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D-Link DSM-320 Media Player


July 6, 2005 09:36 PM PST

I've been using the D-Link DSM-320 Network Media Player for a few months now and am quite happy with it. It's basically a box the size of a dvd player that exclusively plays content from a PC, including images, music and video (yes, Jimmy; including divx).

D-Link DSM-320
This player retails for under $150, and is basically an embedded Linux device with an ethernet port, a Wi-Fi card, IR sensor and TV out (composite, s-video, component) and optical/coax surround sound audio out. It does not contain a hard drive or DVD/CD player - all media access is via the network.

I already had a DVD player that will play MP3/JPG discs. Also, my TiVo will play music and image slideshows from the network (at one point they charged extra for this, but some time ago they started giving it away for free). So basically, I was looking for a way to watch video media on the TV without that hassle of a full PC in the living room (I have gone through that twice, and it's the subject of another post).

My testing has been primarily Divx (v3,4,5) and Xvid files from random sources. I have had problems with only one file that was questionably encoded, the rest have played fine. Those of you who are familiar know that a 450mhz processor isn't really powerful enough to play MPEG-4 video at 640 pixel widths. This device does fine - I believe they're using a hardware decoder chip.

The interesting thing for me is how this changes the TV experience. Similar to TiVo - I have a set of things that are "on tv" that aren't actually live. It's pretty cool to grab video files oneline like the Red vs. Blue series, and sit down and watch them at the TV. It doesn't sound like much, but you start to realize how powerful a publishing platform the Internet can be for what we used to think of as network controlled TV.

There are sites that you can actually subscribe to an RSS feed for individual shows, and people digitize them in HDTV, and encode to Divx/Xvid. Some RSS readers can automatically download these episodes when the notification comes in via Bittorrent P2P protocols. Unfortunately many of these "TV Torrent" sites have been shut down, but I think the door has been opened to a legal version of this type of service. It's like TiVo, except you can record shows that were on over any period of time, not only those that are shown live. I'd love to see the networks implement this type of system, perhaps supported by a DRM that allows download but not cutting commercials or something.

Another option is to have your loud computer with a tuner record the shows to disk, and use the D-Link as a front-end. This would give you TiVo like functionality without the loud PC in the living room. The D-Link is quieter than TiVo.

If you have Divx content you'd like to watch on TV, I'd recommend the D-Link media player. It supports a ton of formats and really opens your eyes to the power of Internet/TV integration. The only competition I see for this player is from the Xbox360, if it is able to play open (non-DRM) media formats.
Comments (4)

John, July 7, 2005 01:35 AM:

How much do these run (too lazy to look it up). It looks like a nice solution for extending your content to another room. I'm kinda hopeing that the Xbox 360 does a good job of this though, and so far it looks promising.

J, July 7, 2005 11:15 AM:

$150 is about the cheapest I've seen. Yes, hopefully xbox will do this properly, but I just have a feeling it won't be as open with media formats. This D-Link player securely auto-updates itself via the internet when new firmware is available. It also supports streaming online media, and has a partnership with an online provider of children's content. That's actually a really interesting idea... Video on demand for kids makes a lot of sense, especially with quality shows.

Alva, September 2, 2006 08:03 PM:

Not a bad product although the converter is somewhat sloooooow. I had to spend another $130 on a range extender as the audio was freezing. Works great now and will pay for itself in blank DVD's and CD's

J, August 28, 2007 06:53 PM:

D-Link released "media server 1.09" recently that did not play Divx and Xvid files. Online research showed that D-Link had removed the ability to play divx files from the DSM-510 player, but it seems that this software update also disabled playback on the DSM-320 and DSM-520 as well. I re-installed and old copy of 1.08 and was able to play these files again. Now 1.09 has been removed from the D-Link site, and the latest version they show is 1.08. The lesson is to be careful in accepting updates to either the product firmware or the player, and to check online whether others have had problems with them first. The Official D-Link download area has several versions of the software available.

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