Asus O!Play Gallery Review

  • price

    ₹16,500.00

  • tech2 rating

    3.7/5

  • user rating

    1.8/5

Media players have been gaining popularity for the right reasons. In this age of convergence, where the physical media is losing its importance and the AV and format standards are not only set by AV companies but primarily by computing companies, the media player is a natural and logical path that the user would want to take. Internet has emerged as a strong medium for even new releases, shedding the dark cloak of piracy and getting legitimacy. To the extent that in the last one year, India has seen more than three films getting released on the Internet and in the past two years there have been numerous music albums that were released using the net as a distribution medium! 

 

Thus, most of the ‘infotainment’ hardware companies have started getting into, what is going to become the de-facto standard in a few years, media players. Hardcore computing platform companies like Windows and Apple have been trying for years to have media platform on computing systems. While the flexibility is immense and costs are lower (at source and decoding level; power amplification onwards the cost is the same), they missed one point—no user wants to boot the computer and carry a keyboard on the lap to watch a movie. 

Dimensions

Dimensions

 

 

So, media players (reduced function and specialized computers) made perfect sense as the user has his age-old user interface and hardware like the remote control, and the computing companies have the flexibility that they would have with computers! Asus has released a slew of media players under the O!Play series. What we have for review is a model named Gallery, one of the top-of-the-line players at present. The internal hard disk drive (HDD) slot is empty (not mandatory sold with the player) to keep the costs and storage preferences at user’s discretion, which we found a sensible proposition. 

 

Out of the Box

The player has an impressive finish and even the remote has the black gloss finish mimicking that of the player. The player is less than half the width of the usual hi-firack equipment and is merely about 2.5” in height. There are many inputs in the front as well as at the back. Up front there are all sorts of card inputs including the rarely found CF card slot, an eSATA and a USB port. At the rear panel, one has the more permanent type of connections like an iPod/iPhone connector, an additional USB port, LAN port, digital (coaxial and optical) outputs and finally a single HDMI output. 

Caption

Plenty of connectivity options

 

 

I liked the shape and style of the front panel, and the elegant LED strip lighting up in a fading fashion as it approaches the end of the fascia. There is colour coding here. It turns orange for sleep mode, blue when the device is on and connected wirelessly, purple when turning on/off and green when the device is on, but the wireless connection is off—elaborate! One of the reasons the player is small and lightweight is that the power supply of the player is external (resembling that of a laptop). On the other hand, Asus has a very small and capable player called Mini Plus, which is even smaller and more portable because it has slightly lesser connectivity options but no provision for built-in HDD; whereas the O!Play Gallery has provision for 3.5” HDD to be inserted by the user inside the belly of the player. Wish it could play presentation-related file formats as one could have carried this type of pocket device instead of a laptop to make a presentation! 

 

Technology

Once you own a media player, you will realize that it is going to be the source hub of your entertainment and this is where I feel that the players should have inputs for the existing players during these transition years. So, the DVD or a BD player should have the option to get routed through the media player. However, very few players offer this flexibility and that too, in limited capacity. The player is able to decode almost any format invented so far. USB 3.0 capability and Giga-Ethernet connectivity makes this player capable of fast data transfer and of streaming HD movies. It also has a built-in Wi-fi transreceiver with b, g and n compatible speeds.

 

The player has only HDMI video output and no analogue audio output, so please be careful and select this player only if you have latest compatible gadgets. To stream HD videos, one needs to have a Giga-Ethernet connection from the LAN switch, as even the highest speed wireless protocols like (n-Extreme) do not allow wireless streaming as a March standard (there are many proprietary and non-standardized solutions available), so having your peers and the player connected through Ethernet cables is advisable. 

Easy to access ports and input options

Easy to access ports and input options

 

 

If you have a generation old AV receiver with no HDMI switching then the video signal can be directly sent to your HDMI-capable display device and either coaxial or optical digital output can be connected to the AV receiver. Agreed that this will deprive you of HD sound, but the SD multi-channel sound will be possible through this setup. Apart from this highly considerate connectivity option there is nothing for the retro generation here!

 

It must be mentioned that the HD sound has only one format support—Dolby Digital, with no DTS HD sound decoding. An iPod dock would have been more appreciated than a cable as the iPod keeps dangling and the display is not always visible (it is not necessary to keep the TV on while listening to music).

 

 

 

AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news

AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news

 

Remote Control

This is perhaps one of the best and most sensibly designed remote controls I have ever used, thanks to its ingenious jog dial-cum-navigation system with handy enter button at the centre. The jog dial has tactile and audible clicks making the operation more reassuring. The same jog dial ring can be pressed in four directions to act as a navigation key. The enter button operates with a rather loud and evident click.

