Review: Dune BD Prime 3.0 BluRay Media Player

by Damian on July 27, 2010 · 128 comments

in Reviews

Quite often I am asked what media player I recommend. Often, the question usually turns in to “Would you recommend the PCH C-200 or the Dune Base/Prime?”. Up until now I have been unable to answer this question as I have never used a Dune Base/Prime. Well, thanks to Mike @ Duneplayer.com for providing me with a review unit, I have been able to spend some time with the Dune Prime. I have been following the Dune on AVSForum for some time now, and there seems to be almost a universal praise of the Dune (which when it comes to similar media players is rare), so the question I was hoping to answer when I received the Dune Prime is does it live up to the hype? Now that I have spent nearly 3 weeks with the Dune BD Prime, lets take a closer look at what it brings to the table.

Specs:

There are two models currently, the Dune HD Base 3.0 and the Dune BD Prime 3.0. The Base retails for USD 349.99 and the Prime retails for USD 449.99. The only difference between the Base and the Prime is that the Prime comes with an internal BluRay drive, whereas the Base just comes with an option to add an internal 3.5″ hard disk drive. Both players come with three USB 2.0 ports (one front, two back), eSATA port, Ethernet 100/1000(*) Mbit/s, HDMI 1.3, S/PDIF (optical and coaxial), 7.1 analog audio, 2.0 analog audio, component video, composite video.

Main features:

  • SATA HDD compartment for fast and easy HDD exchange (Dune Base)
  • Playback of retail Blu-ray and DVD discs (Dune Prime)
  • Playback of full Blu-ray structures from HDD and network (with Blu-ray menu, BD-J, BonusView, BD-Live)
  • Playback of video, music, photos from any media source (HDD, PC, NAS, etc)
  • Optical disc formats (when using an external optical drive): data discs (CD/DVD/BD) (MP3, JPEG, etc), Audio CD (PCM/DTS), DVD-Video (retail and user-authored discs), Blu-ray (user-authored discs)
  • Support for modern video file formats (MKV, H.264, VC1, etc) with very high bitrate (up to 50+ Mbit/s)
  • Dimensions: 420 mm (width) x 262 mm (depth) x 50 mm (height)

Specification:

  • Processor: Sigma Designs 8643
  • Memory: RAM 512 MB, system Flash: 128 MB, expandable with a HDD partition or USB flash drive (2GB recommended)
  • Media sources: built-in Blu-ray drive (Prime), internal HDD (SATA 3.5″) (Base), internal HDD (SATA 2.5″) (Prime), external HDD (eSATA, USB), external optical drive (eSATA, USB), USB devices (USB fl ash drive, USB card reader, etc), PC and NAS in local network (SMB, NFS, UPnP, HTTP)
  • Video codecs: MPEG2, MPEG4, DivX, XVID, WMV9, VC1, H.264
  • Video file formats: MKV, MPEG-TS, MPEG-PS, M2TS, VOB, AVI, MOV, MP4, QT, ASF, WMV, Blu-Ray-ISO, BDMV, DVD-ISO, VIDEO_TS
  • Video output modes: wide range of supported modes and resolutions, including 23.976p, 24p, PAL, NTSC
  • Audio codecs: AC3 (Dolby Digital), DTS, MPEG, AAC, LPCM, WMA, WMAPro, EAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), Dolby True HD, DTS HD High Resolution
  • Audio, DTS HD Master Audio, FLAC, multichannel FLAC
  • Audio file formats: MP3, MPA, M4A, WMA, FLAC, WAV, DTS-WAV, DTS, AC3, AAC
  • Pass-through and decoding of HD audio formats, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio
  • Picture file formats: JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF
  • Subtitle formats: SRT, SUB, text/SSA/ASS (MKV), VobSub (MP4), PGS (full Blu-ray mode)
  • Playlist fi le formats: M3U, PLS
  • Filesystems: FAT16/FAT32 (read-write), EXT2/EXT3 (read-write), NTFS (readonly)

Other features:

  • Upscaling: high-quality upscaling and deinterlacing of DVD and other SD content to HD resolution (up to 1080p)
  • Access to network: browser of network shares (SMB, UPnP), user-defined shortcuts to network shares (SMB, NFS), links to HTTP media streams
  • NAS function: SMB and FTP access from network to the player’s attached storage devices
  • IPTV: direct playback and recording of multicast IPTV streams (raw-UDP and RTP-over-UDP, SD and HD)
  • Internet radio: HTTP/MP3
  • Powerful file manager (copy, move, delete, rename, etc), built-in FTP and SMB file server (NAS function)
  • Photo viewer: slide-show function, picture transition eff ects, picture rotation
  • Playlists: music/photos/video, user-defined and automatically generated playlists, repeat and shuffle
  • FullHD-quality, fast, convenient, customizable interface (with covert-art and icon browsing support)

Hardware:

The Dune BD Prime 3.0 came with the Dune BD Prime 3.0 (obviously), HDMI cable, IR Remote w/ 2 batteries, and component cables. You can see from the front of the player the Dune BD Prime looks like a Blu Ray player. The BluRay Rom drive is located in the center of the player. To the left of the ROM drive is a small lcd screen and the power button. To the right of the ROM drive are a few player related buttons (such as play, pause, etc…)

From the rear you can see an assortment of inputs/outputs including HDMI 1.3, Ethernet, 7.1 analog audio, and eSATA to name a few

One thing I think is necessary is to have a USB port at the front of the player. Some people complain that this takes away from the aesthetics of the player so Dune has done a nice job of tucking to the side the USB port. (Speaking of aesthetics I would get rid of “Blu-Ray Disc And Network Media Player” logo on the front of the player as I find it looks a little amateurish and takes away from the upscale look of the player).

Along the sides of the case and on the top cover are grills to allow for airflow. As we all know heat rises, so having a place for the air to escape is important.

Here you can get a sense of the dimensions of the Dune BD Prime versus the Popcorn Hour C-200. You can see that the Dune BD Prime is about half the height of the PCH C-200 and has more of a finished look.

Opening up the case you can see a very clean layout. The player is fanless which is very important to ensure a noise free environment.

Overall the Dune BD Prime is a solidly built machine. It is an expensive player, but you definitely feel like you are getting your moneys worth and not some hardware thrown into a cheap plastic case. At no point did I notice any sort of heating issues

UI Appearance:

When you first turn on the Dune you are greeted with the Home page. It is a fairly simple page. I actually like this home page over the C-200 home page simply because there is actually a text description next to each icon. With the PCH C-200 you just get icons so it is not entirely clear what each icon represents (especially since my wife uses the players in my house just as much as I do). You can add shortcuts to other Apps (such as a movie jukebox) which is a nice feature

The setup page is is clearly laid out, and really an area that should not need to be frequently visited.

