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Old November 9, 2009, 09:10 AM
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Default Patriot Box Office vs. Asus O!Play: Head 2 Head

EDIT: Alright, so I got an Asus O!Play as well to compare, so heres a head to head review!

Up until now I've been looking for a one-box-fits-all solution for my Home Theatre PC Experience. I've been running a somewhat hefty machine with Windows Vista and XBMC, but the lack of hardware acceleration has been getting on my nerves. As anyone with a media center can attest, nothing ruins an HD movie like choppiness. Enter the Patriot Box Office Media Player and the Asus O!Play!

For the record, these units both use the same chipset to power themselves. The inferface is also based on the same code, so there are many similarities in features and looks. Both boxes play an imense amount of media, and both have a LAN connection, unlike the popular WD TV Live units. The difference between these two boxes is mostly that the Patriot box office has a 2.5" HDD Enclosure inside, where-as the Asus does not. This advantage means you can use your box office as a media server, a torrent server, an external drive (it comes with a USB to Mini USB cable), and a network drive.

Asus O!Play Data Sheet
Patriot Box Office Data Sheet


The first issue I ran into was actually getting the media players. The Asus O!Play seems to be everywhere in great numbers, however the Patritot Box Office quickly sold out everywhere. I was forced to get the Asus O!play and give it a few days to wow me. Luckily, the next day I was able to snag a Patriot Box Office.

The Box Office still seems to be in and out of stock. General availability seems to be low, even in the states at the big box stores like Fry's.

Winner: Asus O!Play


Asus' standard fare was surprisingly absent in this product's box. Often when you get an Asus device, at least in my experience, you get everything you need (and a little more) from the box. However, this unit only included RCA/Composite cables, with an HDMI cable nowhere to be seen. One would think that an HD box would include HD capability, but I suppose that might be too much to ask. Other than that, it was a stanrdard contents: Composite cables, power cables, manual CD and quick setup guide, remote, batteries, and the box itself. The unit is very simply, with only composite connectors, HDMI, LAN, power and optical out.

The Patriot was a different story, however. The first notable difference was the inclusion of the HDMI cable. While I didn't need one myself, I find this to be important for any new customer. Patriot decided to give us the choice of both HD and SD right out of the box, and didn't hold us in the corner.

Winner: Patriot Box Office


The time from when I got home with the Asus O!Play to when it was playing it's first HD content was about 3 minutes. Asus has built their box on simplicity and ease of use, and to that end, I was able to set it up without any hassle. Simply plug the HDMI, LAN, and power cable in and you're off to the races. The setup menu you're greeted with on the screen could be adjusted, but al in all it wasn't terrible. You're asked to choose your language, resolution, DHCP or Static address, and set the time. Whats curious, though, is that this unit doesn't get an IP address automatically. For that matter, why do I have to set the time? Why can't it get it's date from NTP? Strange for such a cutting-edge unit to have such strange behaviour, but it didn't hinder the experience.

The Patriot Box Office was no exception to this. I was able to set it up within the same timeframe, but this is where you start to see the differences. The Patriot Box automagically gets a DHCP Address if it's plugged into the network, which means I didn't have to set it to DHCP manually and wait for anything. Now if only they could get NTP in there, I'd be a happy camper. A feature eeks the Patriot ahead, however, is the ability for wireless N connectivity (optional USB dongle). This makes the Patriot more generally appealing, and much easier to setup in more circumstances.

Winner: Patriot Box Office

First Impressions

The initial menu experience is not overly complex or pretty. The Asus' home menu has a pretty blue background with a 3-4 FPS animation when you move from one choice to another. The choices presented to you are Music, Pictures, Movies, and Setup. Coming from an XBMC environment to this is somewhat difficult, given the default choices, however, despite appearances, it was all I needed. Selecting the Movie icon, you're presented with a choice of the USB connected devices, or the network. This is where the simple cheap remote included in the box starts to get on your nerves. If you're like me and want to use the samba shares on your network server, then I recommend some mood music and perhaps burning a little lavender oil to relax you, as this experience is somewhat annoying. From the initial network menu, you have to browse your workgroup, find your computer, select the share you want, type in your username and password using the arrow keys and a large onscreen keyboard, select "Ok & Save" so that you don't have to do this again, and finally you're halfway there. The whole experience took me about 5 minutes since the remote isn't very good, and even after I saved my details, I still had to go to the Network screen again, select my favorites, select my saved details, select my share name, and select my show before I could watch anything.

