.

Since the ASUS O!Play is the first media player to enter Neoseeker's labs, I will see how it stands compared to other typical setups, either based on a traditional DVD player, or a HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer). I'll also take a brief look at what competition is currently offered on the market.

 

Specifications

 

Supported Formats
Video: 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
I/O Port
Input:
DC Power In
1xUSB 2.0 Port
1xUSB 2.0 / eSATA Combo Port
RJ-45 LAN Port
Output:
Composite Video
Composite Audio L/R
S/PDIF Out
HDMI 1.3
Network
LAN:
TCP/IP (DHCP or Static IP Address)
10/100Mbps Wired LAN
Accessories
AC Adapter
Power Cord
Remote Control
Composite A/V Cable
Quick Start Guide
CD (User Manual)
Dimensions
181.0x125.3x47.7mm(W x D x H)
Weight
491g
Power
Power Source: 12V DC, 2A, 24W Power Adapter
Power Consumption: < 10W
Operating Temperature: 5- 35℃ (41- 95 ℉)
Media processor
Realtek 1073
RAM
128MB
Flash memory
256MB

This table is the one from ASUS' website. However I added the three last lines about the actual hardware inside the O!Play. What system can manage 1080P video playback for a power consumption less than 10W? Not that many. It also turns out the operating system powering the O!Play is based on Linux, as can be seen in the download section; the source code is available for free. This is what is installed on the 256MB flash memory.

The O!Play has a very simple design. Its dimensions are 4.5x12x18cm. At the front, there are two LEDs labeled as "Power" and "Storage".

 

The model number is written on the side. There are two small vents: one at the bottom and one at the top.

On the other side there is a third vent, but most importantly there is a USB port and an eSATA & USB combo port. A reset button that can be pushed with a straightened paper clip is also present.

The remaining connectivity is at the back. The HDP-R1 can be used with either the old cathodic TV or the latest home theater set; there are the old-school white, yellow and red analog (RCA) connectors as well as an HDMI, and SPDIF digital audio port. Finally, the RJ-45 connector gives the O!Play networking capabilities, as we will see later. The power connector is meant to... well, power the unit.

Speaking of power, the unit is rated at 2A on 12V. Will it be below the 10W mark announced by ASUS? I'll make sure to test that out. Normally, the unit should rest the other way around, on its four little rubber feet.

Now, let's take a look at what is supplied with the O!Play. The user manual has been burned on a CD. Considering it is written in 14 languages, this saves quite a bit of paper. The quick start guide has been printed though, but it only says how to connect the unit as well as what each button is for on the remote control. It still makes for a total of 38 pages, which I'd say is approximately half of what is printed for a motherboard manual. I already mentioned the remote control, which also comes with two AAA batteries. The 3-color cable is supplied, but there is no trace of an HDMI cable. Obviously, there is also a power cord with an external power supply.

This one can provide up to 3A, which is 1.5x more than what the media player is rated for. Along with the power cord, it reaches 11 feet long, which should be plenty considering most of the time there is an outlet behind the TV.

The remote control has a total of 24 buttons. I will explain their functions in the next two pages.

The batteries are inserted at the back:

Finally, let's power on the O!Play. Two LEDs will light on; the first one is for the power, and the second one indicates the external storage's state. If there is no external storage plugged in, it will not light on. As for the power LED, it will turn red when the unit is turned off, but powered.

Let's first take a look at how to get the O!Play to play media. One can toggle between the "Music", "Movies" and "Photos" by pressing the "Mode" button on the remote control, or by choosing them from the main menu. At anytime, pressing the "Home" button (the one with the little house) brings the user back to that main menu.

The most complete sub-menu is the music one. The music can be browsed according to its genre, artist, date and album. One can also access the music by browsing the folders or the recently played list, whereas the two other modes don't have as much options.

Let's now explore the file browser of the O!Play. Once the user has chosen between "Storage Device", "Network" or "UPnP", the folders appear as on a real computer. The unit can be connected to either a router or directly to a PC. While browsing a device on the network, one can access the shared folders directly if they are shared with everyone, or log in to have access to protected areas. For example, by entering the main Windows account using the keyboard appearing on the screen, all partitions can be accessed. Another possibility is to add the "OPlayer" default account to the shared users list. At this point, one can select a music, video or picture to play or watch. It would have been great if it were supporting midi as well as playlist files though.

In the case of music, by pressing the "Display" button on the remote control, the index of the playlist and timeline of the track appear in a blue rectangle. The playlist corresponds to everything in the current folder. To shuffle the order, one just has to hit the "Shuffle" button on the remote control. It is the glossy with a music note on it.

While the music is playing, one can watch photos by simply changing the media mode. Here is an example with a screenshot of Colin McRae DiRT 2. While browsing, a thumbnail of the current file is displayed on the right. One can always hit the "Display" button to see the music playlist index, as I have just said.  Also, as you might have noticed, I have a picture of Sisko from Star Trek, but unfortunately we are not going to take a look at it since the O!Play does not support animated .gif files.