Navigating through files is nothing special, with a simple Windows Explorer type experience.

Adding shortcuts to the Home screen is very easy. By hitting the popup menu button on the remote should bring up a popup menu. Simply select “New Network Folder” and enter in the network path details (either smb or nfs).


Once done you can see what my Home screen looks like with various shortcuts

Overall I like the clean layout of the UI. However, and I have said this about almost every player I have reviewed, I challenge Dune to step it up a notch and do something to really differentiate the Dune Players UI from the rest of the pack. Having a simple Windows Explorer type navigation is unacceptable, and although very useful, users should not have to rely on 3rd party apps to bring a more gratifying experience.

Also, adding some of the shortcuts such as Zappiti and My Movies shown above require having system storage available. I plugged in a USB thumb drive to the Dune and was able to use as system storage without issue.

Responsiveness:

The remote for the Dune Prime is an IR remote, which means line of sight is required. For the most part I found the remote to perform well. As long as I had line of sight all the remote commands got picked up and I wasn’t constantly pressing the same button 3 times to get a response. Navigating around the Dune Prime was quick, which is what I expected based on my experience with the PCH C-200 using the similar Sigma chip.

Network Performance:

The Dune BD Prime is listed as Gigabyte but it is not recommended to use this. This  is the same issue that plagues the PCH C-200, however unless you are transferring files to/from the Dune over the network 10/100 is plenty fine for streaming media. I only had a chance to test out smb performance (you can see how I set up here), and not once did I have issues playing back all my high bitrate content. Poor network performance can definitely dampen a users experience, but with the Dune I don’t expect this to be an issue.

Audio/Video Playback:

As expected this is probably the area that most people care about. If a player cannot play back your content, then any other bells and whistles become moot. I have a variety of files I like to use when testing media players, and I am happy to report that the Dune BD Prime passed with near flying colors. (I tested with both the stable 1555 firmware and the beta 1032 firmware, all results below assumed to apply to both firmwares unless stated otherwise (it shoudl also be noted that the beta 1032 firmware is available to the public). Here is a description of what I tested and the results:

  • mkv w/ chapters – chapters are not supported currently (FAIL)
  • mkv w/ 480p internal IDX/SUB subtitles  (PASS for beta 1032 firmware, FAIL for stable 1555 firmware)
  • mkv w/ 1080p internal IDX/SUB subtitles (FAIL)
  • mkv w/ internal PGS subtitles (PASS for beta 1032 firmware, FAIL for stable 1555 firmware)
  • mkv with DTS(MA) and/or TrueHD Audio Track – bitstreamed without issue (PASS)
  • (m2)ts with DTS(MA) and/or TrueHD Audio Track – bitstreamed without issue (PASS)
  • mkv w/ VC-1 encoded video – played without issue (PASS)
  • BluRay ISO (main movie only) – played with forced subs, chapter support, and bitstreamed HD Audio (PASS)
  • BluRay Folder (entire disc) – played with full menus (PASS)
  • DVD ISO and/or Folder Structure – played with full menus (PASS)
  • 1080p quicktime (.mov) trailer – played without issue (PASS)
  • avi/mpeg clips – played without issue (PASS)

The one item that I really hope Dune addresses ASAP is mkv chapter support, as this is a pretty basic feature that I see supported on many players currently in the market. Adding support for 1080p IDX/SUB subtitles would be nice but in the long run probably not important now that PGS subtitle support has been added. Otherwise the Dune played like a champ, with the only hiccup I encountered was due to one of the drives on my WHS crashing (yikes!).

Blu Ray ROM Playback:

I was real curious to see how the Dune BD Prime performed as a BluRay player since using the PCH C-200 as a BluRay player had been hit or miss for me. I tested 3 different BluRays (Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, Gran Torino, and Avatar). Harry Potter and Gran Torino played without issue. However, I did encounter issues with Avatar which I expected as the protection on this disc seems  to launch little blue people into your player. When the disc first loads I had to hit the Popup Menu button repeatedly to get to the main movie menu, otherwise the disc would just hang. I had experienced the same problem with Avatar on my C-200 (which is how I knew to hit the menu button). As far as noise the ROM drive was relatively quiet, and I found it very quick  to load the disc. With the PCH C-200 you had to install your own BluRay ROM drive, but it turns out that some drives were compatible and some weren’t. Also, since I used a BluRay ROM drive I had installed previously in my PC, the drive was extremely loud in the PCH C-200 and would be quite annoying if I actually watched discs frequently.  Having the BluRay ROM drive already included in the Dune BD Prime I found to be a big step up and made me feel like I had a real BluRay player and not a hacked together device.

Online Content:

There is a web browser (which I honestly did not find very useful) and Internet Radio, but not much else. I personally find online content overrated but I understand this is important to other people, so I would hope down the road Dune will spend more time trying to develop this area. For the U.S market Netflix seems to be the most desired feature, and with more devices coming out that are online content friendly (Popbox, Boxee Box, etc…) this is definitely an area Dune should not ignore for too long. I have PlayOn but did not get a chance to test out on the Dune, mainly due to the previously mentioned hard drive crash on my WHS when I was planning on testing out PlayOn.

3rd Party Jukeboxes:

There are several 3rd party jukeboxes available that can help enhance the user experience. I decided to take a look at MyMovies and Zappiti, and at some point also look at yaDIS and Dune Explorer 2. Right now Zappiti is my Jukebox of choice as it supports TV shows and I feel the movie detail screen has a more polished look. I hope to have a Zappiti writeup posted in the coming days. For now see below for some screenshots of both Zappiti and MyMovies.

Zappiti Screenshots:


MyMovies Screenshots:


Final Thoughts:

So lets go back to the question I started this review off with, does the Dune Prime live up to the hype? Well, the short answer is yes, most definitely. From a hardware standpoint it is very well constructed, fanless, and quiet. The Dune BD Prime is the first media player that I received where when I first plugged it in it just worked, plain and simple. The Dune BD Prime played back all my content without issue, and the only issue I ran in to was lack of mkv chapter support, something that I believe should be an easy fix in a future firmware update. I would like to see a little more attention put into taking the stock UI to the next level, not only for videos but also music and pictures. As well, additional focus on bringing in online content would be a positive.

The biggest challenge though that the Dune players face is price. There are going to be potential customers who won’t even consider the Dune simply because it is 2-3 x the price of most other media players on the market. To remain competitive and really spread the Dune brand I believe they need to come up with a sub USD 200 player, a “Dune Lite”, to compliment their premium players. Simply by removing the Blu Ray menus (licensing cost) and some of the inputs/outputs I believe they should have no problem achieving this.

