Home theater PCs (HTPCs) seem to be taking a backseat nowadays with the onslaught of advanced media players and Internet-connected Smart TVs. While enthusiasts who need to dabble with a variety of content and delegate a system to act as a media server still prefer to go the HTPC route, for average customers with less than extreme needs, a simple do-it-all media player is often more than sufficient. After all, they cost so little, are hardly obtrusive, and yet extend a home entertainment system's capabilities by quite a bit. And unlike the early days, most recent media players (even the cheap ones) support a wide variety of codecs and file formats, and come with firmware that's flash upgradeable, so new features can be added on (and bugs fixed) at a later time. And you don't need to be a rocket scientist to use one; we're seeing more and more media players that focus on simplifying the setup process and providing a user-friendly UI.
Lately, we have also noticed a trend whereby the size of media players has been shrinking. This is possible through the removal of support for an internal hard drive. So to get to your media files, you've to rely on either the USB port (for connecting to external storage or flash drives) or the player's inbuilt network sharing functions to access your media files over the network. There's also an increasing emphasis on providing support for online entertainment, such as streaming from YouTube.
ASUS joined the media player scene a few years ago with its O!Play line of media players and has recently released a new addition to the O!Play family: the O!Play Mini Plus. Besides multimedia playback, this HD media player integrates a whole host of online entertainment. There are some hardware improvements too, so let's take a closer look.