One can then display the picture fullscreen by hitting the "OK" button. A zoom in can also be done with the magnifier button. They can also be rotated with the arrows. If one wants to display the pictures one by one in the folder, a slideshow can be started by hitting the "Play/Pause" button.

As for movies, it will also display a preview on the right, like for pictures. Hitting the play button will display it fullscreen. It also supports DVD and BD iso files, which will make use of the "Subtitles" and "Language" buttons on the remote control. It lacks support for these physical media via an external drive though, but I hope this will come with a future firmware update. The power consumption during 1080P playback from a USB drive remained at a steady 7W, which is very impressive. The top of the unit became a little warm, but that's about it. Without any storage device plugged in and idling on the home menu, it consumed 6W.

File Copy

Apart from playing media, the O!Play can also copy or move files to different storage locations.

By selecting the "File Copy" option from the main menu, the user is greeted with this file browser separated in two sections. The first one is the source and the second one is the destination. To select files, one just has to hit the "Play/Pause" button. A little checkmark then appears on the file icon. When the destination has also been chosen, hitting the right arrow on the remote control asks the user if a move or copy action is desired.

In the following example, I decided to copy our 1080P video sample so that I would have time to take a picture before it finishes.

Also, as of firmware 1.18, the O!Play has the capability to delete or rename files and folders. To do so, one simply has to hit the left arrow. To enter a new name, the keyboard we have seen earlier will appear.

 

Settings

The Options sub-menu is divived into five sections, which relate to the three different types of media the O!Play can play as well as the Network and System settings. In the first section, one can enable the Night Mode, which normalizes the sound volume when one is in a quiet environment. As for the audio output, if an audio decoder is used, the media player can be set to output the raw data instead.

The user can adjust video settings in the second tab as well as enable or disable the video resume and preview. In the TV system setting, the resolution and refresh rate of the display can be chosen. For example, one can pick "1080P 60Hz", however the Auto mode does just fine. The skip duration can be set from 1 to 30 minutes, in steps of five.

In the Photo section, one can enable the Ken Burns effect as well as choose a transition from one of these: Cross Fade, Left to Right, Top to Bottom, Waterfall, Snake, Dissolve and Strip Left Down. It can also be set to pick an effect at random.

The only thing that can be done in the "Network" tab is to set a fixed IP address, so let's move right away to the System section. The first option allows the user to change the system language on the fly as well as the text encoding. Updating the unit's firmware is done via the third option. ASUS is working continually on firmware updates for the O!Play, fixing bugs and improving capabilities. I will talk more about it on the following page. Next, the time can be set. It defaults to 2000/5/9, 1:01, as can be seen below; I somehow did not set it before taking the picture.  Next is the Sleep timer option, which can be set from 5 to 120 minutes. Then, after that period of time, the unit will turn off by itself, putting the option back to off at the same time. The last setting is the Screen Saver, and finally the default settings can be loaded.

The aforementioned screen saver is a simple "O!Play", disappearing and reappearing randomly on the the screen.

I do not see the ASUS HDP-R1 as a direct replacement to either the typical DVD/BD player or the HTPC since it cannot read physical media - yet. The development team over at ASUS knows that supporting a USB or eSATA external optical drive would be a great feature. Hopefully this will come with the next firmware update. It does have numerous options that are quite unique though. I was also told that Internet enabled services are actually going to be implemented soon, so the O!Play will become much more than it is currently, and get closer to the versatility of the HTPC. In other words, there are many updates coming from the dedicated team at ASUS which I am sure will make the unit even better than it is now.

Looking at the competitor's offerings, the ASUS O!Play HDP-R1 is definitely a great bang for the buck. Currently, it sells for $100 on Newegg, with free shipping. Western Digital has a model currently selling for $60, but it does not support networking and is not powerful enough for HD content. Then, for the same price as the O!Play, WD offers an HD media player, which still does not support networking. The similar model would be the WD TV Live HD media player, which supports both networking and HD content. It sells for $120 though, but currently has some Internet enabled services. As I said, I was told some are coming to the O!Play soon, and I can't wait to see them. Also, for that same $120, ASUS offers the O!Play Air, which has a wireless network card built-in. There are also on the market some much more expensive units such as the Popcorn Hour C-200. It is a much larger unit and a DVD/BD drive as well as a hard drive can be installed directly in it. However, personally, I can't imagine myself buying such an expensive media player (the Popcorn is about $350) for the simple reason that for the same price, or even cheaper, you can have a much more flexible system such as an Ion-based nettop.

All in all, the ASUS HDP-R1 has the right price point for this type of device, and should definitely be considered. One also must not forget that the product gets even better with firmware updates, thanks to the dedicated O!Play development team at ASUS labs. Once next important updates are released, I will write a quick little update to this article to let you know what has been implemented, so stay tuned!


Update 08/06/03: As of February 22nd, the ASUS O!Play supports Internet TV and Radio, with over 100 and 10,000 channels respectively. It also supports viewing weather for many major cities as well as browsing pictures hosted on Flickr and Picasa. Obviously, a firmware update is needed. Good work, ASUS!

»Neoseeker.com

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