Everyone who follows my posts knows I am an HTPC guy. Most likely I will always be an HTPC guy to some extent as I am too much of a geek to miss out on all the tweaking and trying out different software (and I still get enjoyment from building a PC). However, while testing the Dune I had it set up in my bedroom right alongside my HTPC, and I found myself actually bypassing the HTPC and using the Dune! The HTPC still offers a better experience when it comes to the UI and there is more flexibility you can use, but the Dune just works and it was simple (and to be honest I could use a little simplicity in my life these days!)

If you are in the market for a media player ready to go out of the box and are willing to pay a little extra, I would highly recommend the Dune BD Prime or HD Base. This is probably the first media player that I have tested where I can actually recommend without stating some sort of caveat which is nice! There are several online retailers that offer the Dune Players, but from my conversations with Mike at Duneplayer.com, the many positive experiences I read about from other Duneplayer.com customers, and Duneplayer.com’s Employee involvement on AVSForum, I would definitely recommend giving Duneplayer.com a look at.





Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found Mediasmartserver.net, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for Mediasmartserver.net you can find me over at my blog at http://www.adigitalhomeblog.com or follow me on twitter


{ 128 comments }

Brajesh July 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Another good write-up Damian, thanks. With the hopefully soon-to-be-released firmware enabling HD audio for the Popcorn A-200/C-200 and the 2.4 firmware on the Xtreamer Pro/Sidewinder offering likewise, the Dune’s price is a little high even with its integrated Blu-ray drive and full BD menus. To me, the PopBox is an okay product and won’t be a serious home theater media player (at least for a while as the firmware matures), so I’m leaning toward the C-200 (as the A-200′s stock case is cheap and adding the aftermarket case brings its cost close to the C-200′s). But, I’d seriously consider the Dune if it was priced less. Not that I can’t pay more, but because it soon won’t be worth more than the C-200 at least. I know I’m comparing different types of media players, but having an optical drive is less important to me, with HD audio passthrough, flawless BD-ISO/MKV playback, decent subtitle support and a decent jukebox are most important.

joshwachubby July 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm

WOoooooooooooooo. . .Finally, A detailed review of the dune 3.0 that I can’t miss!!! Will use this guide for sure =) Your review really helps in my decision making

Damian July 27, 2010 at 1:33 pm

@ Brajesh,

Agreed in that the price is probably the biggest roadblock (as I mentioned). Really what it comes down to is to list out what features are important to you, what is the cost you are willing to pay for those features, and then make a decision. This is why I think it is very important for Dune to get a “Dune Lite” into the marketplace. So if the Dune HD Base was priced the same as the PCH C-200 (I think currently it is $50 more) you would seriously consider the Dune?

I am hoping to finally plug in my Popbox today or tomorrow. I downloaded the new 2.4 fw for the Xtreamer and unfortunately bitstreaming does not work for me :-( It is still beta fw but right now for me it is not a working solution

Alex Kuretz July 27, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Good review, Damian, what I hear is that the Dune seems to be that device that is easier to use and doesn’t require as much tweaking which can be a big impediment to less technical or new users.

BrianAz July 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Nice write up. I have a Dune Base 3.0 and I LOVE it! I had been waiting for a long time to upgrade my players (previously DSM-520s) to full Bluray support w/ menus and the Dune does not disappoint.

My eventual plan is to have the Base unit in the bedroom, a Prime in the living room (to play the odd rented/borrowed disc) and perhaps a Tvix S1 in my home office. I figure I could save some $ by going with the Tvix in my office… I don’t care so much about the Bluray menus in there when I watch a movie like I do in the bed/livingroom

Damian July 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm

@ Alex,

Yes, I would say that the Dune is very user friendly, in particular to people new to this space or less technical.

Damian July 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm

@ BrianAZ,

Great to hear everything is working well. Your setup is exactly where I think a Dune lite would benefit. I think we are getting to the point where people want multiple players in their house, and depending on where the player is placed determines how much you are willing to pay and what features you need.

BrianAz July 27, 2010 at 3:47 pm

@Damian

Exactly. I would love a Dune lite in the < $200 price range.

sfoster4 July 27, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Damian,

Another great review. To add on to what Alex said, there are a number of us computer professionals that sometimes get sick of working on our gear and we just want it to work without too much effort. I do enough tweaking at work. I love my Dune which I got last Friday.

Damian July 28, 2010 at 4:22 am

@ sfoster4,

Agreed. I am not a computer professional, but I have spent enough time being around the gear that a little simplicity without much effort is what I was looking for as well.

Bryan July 28, 2010 at 9:00 am

When it says it plays BD ISO without menu support, what exactly does that mean? I recently bought a C-200 that does play BD ISO with menu support, but it is so flaky I’m getting ready to send it back. One ISO that will absolutely not play, and locks up the whole box is Avatar. It was ripped with ANYDVD and plays fine on my PC, so don’t know what the problem is with the C-200.

Damian July 28, 2010 at 9:05 am

@ Bryan,

I think I wrote that it plays BD ISOs WITH menu support (not without). All menu support means is that when you play the BD ISO it looks just as if you inserted the actual disc, with full menus. Avatar has caused a lot of problems on everyone’s system. I would recommend waiting for the new fw for the C200 to be released out of beta (hopefully in the coming weeks) as it did fix some of the problems I had. If after the fw release you still are unhappy then look to send back and get a Dune

Jason July 28, 2010 at 11:43 am

@Damian

You mention Avatar BDROM playback issues, can I ask if you had the same problems with streamed playback of Avatar (MKV?). I’m considering getting one without the BDRom drive, but am curious about that ability.

BrianAZ July 28, 2010 at 11:47 am

MKV is fine as I believe it is the copy protection causing the problems.

Damian July 28, 2010 at 11:51 am

As BrianAZ mentioned it is actually the copy protection on the disc that causes the problems. Once you rip to your PC and remove the encryption (whether as MKV, BD ISO, etc…) Avatar plays fine.

Jason July 28, 2010 at 1:43 pm

hmmm … I wonder why it won’t play well on my HTPC. Probably the stupid Intel drivers from the Clarkdale cpus? It’s like it’s never going to get fixed :(

Oh well, Thanks for the update.

Damian July 28, 2010 at 1:53 pm

@ Jason,

What player are you using, MPC HC? Are you getting green blocks?

Jason July 28, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Yes using MPC-HC

Not getting Green blocks, just “chugging” However, this may be because I’m not able to use the “EVR Custom Press.**” option in the output area. For some reason this causes a lot of particle effects on my screen. When I switch to “VMR9 (renderless) **” I don’t have this problem.

