Audio: MP3, WAV, AAC, OGG, FLAC, AIFF, Dolby Digital AC3, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS Digital Surround, Tag ID3, Dolby True HD (Passthrough), Dolby True HD (downmix)
Image: JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF, TIFF
Subtitle: SRT, SUB, SMI, SSA, TXT(SRT), TXT
Asus covers all the popular file types so the vast majority of users needs are covered, but it does miss a few compared to other devices such as the QNAP NMP-1000P. FLAC lossless, APE and NRG are rather niche or can at least be converted, but BDMV/BD-ISO, 3GP, ASS and IDX subtitle files are arguably more mainstream, depending on what you watch and how you backup your media.
ASUS O!Play HD2: Hardware Testing
Plugging in the O!Play HD2 you're met with a bar of dim, red LED along the front. Fired up this becomes a much brighter blue, which is only annoying if you're slouched on the sofa directly opposite. Blue and black always work together quite nicely, but if 'yet another media player with a blue LED' is not your cup of tea then at least it can be easily turned off in the settings menu.
We tested the O!Play HD2 with and without a hard drive inside and for your sanity do NOT use one. On the back sits a small and very whiny fan that fires up when the internal temperature gets too hot - which is almost exclusively when we had the drive installed. You know how buzzing mosquitoes can annoy you no end in a quiet room? It's like that, except there's a jar full of them. Without the hard drive inside the fan doesn't spin up, so the O!Play HD2 sits there silently, as it should.
ASUS O!Play HD2: Software
On the software front and the O!Play HD2 is pretty vanilla. It definitely lacks the flashy pizzazz of the QNAP NMP-1000P, but at least it's functional and all the features we tried worked. The latest firmware adds quite a lot of extra functions, so again, it's absolutely worth upgrading. What's more, it's very easy to upgrade the firmware - just drop the firmware on USB stick and select the update function from the settings menu.
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We're not sure why companies such as Asus opt to separate all media - music, videos and pictures - from each other as it means going back to the home screen every time, but we suppose it makes searching for a single movie in a long list of files easier as the system only looks for file types associated with each area.
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The UI takes a little learning to find your media, but it's pretty straight forward and there's an obvious back button on the remote. All the separate areas, including system setup and movie captions and languages have their own buttons too. What's annoying is that there's no 'skip to time' function or ability to skip in 30 second chunks - instead there's only fast forward up to 32x, which is fast, but not that accurate. On the plus side, the O!Play HD2 remembers what you played before and where you stopped it previous, so as long as it's in the same place (USB stick, NAS, hard drive etc) then it'll pick up from where you stopped it.
The menu's for all three types of media are identical though, apart from the fact that in Movies, leaving the selection box sitting on a filename for a few seconds gives a helpful preview thumbnail playback in the corner. The music or photos one doesn't offer the same function however.
Additionally the O!Play HD2 can access online video, music streams and podcasts via the Muzee service. Unfortunately there's no facility to add your own streams, which is somewhat limiting. While we criticised the QNAP NMP-1000P for having to cache the thumbnails every time, at least it had them - having just a list of names sometimes makes it often hard to understand what a channel is about. On the other hand it also makes the novelty of randomly scrolling and selecting channels that much easier: like Japanese QVC, or 1990s Art Attack dubbed in Chinese.
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The benefit of having a hard drive is that the O!Play HD2 can act as a NAS box, iTunes server, FTP downloader or bit-torrent downloader. As expected the bit-torrent client is basic, but at least the functions all work fine. However, each service has to be run separately - the O!Play HD2 cannot serve people files in NAS mode as well as download via bit-torrent for example, and if you leave the services page to watch a movie or turn it off, the NAS mode is disabled. That is all extremely limiting.