Media Streamers and Hubs Guide
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Performance and Verdict
Putting the HD2 through its Paces
The HD2 surprised us with its speedy start-up timing; it booted up in 10 seconds flat. From there we tested the various music and video files. The music player was a basic and simple design, similar to other media players. As with current-gen media players, music file compatibility was not an issue, it was able to play all popular music file formats (including the less-popular OGG format).
Next up was video testing which tends to reveal chinks in a lesser media player's armor, but suffice to say, ASUS does not disappoint with its format support. The HD2 played almost everything we threw at it. RMVB videos are a hit or miss affair with the less-capable media players but not for the HD2. It even played our BD-ISO files, although take note that the menus for Blu-ray (and even DVD menus for ISO files) are obviously not available (A.C.Ryan's HD Mini 2 and HD2 have their own custom menus for BD-ISO if you're looking for that). Other than the loss of a menu and its options, accessing these files will directly put you in video playback mode.
Videos played smoothly, and there were no jitters or uneven black patches in scenes with a lot of black.The player did not crash or freeze up when forwarding videos and resuming playback - a common annoyance on the early generation of media players. We did notice though that the HD2 does not upconvert standard definition content as well as it handles native high definition content. In our trials, low-def content look like material played off VHS tapes. We tested the same files on another media player and that player did display the content slightly better. We could change subtitles, select the audio stream without issue and what we found useful was the option to jump to a certain timing in the video (which beats forwarding 20 minutes into a movie).
A point to note is that the player is able to play MP4 files, but does not recognize them as video files by default when you enter the video page. So we had to rename the file extension to AVI, or we could view the file by browsing to the folder it was located in.
The HD2, while not exactly a new model, is still popular due to its comprehensive format support though the upscaling quality left more to be desired. Also, with its gargantuan size, it may stick out for those of you looking for a more discreet media player that will blend in with your slim LED TV. Of course the HD2 is stuck in the middle ground of the media player market, with cheaper players coming in with sleeker shapes, but the HD2 includes the ability to insert a 3.5-inch HDD. ASUS' latest model, the O!Play Gallery, does offer more audio support such as DTS digital surround and Dolby True HD for your more audio-demanding movies and offers more more internet services/channels. Of course these extras will cost you if you do decide on the Gallery instead of the HD2. Physically they look the same and more than 80% of the features are identical to the HD2, but the Gallery offers better audio support and slightly more frills.
For those who like their media players to play everything under the sun and are not too particular about the size or looks of it, the HD2 will fit your requirements, especially with its simple but plain-looking menu and aided by the well-designed remote. The HD2 may not be the newest or flashiest media player, but don't consider it obsolete just yet.
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