BUT, Avatar just chuggs, like it just can’t keep up or something.

System Specs:
Intel i5: 650
ASUS P7H55D-M EVO
2GB Ram
Windows 7 x64

I’ve always wondered why the EVR Custom Pres doesn’t work on my H55 when it works fine other other PC’s I have …

Damian July 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm

@ Jason,

The reason for your issue is because the Intels don’t play nice with the internal MPC filters. Supposedly Intel is finally working with the MPC guys to work this out, but for now what you should do is in the MPC external filters section add the Microsoft MS DTV Video Decoder and set it to prefer. This will fix your issue (this is how I do it with my core i5 HTPC). The only downside is that you will lose DXVA for VC-1, but you have plenty of CPU to handle that. I just stick with the EVR custom renderer

Jason July 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Cool, I’ll give that shot (fingers crossed)

Scott July 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Damian

All I want is a Bluray player with high quality DVD upscaling that I can hook a couple of 2 TB USB drives up to to play all of my movies & music. I also want to have the DVD & album artwork show up in a nice display. Is that too much to ask?

Is this that player? Can you load “My Movies” or “Zappiti” onto the LG BD590 (which I alreadt own)?

Thanks for the great review!

Damian July 29, 2010 at 3:00 am

@ Scott,

Yes, the Dune BD Prime will give you what you are looking for. As far as the music side, I am not 100% positive how well album artwork shows up, from reading around I believe you would need to have a folder.jpg in each music folder, but unfortunately there is no “Zappiti” like jukebox for music yet

My Movies or Zappiti will not work with your LG BD590

Trey July 29, 2010 at 6:32 am

Damian,

I have a WD TV Live that streams my Blu-Ray MKV rips now. It works fine via a USB attached drive but stutters from my EX487 WHS. I was looking at a Popcorn Hour A-200, but this sounds much better. I would get the Base though as I already have a PS3 and Sammy BD5500. How much better does the Dune perform over the network than the A-200? I just need some help justifying the Dune Base at 2x the price. Thanks!

Scott July 29, 2010 at 7:30 am

Does this unit have a good video chip for upscaling DVD in it?

Does it upscale as well as the Oppo 83 with Anchor Bay VRS?

Trey July 29, 2010 at 9:17 am

Damian,

I have been looking at reviews and some YouTube videos of this unit and have a question. I use MakeMKV to rip my Blu Ray discs to MKV files. I saw a video on YouTube where the reviewer shows the BD Menu come up on a MKV file. Is this possible? I thought you could only access the BD Menu from an ISO? Thanks for your help!

Damian July 29, 2010 at 9:37 am

@ Scott,

I honestly have never used an Oppo so I cannot comment on the upscale ability vs. the Dune. I did see someone post on AVSForum yesterday that the upscale of the Dune is very good, but the Oppo is still slightly better

Damian July 29, 2010 at 9:42 am

@ Trey,

Regarding network performance I have not had issues with playback with either my A-200 or Dune. When I owned an EX470 I never had issues with playback on the A-110. The benefits of the Base over the A-200 that come to mind:

(1) A-200 has cheap case and somewhat loud fan. The Dune Base has a solid case and is fanless (i.e silent). You can mod the A-200 case (such as I did here – http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2010/05/24/modding-the-popcorn-hour-a-200-with-a-3rd-party-case/) but that brings the total cost much closer to the Dune Base

(2) As of now there are still issues with the A-200 FW (cannot bitstream from standalone m2ts/mkv, issues with VC-1 mkvs, does not support PGS subtitles in mkvs, etc…). These issues shoudl be fixed when the next fw is released but not sure when that is due out (I would hope within the month).

I think with either the Base or the A-200 overall you will be happy, but the A-200 will require more patience as the fw needs to mature.

Damian July 29, 2010 at 9:45 am

@ Trey,

What you saw is probably what is called a “BD Lite” menu, which is different from actual BD menus. For example, if you look at my review here and scroll down to the video playback section you will see what is considered a BD Lite menu in the screenshot (http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2010/02/04/review-popcorn-hour-a-200/)

joeychizzel August 9, 2010 at 3:07 pm

first, i just want to say Damian, thank you for your reviews and reports/guides. they are a godsend and for people who aren’t too versed in all things whs, you are definitely the person to go to. please continue to keep up the great work with your knowledge and guides. secondly, the duneplayer ROCKS. i had an a-200 and it was great because it only cost $175 and it played almost everything i had. problem is, i’m very anal about 24p and for some reason, blu ray ios/rips would sometime revert away from 24p. there were other bugs too, one being the whole truehd fiasco. duneplayer has none of those problems and in terms of network speed, seems to me almost twice as fast reading files. never lag/skipping when playing blu rays and to me, that is important. yes, the price is expensive, that is a big drawback, but if i have to pay extra to make sure my home theater enjoyment is not hampered, i’d pay for it. so i highly recommend the duneplayer, it is a great machine right out of the box too, not much fiddling with settings. damian, thanks again, keep up the info!

Damian August 9, 2010 at 3:19 pm

@ joeychizzel,

Thanks for the kind words, and glad to hear you have found my writeups useful. I am trying to put together my writeup on Zappiti for the Dune, almost got it done. Its a little tricky since the documentation is somewhat scarce and the official forum is in French.

The funny thing about price is that many of us have spent thousands of dollars on our HT setup, yet want the cheapest media player available. I understand if you are looking to purchase multiple players for your house the cost becomes more significant (and why I hope for a BD lite), but if you are looking for that one main player is spending an extra $100 or so really that much in comparison. As I mentioned the Dune was the first player I have ever tested that just worked out of the box, no stuttering, no file issues.

Trey August 12, 2010 at 8:53 am

Damian,

Based on your recommendation (as well as those on AVS Forum) I bought a Dune Base from duneplayer.com ! It will be here tomorrow and I really want to set it up right away with Zappiti so that my wife falls in love with it immediately. I know you are working on a Zappiti review, but will your review include details on how to set it up with a WHS? If not, can you point me somewhere that has detailed set up instructions?

Thanks so much for all of your help!

Damian August 12, 2010 at 9:04 am

@ Trey,

I was hoping to get the guide posted today, or tomorrow at the very latest. The way I have it setup I have Zappiti installed on my desktop PC. It points to my shared videos on my WHS, and the final Zappiti export goes to my WHS as well for the Dune to access. Everything is set up via smb on my WHS (do you have my link on how to set up smb?)

Sorry it has taken so long to get my writeup for Zappiti posted, things have been a bit crazy between family life/work, and working on 2 hrs sleep today (yikes!)

