D-Link’s DSM-330 is a cheap, compact and no-nonsense media streaming box that handles DRM-free media collections without impediment, so long as you’re prepared to live with the compromises that come with its attractive $180 price tag.
Chief among its virtues are wireless networking (802.11g), 1080i and 720p compatibility, HDMI output (a cable is included free of charge), 5-channel audio and its ability to play MP3, WMA and ACS music files and to display JPEG images. The open plugin framework, which lets anyone pipe in web-based content, is a wonderful surprise, though it makes you wish they’d just included a proper browser to begin with.
The DSM-330 boots quickly, is easy to configure, and has a responsive user interface. Video playback was skip-free, even over WiFi, and its menu arrangment is easy to navigate, though song lists could be more informative. You can even skin it, with a growing variety of themes already available for download.
1080p video will work, unofficially, so long as the bitrate isn’t too high.
It’s the hookups to Facebook, Google Maps, Reuters News, HD movie trailers and other online content that set it aside, though as with any open ecosystem, many of the apps are shabby or downright inoperable. Of the skimpy selection of official services, it’s the selection of casual games, which includes an addictive multiple-hand version of video poker, which shines.
The 330′s not without flaws. With no storage of its own, it relies on Windows-only file serving software to host media and to transcode most non-DivX content. It’s unable to access standard uPnP or SMB network shares by itself, and a Mac version of the DivX Connected server is yet to be made available. There’s no YouTube access, either.
A third-party codec pack to get the server to transcode H.264, Flash, Quicktime and other formats is available here.
The biggest annoyance, however, was the DSM-330′s irritating remote. Output is often doubled, repeated indefinitely, or simply random garbage. This frustrates in menu navigation and enrages when entering alphanumerics, such as network passwords. It appears as if the base unit or the remote is overly susceptible to sunlight, fluorescent bulbs and the TV itself. DivX has some tips to work around this issue.
If your media collection is already on a Windows PC you never turn off, and you don’t mind that PC having to transcode most file formats on the fly, the DSM-330 won’t disappoint. For everyone else, there’s still the Netgear EVA8000 and its like, with their XBox-busting price tags.
Product Page [D-Link]