The experience wasn't much sweeter on the Patriot, but at least the remote was a better quality, and the on screen keyboard was laid out properly. Plus, the numpad on the controller makes it great for typing in numbered passwords. If you have control over users on your NAS, this could work as a great shortcut.

Winner: Patriot Box Office


I spent about a week watching a range of my favorite shows and HD movies. My testing consisted of HD Blu-Ray rips I made (Bolt, Monsters Vs. Aliens, Terminator Salvation) and SD/HD TV shows (Stargate SG-1, Top Gear) on my 2 TVs (26" Insignia 1080i, 42" Insignia 1080P TV). My 26" TV used the default speakers, but my 42" is connected to my 5.1 Dolby DTS receiver.

Playing the HD pictures was very smooth, no skipping or lag like my XBMC rig would do sometimes. The image quality was as good as the source with no degradation or issues. Fast forward and rewinding features are a little sketchy playing on the network. While this is to be expected with a 10/100 LAN port over the network, it's a bit annoying when searching for a particular part in the movie, especially when there is no Skip Ahead/Back functionality in either box. SD content looked surprisingly good, a little better than my media center, in fact. Playback, rewind and fastforward worked great with no hickups.

Sound on both units was equal. It was hard to tell on my 26", but on my 5.1 Surround System, I was able to get Dolby Digital DTS 5.1 sound from the sources that had it. I've seen some issues where it might not always pass 5.1 through, but I didn't experience this issue. The audio was miles ahead of the ATI HDMI audio system I was using.

Winner: Tie

Spit & Polish

This is one category where Asus and Patriot differ greatly. Asus' targeted audience is clearly anyone looking for a 'simple and clean' solution for their media center setup. The box is made of cheap flexible plastic with a 'blend in' aesthetic look. While the video connectors are on the back, the USB and eSATA ports are located on the side of the unit. This might be a functional design decision, but it means you have visible cables sticking out the side, which might not appeal to everyone.

Patriot's Box Office player was clearly designed with aesthetics and durability in mind. The outer case is made aluminium with a black rounded-edge finish. The unit is definitely a little bigger, but this is a consequence of the internal 2.5" enclosure. All of the connectors are on the rear of the unit, save 1 USB connector to connect media devices. The black colour with white text on the front allows it to blend in with most media receivers, DVD players, and other media equipment quite nicely, and more informative lights on the front might serve to distract users, but also gives them much more information from afar than the O!Play. Finally, the forethought of the wireless N adapter means 1 less ugly cable to run.

Winner: Patriot Box Office


While my initial expectations for these units might have been high, especially seeing their full list of features and playable formats, I cant say I'm that disappointed in the final product. Both the Asus and Patriot units did as described, and both have compelling features that make either a good choice. While the winner in most categories was the Box Office, I'd still gladly recommend the O!Play. Depending on the features you're looking for, both can suit your needs.

One issue I did want to mention is that I had to eventually return my Box Office unit. It has an internal fan to cool both the hard drive and equipment inside since the hard drive will take the internal temperature up. This fan that was surprisingly loud to begin with began to clearly die on me. For longevity's sake, it might be safe to get the quite, fanless Asus O!Play, but I can't hold a bad unit against Patriot. It is a very solid and well built unit, and the internal torrent server and hard drive enclosure make it a more complete setup.

Since applications vary from person to person, its really your choice. Do you want the O!Play, that does everything you need it to? Or, for an extra 10 dollars, would you go for the box with the HDMI cable, torrent capability, and more. Either way, you shouldn't be disappointed!
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Last edited by Cheator; December 7, 2009 at 09:42 AM.
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