Doug August 25, 2010 at 9:12 am

Damian,

As others have said, thanks for the great writeup.

I have a question about something you stated in your review. You said:

“You can add shortcuts to other Apps (such as a movie jukebox) which is a nice feature”

Can you only add shortcuts to Apps, or can you also create a shortcut to a local HDD folder? Also, you mention being able to “tweak” the ui. Can you explain this from a high level? Meaning, is the UI changed by accessing an app on your network? Or is there a way to change/tweak the UI on the Dune itself? The reason I ask is that I will sometimes move the Dune to another location (not in my network). So, I’m wondering what types of changes can actually be made on the hardware itself.

Thanks,
Doug

Damian August 25, 2010 at 9:32 am

Doug,

You should be able to add shortcuts for any folder that you can access on the Dune.

Regarding the UI, there are two things I meant. You can tweak the UI by hiding/unhiding icons. So you can have it where the only icons that show on the main menu are shortcuts if you want. The other tweaking would be using a jukebox like Zappiti or MyMovies in place of the stock UI. However, that is the extent to tweaking of the Dune UI

Doug August 25, 2010 at 10:58 am

Thanks for the reply.

Great, I was hoping I could change the shortcuts to whatever I wanted.

I think I understand the jukebox concept a little better now. A jukebox (such as Zappiti or MyMovies) will only work when connected to a network computer running the jukebox. In other words, if I move the Dune somewhere temporarily off my network, the jukebox will not work, correct? I was hoping for a way to tweak the UI that would still work with the Dune as a standalone machine.

Damian August 25, 2010 at 11:08 am

Yes and no. Basically the jukebox is broken up into two components. The first component are the generated AAI files, which the Dune will read and display. The second component is that actual playback of the movie file associated with the jukebox. These can be in two separate areas, so for example you can have the jukebox files saved on an internal Dune drive or attached USB Thumb drive. You can then access the jukebox whenever you want, you won’t need to be connected to a network. However, while in the jukebox if you go to play a file the Dune must be connected to whereas that movie is stored. So with my setup all my media is stored on my WHS. I can save the jukebox to a thumb drive attached to my Dune and navigate the jukebox at all times as long as the thumb drive is attached. However, when I select a movie from the jukebox the dune must be connected to my network to play back since the movie is stored on my WHS. Hope that makes more sense, let me know

Doug August 25, 2010 at 11:35 am

Ok, I think I got it.

I should have explained more. I run outdoor movies (on big inflatable screens) and I’m looking for a good way to play pre-movie content. I’m looking for a media player to play movie previews, slide shows, music videos, etc. from a device that I move around a lot. That’s why I want to be able to use a custom UI, but also access local content. Which, it sounds like I can do, as long as the jukebox is configured to only look for local files.

One more question and I promise to leave you alone. Do all media players work with jukebox apps as you explained above? I’m looking at the Popcorn Hour C200 as well, and would use it the same way (maybe with YAMJ, but not connected to a network).

Damian August 25, 2010 at 12:01 pm

@ Doug,

You can add multiple shortcuts, I think though the shortcut would show on the main menu whether or not the actual shortcut was online. From a jukebox standpoint, what I am thinking is that using Zappiti as an example if you have two PCs you can create two Zappiti jukeboxes. One Zappiti jukebox can be for your network based stuff. The second Zappiti jukebox would be for content on your local drive. When you are traveling simply access the local Zappiti jukebox. I should mention that Zappiti or the other jukeboxes only work for tv shows/videos, I don’t know if there is a photo/music jukebox.

As fas as other media players, some have 3rd party jukeboxes while others do not. PCH has jukeboxes such as YAMJ (which you can see my writeup here that I use for my PCH C200/A200 – http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2010/01/14/guide-setting-up-yamj-yet-another-movie-jukebox-aeon-in-whs/), I think ACRyan PlayOn has YAMJ as well, Xtreamer has their own jukebox

Don’t hesitate to ask any other questions. I live in NY so who knows, maybe one day I will need to rent a big screen for my backyard!

Doug August 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I think I found some jukebox support for music, not sure about music videos or photos.

Thanks again. And hey, we frequently do events in NY, keep us in mind (Super Special pricing for you!).

Damian August 25, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Depending on the jukebox you use you could cram music videos into the typical video jukebox, just manually managing the metadata/art. I have done this for a few of my music videos that I have

Doug August 25, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Yeah, that’s kind of what I was thinking I would do, morph a Movie Jukebox into music videos and/or photos, etc. There’s a “Music Jukebox” for the Popcorn Hour that looks like it would work.

I like the Popcorn Hour for for the backlit/RF remote, good for dark outdoor usage I bet. But, I REALLY like the multi-channel analogue audio outputs on the Dune. Ugh, decisions, decisions!

Moe Kaddas September 15, 2010 at 12:25 am

Hello Damian,
hope this comment finds you well,
First of all I dlike to seize this opportunity to thank you very much for the great review above. I’m a gadget guy since long time ago, and I have a really great collection of Media players such as HD MediaBox (Pixel Magic), TViX HD M-5000U and few latest models like TViX HD M-5100SH. I have hug collection of DVDs, I ripped them into HDD as ISO to keep them in a good condition and protect them from getting scratched. I have excellent home 7.1 HD sound system from Harman Kardon The laetest model (Harman Kardon AVR660) as well as HDTV LCD from Samsung. In the meanwhile I have a great collection of Blu-ray movies and TV series which all are ripped into HDDs as ISO and ready to be installed into Media Player that capable of playing Blu-Ray ISOs.
The bottom line,,, I have read all of your reviews regarding Dune and Popcorn media players, as well as reading others reviews regarding media players that capable of playing BD ISO such as XtreamerPro, among those 3 media players, I dropped XtreamerPro from the list which left me in confusion which one should I pick, should I buy Dune BD Base 3.0 or should go a head and order Popcorn hour C-200?
So I though I would kindly ask you to give me your appreciated suggestion in which should I buy and go with?

P.S 2 thingsI really like
1) Dune has a good advantage which it has eSATA which is faster and could be good for a future External HDD that supports eSATA.
2) I really loved the idea 3rd Party Jukeboxes.

