A.C.Ryan is also continuing their Realtek based lineup introduced last year. Unlike Sigma Designs, Realtek is really secretive about their media decoding SoCs. The fact that we are not aware of the specifications of their SoCs (no product briefs) is not helpful in analysis. In some ways, it is good that we hear announcements from Realtek only when the chips are already shipping to the manufacturers, meaning that it is close to getting into the consumer's hands. On the other hand, it nice to know that 3D enabled XBMC / VXP video post processing will be coming on Sigma enabled products 18 - 24 months down the line.

The latest media decoder SoCs from Realtek are not even up on their official website. However, we already know quite a bit about the RTD1055 and RTD1185. While the RTD1055 is a low cost solution without support for Ethernet or SATA, the 1185 is a premium solution with the whole kitchen sink of connectivity options. From our analysis of A.C.Ryan's second generation offerings, we can only be sure of 2 USB hosts and 1 SATA controller in the 1055. In the 1185, we are sure there is a PCI-E port as well as Gigabit Ethernet, 2 USB hosts and 2 SATA controllers. From the look we had at the GUI on the streamers, it looks like Realtek doesn't care about having any sort of 3D graphics engine (like the PowerVR SGX535 on the CE4100 or the SGX531 on the SMP8656) on-chip. Sigma realized the importance of the UI on media streamers and incorporated the PowerVR SGX531 on their SMP 8656, but Realtek doesn't seem to have done that. The graphics engine still seems to operate in 2D, and we can just hope that companies like A.C.Ryan make the best possible use of the available resources. Beyond what we have inferred, we don't have any product briefs from Realtek to analyze their platform.

A.C.Ryan felt that the increased memory addressing capability of the second generation SoCs from Realtek and the presence of GbE were reasons enough to use them for the second generation PlayOn! HD products. Let us now take a detailed look at what A.C.Ryan has lined up for us using these two new SoCs from Realtek.

PlayOn!HD Essential

Based on the 1055, this product has no network capabilities. The internal hard disk can be 500 GB, 1 TB or 2 TB. While there is full DVD-ISO menu support, BD-ISO still has basic navigation capabilities only. The PlayOn! GUI 2.0, a standard feature in all A.C.Ryan products now, shows the effort put in by A.C.Ryan to make maximum use of the rudimentary graphics engine in the Realtek SoCs.

This model is already shipping with a suggested MSRP of $139 for the 500 GB model. The 1 TB and 2 TB models are expected to cost $155 and $179 respectively.


This is based on the 1185. The salient features of this product are:

  1. Gigabit ethernet support
  2. USB 3.0 slave support for the internal hard disk
  3. Easy slot loading for the internal hard disk.

This is the first streamer we have seen with native GbE support. The WDTV Live Hub has support for Gigabit Ethernet in the system, but the maximum speed we were able to obtain while transferring data to / from the internal hard disk was around 100 Mbps. The SMP 8654 used inside the hub has no native GbE support resulting in the lackluster GbE performance. The PlayOn!HD 2 looks to be the first media streamer with serious NAS capabilities.

The first Realtek based media streamer with USB 3.0 slave support was the Asus O!Play 2. USB 3.0 host functionality is definitely not needed in media streamers because there are no media streams which need such high bandwidth. On the other hand, USB 3.0 slave support for streamers with internal hard disks makes a lot of sense when the product is viewed as a direct-attached storage (DAS) device. It enables much faster transfer of existing content on the PC into the media streamer. The PlayOn!HD2 also has a USB 3.0 slave port and also comes with the appropriate cable. Internally, the board contains a USB3 - SATA bridge chip to ensure that there is no bottleneck in the USB3 transfer speeds. I suspect the 1185 has a 3 Gbps SATA interface which tends to saturate most, if not all, hard disks. The fact that the PlayOn! HD 2 is the first to market with native GbE and USB 3.0 slave support makes it an exciting product in the media streamer / NAS / DAS space. We can't wait to get our hands on the PlayOn!HD2 to find out how it performs as a NAS / DAS.

Out of all the internal HD mounting methods I have seen in various media streamers, the one adopted by A.C.Ryan is the simplest and most fool-proof. A.C.Ryan demonstrated the nifty nature of their slot loading mechanism when I visited them during CES and we will cover this in detail in our final review.

This model is expected to launch in February 2011 with a suggested MSRP of $169 for the model without storage. 500 GB, 1 TB, 1.5 TB and 2 TB models come in at $205, $229, $259 and $289 respectively.

