A new HD Media Player has arrived in North America this month. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the first and currently only DivX Connected Media Player device for a review. I present to you a review of the D-Link DSM-330 HD Media Player, the first DivX Connected Home device in North America. This media player is meant to connect your TV set to your media collection from your computer as well as media content online. It’s small form-factor and wireless 802.11 b/g support makes it a very promising device
When I first saw the lengthy name of this device, the “D-Link DSM-300 DivX Connected HD Media Player” my very first impression was that this device had a name only geeks like me could appreciate. It certainly could use a catchier nickname like D-Link DivX Ace or something better – not a big deal at all, but a simple reminder that this is intended for the non-AppleTV crowd even though it’s a somewhat similar device.
The DSM-330 works to serve the photos, music and video from your computer to your TV set by means of wired ethernet or even wirelessly. The concept isn’t new, but the DivX Connected application is new and worth a look.
MY REVIEW SETUP
- Olevia HD (480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i resolution) TV connected via HDMI
- Yamaha Receiver
- Network connected wirelessly via, Linksys WRT54G router
- Server PC (connected to network via Linksys WRT54G router 3Ghz Single Core Processor w/2GB Ram
DSM-330 SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
You’ll note by the system requirements below that the DSM-330 requires a computer to serve (and in some cases decoding and decompressing) it’s media content from. It does access some content from the web, but much of it’s content is expected to be from your media collection on your computer.
Currently the device requires Windows on the Server PC, but according to the DivX representative I spoke to, they are working on a Mac version of the DivX Connected software (no ETA.)
- 1.6 GHz processor
- Windows Vista® or Windows® XP
- 60 MB HDD space
- 512 MB system RAM
- OpenGL-enabled video card
- Wired or wireless network
- 2.6 GHz processor
- Windows Vista® or Windows® XP
- 60 MB HDD space
- 1 GB system RAM
- Hardware-accelerated OpenGL-enabled video card
- Wired or 802.11g network (Wired connection recommended)
- DSM-330 Unit with Wireless Antenna
- AV Composite Cable, SCART Cable, HDMI Cable, Cat5 Cable
- Power Cord & AC Adapter
- Remote Control w/ 2 AAA batteries
- CD with Quick Setup Guide
The D-Link Player is black around the sides and silver on the top and bottom. It’s very thin and small (10.25 x 6.38 x 1.38 inches) and weighs less than 1 1/2 lbs. The wireless antenna attaches to the back and looks similar to the antennae you might find on a wireless router.
On the front of the unit is a power button, a USB port (currently not active although they say there will be a firmware update to activate this sometime in the future).
The back of the unit has the following connections:
- Video Outputs: HDMI, SCART, Composite, S-Video and Component Video
- Audio Outputs: RCA S/PDIF and Optical
- Wireless Antenna: 2.4 GHz Swivel Type with 2.4 to 2.5 GHz
- LAN port
- Reset Button
- AC Plugin
The remote has the typical functions you would expect for a media player. One thing it cannot do is control your television set. This is unfortunate, but not a deal-breaker.
The responsiveness of the media player for each button press was good with an ethernet connection, but with WiFi G I experienced at least a 1-2 second lag occasionally between button presses. The range but was fairly good as I could control the extender with the remote from up to 20 feet across my Family Room. The remote does require you to point it right to the front of the media player and must have line-of-site to work.
Setting up the media player was fairly easy. Put the installation disc into the computer you’ll be using to serve the content & follow the installation wizard through the setup steps. Once complete, head over to the TV you’ll be connecting your media player to, connect the device to your TV and follow the on-screen guide that will walk you through the remaining setup step-by-step. Setup steps include:
- Select language (English, German and French are the choices)
- Check audio connections
- Select Screen Resolution
- Fit the menu/picture to your TV screen
- Network Setup: if wireless (802.11b or 802.11g – no N support) enter wifi network keys using the remote (supports WPA (TKIP/AES), WPA2 (TKIP/AES) and WEP (up to 128 bit). If wired select DHCP or static IP.
The interface was well designed and easy to navigate. My wife even commented on how nice the menu screens looked and functioned and said it would be nice to see something similar on our SageTV setup. When you turn on the DSM-330 your TV screen shows the “divX Connected” startup screen and after about 20 seconds the main menu appears on the TV screen.