Thanks once again for the great reviews and all pictures look amazing.
Kind Regards.
Moe Kaddas

Damian September 15, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Hi Moe

Right now without regard for price I would recommend the Dune over the PCH. You may also want to look at the upcoming dune models, which will have the same functionality as the current but priced a little better (the main thing missing is I believe the Base has 7.1 analog out, I use HDMI so this is not needed for me)

http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2010/08/17/dune-announces-new-line-of-media-players/

Moe Kaddas September 15, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Hello Damian,
Hope this comment finds you well.
Thanks for your recommendation and your quick replay.
Since I’m using (HDMI & S/PDIF optical audio) for all my correct Media player, I think Dune HD Smart H1 looks good and will semi-fit among the collection I have.
I’ve been reading over & over your guide in how to setup Movie Jukebox for Dune, I don’t know where to start, and what to do, I have hundreds of DVDs, how am I going to set it for all of them, it seems long process.
but my question is can you install it inside the HDD I’ll be using it for Dune?
Have a good day sir, and once agian thanks for the recommendation.
Best Regards
Moe

Damian September 16, 2010 at 7:52 am

Moe,

If you install a HDD in your Dune then yes you can store all your DVDs there. You will need to rip your DVDs on another PC though and then transfer over.

Goran September 24, 2010 at 10:10 am

Hello Damian,
This is my first post here, and I have several basic novice questions regarding media players and connections to A/V system, so here is what I want to achieve:

1. Connect my ext HDD to Dune via USB;

*Will USB connection have enough bandwidth for transfering BluRay ISO with DTS-HD Master Audio from ext HDD to Dune?

2.Connect Dune to A/V receiver;

*How to connect: via HDMI (best?) or Ethernet? What are the pros, cons, and possibilities of either connection? Or am I mixing apples and oranges?

*Is HD audio (TrueHD and DTS HD-Master Audio) only transfered as a bitstream to the receiver or can Dune also decode HD audio?

*What specs should I look for in A/V receiver?
It seams that most receivers can decode HD audio formats only from HDMI input. Support through USB and Ethernet (for DLNA certified devices) is limited to MP3, AAC and WMA which are all lossy formats. The same is with Ethernet, if they support DLNA.

So, to put it simply: I like the Dune and I want to pair it with A/V receiver, so what spesc do I need for the receiver and what connections should I use?

Thank you in advance,
Goran

Damian September 29, 2010 at 11:10 am

Goran,

Sorry it has taken me so long to respond, I was on vacation all last week so I am just now getting caught up with all my emails.

1. Yes, USB connected to your Dune will be fine for BluRay ISO + HD Audio

2. You would connect the Dune t o your A/V receiver via HDMI. You need to use HDMI if you want to pass through HD Audio

The Dune can pass through the HD Audio and it can decode and send out as LPCM

As far as an AVR, I would suggest getting one that has at least 3 HDMI connections (preferably 4). HMDI 1.3a shoudl be fine, you could possibly look for an AVR that has HMDI 1.4, but I don’t know how many of those are out yet. I have an Onkyo and Pioneer AVR and am happy with both

Hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.

Goran September 30, 2010 at 3:11 am

Hello Damian,

Thanks for your usefull comments.
I am planning to completely renew my entertainment home system but have been ‘out of syns’ in this field for several years and trying to catch-up in the last few months. I have few more questions to ask, and will be very grateful if you can provide some light.
So, am I right in thinking that:

1.Video is always decoded by media player (MP) like Dune – no AVR can decode video;

2.For audio I have a choice for decoding to LPCM by MP or to send it as a bitstream to AVR for decoding. If decoded by AVR, then MP will not have impact on audio quality;

3.Can Dune transform my ext HDD to a NAS device – visible to Laptop or other MP on my home network?

4.Internet features: If they are present in MP, then I don’t need TV or AVR or all-in-one system with the same features – I can channel more money to sound/picture quality?

4.Can I attach any WiFi USB adapter or it must be from BDI?

5.As far as I am aware, only Dune and Popcorn will play Blu-Ray full menus from HDD and decode/pass HD audio formats. Are you aware of any other players that can do this? I am thinking of WD, Asus, Eminent, Viewsonic, A.C.Ryan, Iomega etc…
Are you considering Dune the most accomplished MP in the market in this moment?

Wow, that were plenty of questions and dilemmas.
Your comments will be highly appreciated.
Thank you in advance, Goran.

Damian September 30, 2010 at 6:40 am

Goran,

Here is what I can answer:

(1) AVRs can process video (such as upscaling).
(2) Correct. I prefer to let my AVR handle decoding the audio, after all, that is one of its main jobs
(3) I am not 100% sure since I have never used it that way, I believe the answer is yes
(4) It depends on what you consider internet features. Right now there is no all in one box unfortunately (unless you consider an HTPC)
(5) My guess based on experience from other brands it will need to be one specific to HDI
(6) Correct. The Dunes, the PCH C-200 and the HDX BD1 (very buggy from what I have heard) are the only ones that can handle Blu Ray menus. Some other players can do some form of decode/pass HD audio formats (SageTV, Xtreamer, Nixeus, etc…)

As of today I have found the Dune to be the most stable/reliable at playing all content (in particular high bitrate HD) with full HD Audio. The PCH C-200 has been a solid performer for me as well

Goran September 30, 2010 at 8:50 am

Hi Damian,

Thank you again for your very usefull info – it is much clearer in my head now.

Regarding my question no.4, several all-in-one systems like Sony BDV-E370, Samsung HT-C6930W or LG HB965TZ already offers some limited Internet features like YouTube, Picasa and AccuWeather, but I guess if Dune has at least this undoubtedly limited ability (+Internet radio), than I don’t need all-in-one system or TV with these features since Dune will stream via HDMI to all-in-one and TV?
Thank you once more for your prompt and usefull info.

…And this time I will not forget to mention: your reviews are among the most comprehensive and informative I can find on a web.

Best rgds,
Goran

Hercules Rockefeller September 24, 2010 at 11:04 am

Way overpriced especially when you consider HDI’s notoriuosly horrible quality control standards and terrible costomer support. Too many horror stories about cheap components and/or physically damaged players arriving and then taking months to get a replacement from these scammers. No thanks

Nando October 1, 2010 at 5:05 am

I want to know (for me it is very important ..) if this BD Prime 3.0 BluRay Media Player
correctly reads the files directly and HD formats *.ts (HD recordings made from the various satellite PVR Dreambox as 8000, 800 etc, etc. and Skystar HD2. etc.. )
These files are written to DVD and BR-D….

Damian October 6, 2010 at 10:28 am

To be honest I have never used those types of files. Best bet would be to ask on AVSForum (http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=19296476#post19296476) or on the HDI forum

hd-players October 2, 2010 at 9:20 am

A great player, ordered him at http://hd-players.com/dune/47-blu-ray-hd-mediacentr-dune-hd-max.html … promised to bring in November.

