Asus has added a lot of online media features. There’s SHOUTcast radio, SHOUTcast TV, Flickr, Picasa, Weather, Stocks, RSS News and Podcasts. I listen to a lot of SHOUTcast radio, so it was nice to see it as an option on the O!Play HD2. Although, you can’t play any SHOUTcast radio stations in the background, and the screen that you’re forced to look at while the SHOUTcast station is playing has minimal information. There’s no way to know what song you’re currently listening to, the O!Play HD2 only displays what station you’re listening to, the bitrate, the station’s URL and where it is physically located at. I discover a lot of new music from internet radio, and I’m a bit confused as to why Asus hasn’t included what song is currently playing on the station you’re listening to.
The SHOUTcast TV offering on the O!Play HD2 is a nice idea but compelling content no longer exists on SHOUTcast TV. There used to be some entertaining streams, but they seem to have all gone by the wayside. However, if we think a little bit outside of the box, we’d realize that setting up a SHOUTcast server is free and not difficult to do. So, anyone could set up their own SHOUTcast TV stream and use it to send video throughout their house.
Flickr and Picasa on the O!Play HD2 are identical in features and presentation. The only difference between the two is which service they connect to. I was disappointed that I could not directly access my personal photostream on Flickr. When the app first loads, it displays the latest 50 pictures that were uploaded to Flickr. Then you can go to the next page to load the next 50 pictures, or you can search. Searching will display whatever pictures it finds related to your search term, but it’s not an efficient way to browse Flickr on the O!Play HD2. Also, the aspect ratio of nearly every picture is incorrect. Asus has elected to display each picture in a vertical rectangle format. However, when you elect to make the image full screen, the full size image will have the correct aspect ratio. At the end of the day, unless you enjoy browsing completely random pictures, the Flickr and Picasa apps don’t provide much of a benefit to the Online Media offering.
Weather is pretty straight forward. Locate your city from the menu and you’ll get the current weather along with a forecast, and map of your location. Once you’ve found your city, you can save it for easy access later on, and if you so desire, you can switch between Fahrenheit or Celsius.
I was excited to see a Stock feature on the O!Play HD2. It’s really easy to add and remove stocks from the list, and there’s even a chart of recent activity. I wish there was a way to expand the chart to make it larger or change the timeline of the chart. Maybe Asus will expand the Stock feature in a future firmware update.
RSS News is exactly what the title suggests. You’ll be able to add or remove RSS feeds, but all you’re getting is an RSS reader on your TV. So if you check out the BBC News feed, you’ll just get the picture and text for an article. This could be a nice feature If you want a way to quickly catch up with the news, but I don’t really want to read news on my TV. I could just flip to a news channel like CNN and probably get more information in a shorter amount of time.
Podcasts is a bit gimped too. There’s a few pre-added Podcasts that include Anderson Cooper, and ESPN, but there is no way to add your favorites. For some reason you can add an RSS feed in the RSS News category, but not an RSS feed in the Podcast category. Maybe a future firmware update will allow adding your own Podcasts.
The setup menu on the O!Play HD2 will give you all necessary options but nothing extra. You can set the time/date, disable the LED bar on the front of the unit, set the video resolution and how the audio will be sent over HDMI/SPDIF, configure your network settings, and finally an option to upgrade the firmware.