 

Caption

Fully functional, easy to use remote

 

 

 

The iPod has a special white-coloured key and is given a prominent spot. After connecting the iPod to the O!Play Gallery, all the operation and navigation of the iPod gets transferred to it and is operable through the remote control. The remote also has many hot keys for direct access functions. One of the most annoying operations was to type something on the virtual on-screen keyboard, but Asus has realised this and has released a firmware update for the users to connect a special USB keyboard for this purpose to the player.

 

Performance

After initial connections, the O!Play Gallery was a breeze to set-up. I have had connectivity and sharing issues with most of the players I have reviewed. At times, nothing used to go right till at least two or three iterations, but with the O!Play Gallery, the connection was definite and reliable. Agreed, it took some time to recognise computers on the network but I do not know whether the culprit is my network or the player. The navigation system of the player is such that the moment you reach a particular destination, picture quality in terms of resolution and colour rendition was bang-on. There were no artifacts and the picture was excellent on motion and on the realism front. Even the black levels on HD television were just perfect and deep.

 

Asus is an experienced engineering company when it comes to sound and graphics cards and so the player performed very well on the technology front. The GUI and the background graphics are simply fantastic in terms of beauty and simplicity. Picture quality, in terms of resolution and colour rendition, was bang-on. There were no artifacts and the picture was excellent on motion and on the realism front. Even the black levels on HD television were just perfect and deep. There is very little fine control in the media player as far as the sound and video quality are concerned. So, most of the settings need to be carried out from the TV and there could be a problem with the same settings for other devices but there isn’t any way out here.

Caption

Not too shabby

 

 

We found the sound had good resolution and great multi-channel separation. On the two-channel, when compared to a dedicated CD player or an SACD player, similar content lacked warmth and imaging. It also must be noted that the music CD or DVD when placed in shared disc drive on the computer does not play on this media player. These have to be converted into other formats or ripped and saved in the shared folder, thus the media player doesn’t exactly ‘replace’ disc player in the true sense. I would strongly recommend this player to be kept reserved for the video and casual music playback if your choices are already spoilt by even entry-level dedicated audiophile sources.

 

Verdict

Asus O!Play Gallery is one of the better media players that we have reviewed so far, especially looking at the super-sensible pricing. It has superb navigation and ease-of- use combined with the elegance and build needed to be a proud member of your AV rig. Advanced capabilities make it obsolete-proof for at least the next three to four years. Moreover, there are patches and updates released time and again, to keep it afloat and young.

 

 

 

 

AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news

AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news


Specifications

Accelerated Content, Expanded Entertainment: O!Play Gallery offers the compatibility you need to work with iPod and iPhone with a user-friendly, streamlined and connected device that acts as a focus of high definition audio and video for the entire family. O!Direct – The Most Direct Way to Cool Multimedia Enjoyment: The ASUS exclusive O!Direct function offers consumers fast and reliable one-click streaming of content from PC to TV. Hassle-free streaming brings broader enjoyment in the living room in both wired and wireless modes, without the need for USB storage devices and their storage restrictions. Enjoy Your iPod and iPhone Entertainment on Big Screen TV: Entertainment on demand! With O!Play Gallery, get your iTunes content playing in the living room with plug and play ease. Connect it to your iPod and iPhone and play content from these mobile devices on big screen TV. Moreover, the rotary remote control special for O!Play Gallery is the most intuitive design for users. Just roll to enjoy! Identifies All Your Audio Files and Provides Metadata: The O!Play Gallery with Gracenote support which turns the media player into a powerful audio library manager by providing access to the online Gracenote database so you can access metadata of their music library. Extensive metadata support means album covers, artwork, information and even genres become available for songs stored in the internal 3.5” hard drive*.

Media Formats

Video Formats MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, RM, RMVB, VC-1, H.264
Photo Formats JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF, TIFF
Audio Formats MP3, WAV, AAC, OGG, FLAC, AIFF, Dolby Digital AC3, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS digital Surround, Dolby True HD (Passthrough), Dolby True HD (Decoding), Tag ID3
Subtitle Support SRT, SUB, SMI, SSA, TXT

Connections

HDMI Output Yes
S/PDIF Out (Coaxial / Optical) Yes
USB Port Yes
eSATA Port Yes

Networking

Wi-Fi Support Yes
Wi-Fi Standard 802.11 b/g/n

Online Streaming Services

Video Services YouTube, Internet TV
Audio Services Radio

Miscellaneous

Other Features Work with iPod and iPhone|#|Rich online entertainment with Netflix and YouTube|#|Flexible 3.5" hard drive storage with extension applications|#|Fastest transfer speeds with USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s connectivity|#|Identify all audio files with Gracenote

Others

Power Consumption 10 W
Dimensions (W x H x D) 230 x 60.5 x 178 mm
Weight 720 grams

After Sales Service

Warranty 1 Year

Published Date: Jul 18, 2012 02:35 pm | Updated Date: Jul 18, 2012 02:35 pm