Pradeep October 6, 2010 at 9:31 am

Great write up again. I have a quick question. You probably have a post for this somewhere that I am yet to read. I just wanted to know the setup that you personally use on a daily basis (Other than to review stuff). I know you have a HP Mediasmart WHS where you have most of your content and probably one or several Windows PC’s and MAC’s. But what do you use to playback all of your content to the various TV’s in your home. In this post here, you kind of refer to a HTPC. But if you do use HTPC and not one of these media players or extenders, what interface do you use? Do you use Media Center interface primarily or are there other interfaces that are easier to use with a remote. There is also a 3rd possibility of using a wireless keyboard and mouse on your HTPC, but not sure if you prefer that.

Thanks,

Damian October 6, 2010 at 10:39 am

Ahhh…my setup. Here I go:

- DIY Windows Home Server (Approx 20TB)

- Family Room – HTPC (AMD build with 5670 GPU for HD Audio support). Windows 7 x32, Main UI is Windows Media Center (Specifically Media Browser). I also have an HD300, Popbox and Xtreamer Pro connected but more for testing right now.

- Sons Playroom – PCH C200 running YAMJ + Aeon

- Bedroom – HTPC (core i5). Windows 7 x32, Main UI is Windows Media Center (Specifically Media Browser). Also, this is where my Dune BD Prime is connected (running Zappiti). Because of the Dune I hardly use the HTPC here anymore!!!

- Basement – SageTV HD300 connected in extender mode running Sage MyMovies.

- Office – this is where my desktop PC is that I use for all my ripping. I also use it to record my TV shows, cut out the commercials, and encode before moving over to my WHS.
As far as how I control my HTPCs, right now it is all done via remote (I have a Logitech 900 and One remote that I use). If for whatever reason I need to do any sort of typing/mouse movements I use my Logitech diNovo mini (such as web browsing which I don’t do much on the HTPC). Usually if I have to do any sort of maintenance on the HTPC though I just RDP in from my desktop PC.

Let me know if I can answer anything else

Pradeep October 7, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Thanks for the detailed info. I do have a couple of additional questions.
1. Any specific reason for preferring Windows 7×32 instead of 64?
2. If you use Windows Media Center as your main UI using an HTPC, can you still play a content half way through in one room and resume from a different room from where you left off. I thought this was possible only when you used extenders and not HTPC’s.
3. When you say record TV shows, do you use a tuner like Cablecard tuner or HD Homerun. If yes, this is recorded in DVR-MS format. What do you use to convert it to MKV or something like that. Do you even convert it to a different format?
4. If you are using Media Center (with Media Browser) as your main UI, how do you play MKV files. I do not know if you can natively play them using Media Center because you are using a HTPC and not an extender like XBOX 360

Damian October 8, 2010 at 7:28 am

1. Codec/filter support is still immature IMO with x64. For an HTPC you get zero benefit with x64, so why complicate things

2. There is a playstate feature that allows for this with Media Browser, but I haven’t used it in a while

3. I use an HdHomeRun and a TV Tuner Card (1 digital and 1 analog). The shows are recorded as wtv. Some shows I just keep in that format, but other shows I have ShowAnalyzer/Comskip run on them, cut out the commercials, and convert to mkv or mp4

4. You can play mkvs in Media Center, you just need to install a splitter (Haali or matroskasplitter.ax). However, since I want to bitstream HD Audio from my mkvs I have Media Browser launch MPC HC for my mkvs

Pradeep October 11, 2010 at 9:36 am

One more question. How have you wired your home. Are you using any moca or is it all fully wired using Cat 5E or Cat 6?

Damian October 11, 2010 at 9:45 am

@ Pradeep,

All cat5e/cat6. I tried powerline a while back but the results were bad. I have been tempted to try MoCA as it should not have the same limitations as powerline but right now I don’t have a need for additional lines

Rick October 12, 2010 at 1:13 am

Thnx for the review. Really helped me decide which player to purchase. I am kind of a plug-and-play user and have a couple of questions.
Is it possible to download from newsgroups directly to the Dune Base 3.0 and have the Dune also unpack the rar-files into a format usable by the Dune? If so, how? What would I need to install? (I know how to do this on the PC.)
If downloaded from a newsgroup onto my PC instead, is it possible to unpack the rar-files from my PC onto the HDD of my Dune as destination file through the network? (I’ve tried this already and the PC does unpack but once unpacked I can’t find the file on my Dune? Where did it go?)

Damian October 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Rick,

To be honest I have never user rar files so I cannot offer any sort of feedback on. Best bet I would post your question on AVS as I am sure there are other Dune members who use rar. Sorry I can’t be more help.

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=19324485#post19324485

Matt October 19, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I have mede8er but it has issues with ntfs formatting (the files gets corrupted cause a linux ntfs driver), i can format the hdd with ext3 but it’s not officialy supported, and there are 24p stutterings…
So I’m planning to buy either Popcorn A-200 or Dune HD Base 3.0, i know that it’s said already that Dune HD Base 3.0 is better choice, but could i ask is somebody can try to play this three files on Dune HD Base 3.0…

EDITOR NOTE: Links to copyrighted files have been removed

Also can somebody post me some Dune HD Base 3.0 subtile examples (screen shots) and if somebody can tell me all subtitle related possibilities (size, colour, transparent box, time shifting, etc…)

Tny in advance!

Damian October 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Matt,

I did try file #1 and it played without issue. I do have file #2 and #3 in my test suite but honestly I stopped using to test as for real world purposes they provide no benefit.

As far as subtitles, they look just as if you were using a DVD/BluRay player. I didn’t mess around with all the other subtitle possibilities, but hopefully another reader can comment as my subtitle use is extremely limited (just forced subs)

Matt October 19, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Tnx Damian for quick response…

Until someone else comment the subs, can u tell me if they are antialised, and if there is or will be possible to change subtitle font and outlineing?

Cheers

Thomas October 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Damian,

this looks like a great media player that meets my requirements close to 100%. I want to use it also as an audio playback device w/o turning the TV set on. So I would like to use an app like plugplayer on an iPod touch to control music playback. I could not find any reviews or comments whether that is supported or not. At least DLNA is not mentioned in the documentation. I would buy immediately if I knew this would work.

Damian October 21, 2010 at 6:51 am

Thomas,

So far I have not seen any support for control with an App. I do agree that being able to control your music without having to turn on your TV would be a big plus. I currently use Sonos for my music, one of the main reasons is because I don’t need to have a TV involved.

Anthony October 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Hi Damien,

Thanks for the review on the Dune. Currently I’m looking at either the PCH-A200 or the Dune Base 3.0 as I have no requirement for a blu-ray drive based media player.

A few things: Do you know if either the A200 or Dune Base 3.0 have the ability to play pictures and audio files randomly?

