Exploring the Interface
Since the HD2 isn’t ASUS' first foray into the market, we were looking for something different but it seems that the company has stuck to the same tried-and-tested user interface (UI). There are icons for the media and they rotate in a wheel as you go through them. The UI layout is straightforward and the interface was quite responsive.
We did feel that the HD2 was like the many media players we had tested, in that all the UIs were designed such that each media type had its own screen, so we had to always jump back to the home screen to view other media. But a closer inspection of the remote revealed that there are shortcut buttons at the bottom which lets you access the respective media without having to go back to the home screen.
The first level of the UI was self-explanatory, but once we entered the following page upon selecting a media type, video for example, we were confused with the various options on the screen. The player does not identify devices attached to it, rather it displays drive letters. So if you have a bunch of external hard disks and memory cards connected to the player, it might get confusing.
For those who are not so tech-savvy and intimidated by drive letters, this may prove to be a stumbling block. The HD2 will play a preview of the video selected at the top right hand corner of the screen, though you might need to wait a second for it to load. The 'Show DVDs' option turns out to be an option that filters out ISO files, and to our surprise, it even filtered out our BD-ISO file.
One thing we noticed was that the player does give you the option to sort your video files alphabetically or search for a particular file, if you remember the title that is. In the event that you have many files to scroll through, going through them individually will take a while unless you are the type who has organized them through folders. We noticed that pausing on a video file will bring up a small preview screen on the top-right of the screen which is useful in case your files have funny names because you got them from a dodgy source.
The HD2 has an LED bar at the front. When it is in standby, the bar is a dim red, and once powered on, changes to a bright blue. We don’t know what it is with black media players and blue LED lights, but thankfully you can turn it off in the settings menu if the blue LED annoys you when you’re watching a movie in the dark.
While some basic media players like the Patriot Box Office did not offer any Internet services, the HD2 does fare better, with five options: Internet radio, Weather, Stock, Picasa and Flickr. When compared to media players like the WD Live Hub, which offers Facebook and YouTube, two of the most popular social media sites around, the modest selection on the ASUS may feel a bit inadequate.
We tested the weather app and it did provide detailed information once you have selected your part of the world. Flickr seemed to be a miss rather than a hit as the player does not allow you to log in to your account. We entered the Flickr app and ended up looking at a bunch of random pictures. We tried fiddling with the options button on the remote to see if we could log into our Flickr account but it always returned us to the main screen whenever we tried.
If you hook up a hard disk to the HD2, it can also act as a NAS, though this feature will appeal to the more tech-savvy and not those who just wish to view their media on their TV.