Asus O!Play Air HDP-R3 review
As the first of Asus’s O!Play range of media players to land in PC Pro‘s labs, the HDP-R3 has a lot to live up to. Our media streamer A List category is currently topped by Western Digital’s small but perfectly formed WDTV Live, so Asus is going to have to pull out all the stops to compete.
The unassuming exterior belies the HDP-R3’s considerable abilities. Gloss black stretches around its front and sides, with matte black contrasting above and below, and the three subtle blue status lights are unlikely to detract attention from the huge HDTV it’s connected to.
And while it’s about twice the size of Western Digital’s media darling, it boasts a surprising range of connections. A single USB port rubs shoulders with eSATA, and the right flank boasts a card reader that supports CompactFlash, SD, MMC and Memory Stick. On the rear sit an HDMI port and 10/100 Ethernet, with an optical digital out and analogue audio and video outputs for good measure. Asus has also furnished the O!Play with 802.11n wireless networking.
Fire up the Asus and the smart user interface is clean and uncluttered. Huge icons give quick access to music, videos or music files, all of which can be accessed from local USB or eSATA drives, or streamed from shares on the network.
It isn’t quite as slick as that of the WDTV Live, but it’s still terrifically easy to use. Set music playing in the background while you fire up a slideshow of your latest digital photos, or just sit back and watch a 1080p MKV file, and the Asus goes about its business without undue fuss.
But despite a range of supported file formats that stretches even wider than that of Western Digital’s WDTV Live, the O!Play is found lacking in certain areas. It’s disappointing, for example, that unlike its diminutive rival there’s no integration of online services such as YouTube or Flickr. It’s also a shame that despite the USB and eSATA ports there’s no way of sharing the contents of connected drives on the network. Factor in the inability to cope with 1080p MKV files encoded with high numbers of reference frames – a limitation that we doubt a firmware upgrade can address – and the WDTV Live pulls even further ahead.
The Asus O!Play HDP-R3 manages to cram an impressive amount into a relatively modest budget, but it’s outclassed by its tiny rival. The WDTV Live might lack 802.11n as standard, but add one of the supported USB 802.11n dongles for about £20 and you have a media player that’s more versatile, more powerful and just a smidgen cheaper to boot. The O!Play can’t match that.
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
Software and OS support
|Operating system Windows 7 supported?||yes|
|Operating system Windows Vista supported?||yes|
|Operating system Windows XP supported?||yes|
|Dimensions||181 x 125 x 48mm (WDH)|
Audio format support
|Other audio codec support||AC3, DTS|
Video format support
|Other video codec support||MOV, TS, FLV, RMVB|
Ports and communications
|UPnP media server?||yes|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Wired adapter speed||100Mbits/sec|
|RCA (phono) outputs||2|
|3.5mm audio jacks||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||1|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|