Improving on the former PlayOn! HD, AC Ryan’s latest PlayOn! DVR HD (ACR-PV76120) media player now boasts DVR features and dual DVB-T tuners. No analog tuners are included though. Other snazzy benefits include a much talked about online access to media files and scheduled recording over-the-web. What they don’t tell you is that these functions require some serious tweaks and technical know how to configure your home network, such as port forwarding on your router for instance.

Cosmetically the DVR HD is simply furnished with a row of navigational buttons and LED display on its glossy front panel. The AV connectors are placed behind, save for USB ports and an SD card reader located at the side of the device. What’s notable is the presence of an eSATA port, absent on the PlayOn! HD. While the DVB-T feature is a plus, keep in mind only a handful of free-to-air digital channels are available locally. At the networking end, the DVR HD’s Ethernet hardware is capped at 100Mbps instead of a Gigabit offering, which is odd considering the player’s NAS configuration.

Internally, you’ll find a single-bay enclosure that supports a 3.5-inch SATA2 drive of up to 2TB. Note that hard disks aren’t bundled with the listed price of $299. The unit’s chipset has been upgraded to the Realtek 1283C+, catered for DVRs and also a HD Audio-enabled offering with Dolby TrueHD 7.1 pass through if you are finicky about audio quality. Boot up required 22 seconds.

The updated graphical interface is more responsive and stylized than its predecessor. Main icons include Digital TV, AV-In, Schedule Recording, Browser, Torrents (BitTorrent client) and Movie Jukebox. The AV-In function is strictly for recording via the composite input, such as grabbing feeds from your set-top box’s RCA for example. Alternatively, Schedule Recording enables you to program recordings for both, TV channels or the composite source.

Here are some of our observations. The DVR HD is prone to hang ups, and programmed recordings are limited to one channel at any given time. Moreover, AV-In recording yielded occasional “invalid” files when tried with a BD player’s composite output. On the bright side, the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) platform is rather useful and easy to manage for TV recordings.

For video playback, the DVR HD was able to handle all the assorted formats we threw at it, including RMVB, MKV and BD-ISO. Subtitles (sub format) showed up without a hitch. However, we noticed the Movie Jukeoox did not register all video clips stored on the drive. Being so, we’d recommend using the browser alternative to hunt down your files instead.

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