The main menu displays Videos, Music, Photos, Plug-Ins and Services. As mentioned above, the DSM-330 interface is a positive for the device. When you move down the main menu to the photo, music & video menus, a small sample of “floating” thumbnails generated from the media in that folder show on your screen. Each time you move around the menu items, these thumbnails randomize showing you a different set of thumbnails each time.
Once you drill down to a all videos or all music, you can view by list of names or by thumbnail views. For a quick, one-minute run-through of the menus and how they look, check out this video:
Overview of D-Link DSM-330 DivX Connected Media Player from Brent Evans on Vimeo.
Image Quality was very good for the DivX files. I watched several movies transcoded into 720p HD DivX all with excellent picture quality
Video playback of DivX files played perfectly with no pauses or other problems using a wired ethernet connection. When using wireless however I ran into the occasional issues when streaming HD content – not surprising as wireless HD is very, very difficult anyway but a little disappointing nonetheless. Fast forward and rewind worked great even with 720p HD Divx files. My main issue with this device is the fact that you can only play back DivX files by default. To get support of other types of video files you have to do some hacking and then the server computer does the transcoding/decoding which can put a drain on that computers processor for the more HD intensive file formats. This workaround (hack) is available to enable other video file playback won’t intimidate most technically inclined folks, but it might scare off the “plug it in and it works” crowd. Here’s a how-to on enabling additional file formats on the DSM-330.
Music playback worked well, but the lack of AC3 or DTS audio support is a bummer.
Photo browsing works fine. Organization of the photo collections is based on folders the photos are stored in.
Available online content included Revision3, Pulp Secret, Indy Mogul, Frederator, and Ambient Backgrounds (fireplace or fishtank). One glaring omission is Stage6 which has it’s own button on the remote, but because of DivX’s inability to support the HD streaming site financially was closed down on February 26, 2008. It’s unfortunate as Stage6 had lots of promise and would have added many additional content options to this device.
Streaming video content from the web (with a good internet connection), I experienced some streaming delays when viewing a movie trailer, but that could be a result of an issue with the site hosting the movie trailers or even my connection. Regardless this is something to be aware of as a risk of counting on online media content for your video source.
The Plug-ins section allows you to view online content like Last.fm Radio audio, Digg.com headlines, Google Maps, and Flickr Tag Browser.
You can find many excellent plugins at the DivX Connected Community
I was impressed with the DSM-330’s interface and ease of use and the playback quality for those formats supported out of the box. I think there is a market for this type of device – similar to Apple’s AppleTV. There is compelling online content available now that will appeal to many with this device. Unfortunately that online content is relatively scarce.
A bigger issue is the default restriction of only DivX video and mp3 and wma for audio makes this device limited to those who either already have their collection in the DivX video format or want to take the time to hack the unit to accept the other formats. In talking with a DivX representative I learned that they are planning to add more format support for this device beyond the present hack solution mentioned above. In fact, the next version of the server software is going to add Flash video support, which should help quite a bit with online content in particular. This should help the device become more useful in the future.
- Excellent User Interface
- For the formats it handles, video and audio quality are good
- Small and silent device that would fit into entertainment center with ease
- Open Source SDK – this is a huge positive that could open up possibilities for the device in the future.
- No TV Tuning or DVR functionality
- Limited Video and Audio formats with a hack and decoding by the server PC
- Requires PC to be on when using the video streamer
- No AC3 or DTS audio support
I recommend this device with qualifications. If you have a large DivX collection or are just starting out and like the concept of all video on DivX then this is definitely a very desirable device for you. If you don’t fit into that category, I still encourage you to consider the device for it’s nice interface and strong potential for online video and other online content. It won’t be for everyone, but its a step in the right direction.
As I mentioned above, they plan to add more media formats to the official support list for the device soon. They also expect to see plug-ins for some popular sites, including Hulu (this would be huge!) and Vuze, as soon as that update becomes available (scheduled for early August).
How to Purchase
The D-Link DSM-330 HD Media Player is available in North America now (released July 2008) and has been available in Europe for a while now. You can purchase it for $199 after rebate at Amazon.com or $199 after rebate at NewEgg.com right now
Find out More
For more information check out the plugins, themes and support available at the DivX Connected Community.
Stay tuned to Geektonic.com for an opportunity for a free DSM-330 DivX Connected Player!