PlayOn!HD Mini 2

This model is very similar to the PlayOn!HD2 except that the internal storage option and USB 3.0 slave port are removed. Due to the removal of the internal storage option, there is no necessity for a fan in the enclosure. Some models also have 802.11n wireless capability built-in in addition to the GbE NIC.

This model is also expected to launch in February 2011 with a suggested MSRP of $109.

In addition to the above models, A.C.Ryan has also lined up a media streamer / DVR combo with support for dual DVB-T digital tuners (simultaneous watching and recording). This is based on the Realtek 1283C+ chipset. The DVR model will not be sold in the US due to lack of market interest.

A.C.Ryan Fluxx Final Words
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • adiposity - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    Well, I got a ceton 4 channel card about 3 months ago. What's your problem?
  • ap90033 - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    Well I got 3 Dual HD Homerun Tuner so I can record 6 shows OTA at the same time, I use comskip to skip commercials and anything not OTA I get with Hulu or Boxee/Zinc. It works pretty well...
  • Activate: AMD - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    The Ceton exists, but is only available through a couple distributors, its $400, and the backorder is something like 3 months. I've been waiting for mine since i ordered on 11/20.

    I agree that having more 3rd party STB's or HTPC's with cablecard acess should be easier. People see my HTPC (with the ATI cableCARD tuner which is no longer sold new) and are amazed. Going back to the standard Comcast STB my parents have is absolute torture. But until more people start yelling for it , the cablecos will fight against it tooth-and-nail, because that 15/mo or whatever they charge for a DVR is a healthy profit for them. People aren't willing to vote with their wallets because right now there are no true alternatives besides TiVo and they just settle for the garbage UI's and sub-par features of their cableco DVRs.

    Unfortunately, your point that cable companies need to make a case for their services is something that will not turn out to be true. They'll just lock their content down even harder and digital services won't have anything to play. Youtube on my TV is cool and all.. but its not exactly a cable replacement. What I'd love to see is a move to more of an open system where you can pick and choose channels rather than bundles where you only watch 5 of the 120 channels you pay for.
  • ckryan - Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - link

    What if... the cable companies made the device? I know they never would, but I think the capabilities of an HTPC that could record your HD cable content wouldn't be an obscure product. If mainstream users knew it was possible, and there was a price competitive option, I think it would do well here. The market just needs one product acting as the tip of the spear. I feel like I'm only a year or two away from ditching cable entirely. The amount of free or low cost HD content I have at my disposal is already considerable. Bolstered with an OTA antenna and tuner, I'd have the ability to watch the local networks in my area as well. I already have Netflix and Hulu. With over the air HD content in the mix, I am to the point where I am seriously considering ditching my super expensive cable. I know some of the cable companies are trying to get in the middle of content prodution, but right now service providers need to make a more compelling case for their not inexpensive product. They know some people are starting to consider cutting them out. They will have to protect the market they have, and I don't know if they're going to do it by providing a better service. I believe that the cable companies providing internet services are going to try to screw Netflix and their customers.
  • casteve - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    I read the headline and was very happy. Then I read this:

    "In addition to the above models, A.C.Ryan has also lined up a media streamer / DVR combo with support for dual DVB-T digital tuners (simultaneous watching and recording). This is based on the Realtek 1283C+ chipset. The DVR model will not be sold in the US due to lack of market interest."

    Crap. What will it take for a third party to enter and be successful in the tuner+DVR space? I really don't want a PC acting as a DVR nor do I want to be handcuffed to Comcast/TiVo/etc...
  • Activate: AMD - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    Thats because DVB-T is not a standard used in the US. They would have to design one with ATSC for OTA tuning, and ClearQAM and/or CableCARD for cable channels. This is a lot of redesign work, not just a mater of not bringing it to the US
  • SlyNine - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    How will this handle my media library, will I be able to make playlists, Will it remember my password to my media shares so my not so swavy roommates can watch movies.

    How it builds and links to the library is one of the most important aspects of a media streamer thats made to site in the living room and be usable by grandma, or a 5 yo.
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    reminds me of one of the aliens from an early take on Space Invaders (Galaxian?) which I remember from my dim and distant school days

    Like many I really wish cable companies would get off their high horse and provide plug in cards to allow us to use an HTPC in place of the cable set top box.

    Come on AMD fusion looks perfect for a low power HTPC
  • rickcain2320 - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    They're afraid that techies like us will steal their programming and upload it everywhere, which is why you will never see a plug in cable card tuned to their programming.
  • s44 - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    At $250, why wouldn't you buy a Playstation? Some of its streaming is hack-y, but because of the huge installed base new premium services will continue to target the platform. Plus it plays Blu-Ray and games...

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now