Media streaming boxes are flooding the market at a rate of knots, and it's rather tough to keep up. Astone's Media Gear AP-110D has been on the market for a while now, but in the heavily saturated field of players, it's not a player that stands out, at least visually. The player itself is a small metal box with dual USB ports at the back, along with Ethernet, HDMI, YBbPr and component video outputs on the back. The design is astonishingly unexceptional save for the fact that the vents for the unit have oddly been placed on the base of the 110D. More on that odd design choice later.
In line with its bare-bones aesthetic, the 110D hits the basics of media streaming and not a whole lot else. Ethernet is the default connection method, although it's possible to purchase an 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter or run media from connected USB drives. One neat feature of the 110D is that it'll support USB-connected DVD drives for playback. There's a catch here, though, as Astone's product page for the 110D notes that it doesn't support playback of CSS-protected DVD Video, meaning you're mostly going to be stuck with playing back your own holiday movies, rather than many commercial discs.
Other than that, the 110D's codec coverage is pretty wide, encompassing MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 SP/ASP, Real Video, AVC, WMV/VC-1, QuickTime, Flash and Motion JPEG, with support for Dolby Digital, DTS, MPEG-1, MPEG-II, Real, MPEG-4, LPCM, MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, FLAC and OGG audio. There's also limited on-board support for iPod playback, but only from hard drive models such as the iPod Classic. iPhone and iPod Touch users can plug in their units with the cable, but all you'll be able to do with the 110D is recharge.
One feature we've seen in many media streamers is online media compatibility, and here the 110D is noticeably lacking, with no in-built YouTube or similar streaming capability.
The last time we reviewed an Astone media player, we came away almost entirely dissatisfied. Suffice to say, when the AP-110D landed on our test bench, we weren't all that hopeful. The 110D didn't entirely wow us with any new way of looking at media streaming, but at the same time, it's a capable enough little unit.
The AP-110D's menu system, and indeed most of the unit itself can be summed up in one word: basic. Menu layouts look rough, there's nothing in the way of animation or even character graphics around each selection, and there's an almost retro, DOS-like style to the whole affair. If you want sleek presentation, buy an Apple TV or WD Live TV. Where the AP-110D does work is that it'll play back almost anything you throw at it. Fancy menus don't mean a whole lot when you're actually watching content.
The remote control for the AP-110D is cheap and fairly woeful. It's one area where corners have clearly been cut, and layout should have been more logical. Again, it works, but it's nothing fancy.
We mentioned the bottom-mounted ports on the 110D earlier for a reason. If you're familiar with basic thermodynamics, you'll be aware that heat rises. Bottom-mounted vents are therefore not going to be the most efficient way to vent excess temperature. After only a short while, we found the 110D tended to heat up alarmingly. It never managed to crash itself, even during a Sydney heatwave, but objects around it did pick up a lot of ambient heat.
The AP-110D is a basic media streamer, priced accordingly. We've seen it a little cheaper than its asking AU$99 RRP, and we'd certainly advise trying to get a bargain price on it, given that the significantly slicker WD TV Live can be had for a similar kind of price currently.