This is my review of the Mini after 1 week.
I’ll divide this into 2 sections
2. User interface + Usability
Section 1: Playback.
The mini does not have an internal drive and I think if you’re purchasing this device to connect to a local USB drive, you might as well just get a player that supports local storage. My interests in the Mini was purely as a streamer with passive cooling. So my main interests are the ability to stream files from a network.
All of the following over a 10/100 network:
Low res files play back perfectly, as do DVD rips (700mb’s).
HD mkv rips played back perfectly for me, absolutely no issues yet. These are 1080p and 720p rips. No stuttering, and I dare say the color looks better than from my Sony Vaio.
Blue Ray ripped to a folder (37GB). It does actually play over a network, to my amazement. However its not without quirks. My experience is, start the movie and watch it from start to finish. Don’t pause it for long periods at a time. You can fast forward and rewind, but expect to wait for the sound to resync. This is hit and miss, sometimes it will resync quicker than at other times, and sometimes it simply will not resync.
Anyways its important to note, that I really do not see myself playing full blown blue ray rips too often. For all the hassle, I much prefer 720p mkvs.
So playback out of 10 – I give a 9/10. A 10/10 if you don’t intend to play blue ray rips uncompressed. If you are going for blue ray rips over a network uncompressed 40GB files, then good luck finding any player that can handle with this a 10/100 efficiently.
User Interface: The device runs on a linux dist, but you have virtually no control over what the interface looks like. A.C.Ryan have promised a better way to manage your media and work with a Jukebox (YAMJ) but the support for this stuff is primitive, and annoying to the point where I just use the regular network browser. Its not ideal, but it gets the job done.
Still the thing to remember here is A LOT of cheaper players can do the same thing. If you’re in the market for a device that is designed from the ground up to allow you to manage and play networked files, then the Mini is not the device for you. The UI is an after thought. Lazy and tacky, and the worst part is A.C. Ryan are not in the position to fix it, because its mainly governed by realtek SDK. Currently v3. However this does not give A.C. Ryan the flexibility to do the stuff they really want with the interface.
So this sums up pretty quick.
Great at playing files, but interface cannot be customed, and any promise of jukebox is completely annoying to use.
Might improve with later firmware – big might, because as I’ve said this is a limitation in the SDK A.C.Ryan are using. I would give more details, but I only have access to the limited information I found on this site, provided by A.C.Ryan.
GUI 2 has been released, and I downloaded and tested it. I am now say with confidence that the usability issues are NOT solved by A.C Ryan. The firmware looks pretty, but it is cumbersome to use. A.C Ryan have confirmed that they will not be fixing the usability issues (via admin posts on their forum), in the meantime many users complain and the only people, and lots of people are very unhappy about the GUI. If you’re after something easy to use, then don’t get this player. What I really do not like is having to click 7-10 times to get to the point where I can watch a movie on the network. YAMJ for this player is a joke, it’s a very watered down version and hardly usable.