There seems to be some concern and unhappy users over at Dune forum about firmware updates and support for the Dune Base 3.0/Prime and seems like people are giving up on the Dune and moving to other based media players. Have you noticed any concerns with recent firmware updates to the Dunes and how their current updates compare to the A200?

Is support slowly shifting away from Dune, not as popular now say compared to A200? Is it true that Dune will be less focused on Base 3.0/Prime and therefore divert their attention to their new models?

My main points for me is that a media player has full BD ISO/Menu support, FLAC/APE, Gigabit Ethernet, 2TB support, randomly play of audio/pics, HD Audio passthrough, 7.1 Analogue and full HD Audio playback support.

Dune HD Max looks nice but too expensive for me. What other media players have full BD ISO/Menu support without a blu-ray drive?

Thanks for your help in advance.

Damian October 21, 2010 at 6:59 am

Hi Anthony,

Regarding random playback, to be honest I never tried doing this. However, I don’t recall seeing any settings in either the A-200 or Dune that would enable this.

Regarding Dune itself, firmware updates have definitely been a little slow coming along. They just moved over to the new SDK so hopefully we will see this pick up. For my use I have no major issues with the current Dune firmware, but of course like every other player out there there will be small issues/annoyances dependent on the user.

As far as a shift away from Dune, I would actually argue the opposite (at least from what I have seen on forums). There actually appears to be a shift away from PCH and over to Dune due to several recurring issues with the latest PCH models. I think with the new models this will only help broaden Dune’s appeal as previously the entry price has been too steep for some.

One thing to keep in mind, the new models and the current BD Prime/Base are all essentially the same hardware, and will be running the same firmware. This should allow that all models get the same amount of attention, as firmware updates would be applied across the board.

As far as full BD ISO/Menu support, it is just the Dunes (current BD Prime/Base and newly announced Smart series), PCH C-200, and BDX-HD1. I don’t believe any other players (aside from an HTPC) supports full BD Menus.

Hope I was able to answer your questions, don’t hesitate to comment back if I missed something.

Anthony October 21, 2010 at 10:08 am

Thanks Damien for your reply.

Dune HD Max should have full BD ISO/menu support?

Regarding Dune MAX, and their current smart series, is it true that when the upgrade from the 8642 chip to the board with 8646 chip is brought out by Dune in Q1 2011, will this be offered free of charge? I read somwhere this will be a free upgrade…have to find out where I saw this.

Thanks

Damian October 21, 2010 at 10:15 am

The Dune MAX will support full BD ISO/menus

As far as an upgrade, I don’t think it will be free. I don’t know what the cost will be (I have heard possibly up to $70)

Anthony October 20, 2010 at 9:01 pm

I forgot to mention that the media player must support subs within M2TS files and so forth. There was some problems a while back I read about this, which I assume was ironed out?

Thanks

Damian October 21, 2010 at 6:50 am

Yes, subtitles in m2ts and mkv files are supported. In a BluRay folder rip (m2ts) forced subs will be displayed correctly without user intervention. In an mkv forced subtitles are not displayed unless subtitles are turned on by the user

_Miquez October 23, 2010 at 5:21 am

Guys, I have an external HDD attached to the Dune via USB. If I FTP into the Dune, the external HDD comes up, I can browse the files and folders, I can transfer files FROM if, but I cannot transfer files TO the Dune-attached HDD.

Is this normal?

Thanks!

_Miquez October 23, 2010 at 5:42 am

Oh, and one more question: do you know of any way that I can play any Bluray region on the Dune? (a patch or similar)

Thanks!

John October 30, 2010 at 2:12 am

Hi Damian,

I have installed Zappati on my WHS, bust instead that alle the exported covers go to each induvidial film folder they all fo to one Zappatie folder. I want it set to separate folders, can you help my please.

Thanks

John

Damian November 12, 2010 at 5:13 am

Hi John,

Zappiti does not put covers in individual folders, it only exports to your designated output folder. You can try using a metadata program like YANFOE, YAMMM, etc… to get covers in your individual movie folders (that is what I do)

Matt November 1, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I still didn’t decide between Popcorn C-200 and Dune HD Base 3…
Can u please tell me if Dune can play external (DVD and Bluray).iso external subtitles and if Popcorn can finally bitstream HD Audio

Tnx

Damian November 1, 2010 at 2:54 pm

The PCH C-200 has been able to bitstream HD Audio all along, but only from BluRay structures. With recent updates it can now bitstream HD Audio from standalone files (such as mkv and m2ts as well). As far as subtitles I am not sure as I only use internal subtitles when needed (forced subtitles)

GPSOFT January 5, 2011 at 7:22 pm

DUNE IS BEST FOR ALL SUPPORT……………….

gouki November 9, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Hi, thanks for the review. I didn’t even look at HDI due to the higher prices but came across one for sale and debating whether it is worth getting it ($250), rebuild my shuttle PC (probably not as it’s old now) or rebuild my Dell XPS M1530 notebook (buying new motherboard) and using it as an HTPC.

1. I’ve read on the HDI site that these players can support USB TV, does it have to be HDI branded or any like these:

- http://www.shoppingsquare.com.au/p_3488_Leadtek_HD_Digital_TV_Tuner_USB_Dongle_Gold
- http://www.oztion.com.au/buy/auction.aspx?itemid=9882442

I’m not sure if its just a simple plug and play procedure when using these usb TV dongle, or something needs to be installed onto the media player.

I do like the convenience and bootup time of a media player (I have a DVICO as well), but the raw power and flexibility of the HTPC is more beneficial in the long run. Its just that with the TV dongle and media player, it’ll be hard to find an HTPC or blueray/dvd based player/recorder at that kind of price.

Damian November 12, 2010 at 5:02 am

Honestly I am not quite sure how the whole tv tuner thing would work with the Dunes. I have seen it referenced but haven’t read of anyone actually using. My gut feeling tells me it is not as simple as plug n play and if it was really working flawlessly you would be hearing a lot more about.

John November 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Hi Damian,

Thank you for the excellent review of Dune media players. I currently have both the Dune BD Prime 3.0 and the new Dune HD Smart D1 Media Player.

I’m encountering buffer underrun problems with some Blu-ray media files (particularly Avatar) on both media players. It seems that my gigabit network is not able to deliver the stream fast enough or that BD Prime 3.0′s “GBit ethernet” cannot read data faster than 100Mbps. I usually stream the Blu-ray iso files or in the case of Avatar, I used AnyDVDHD to rip the m2ts file directly as the iso play back just keep locking up. When playing the Avatar m2ts file via SMB network protocol on my Gigabit network, it keeps stuttering (with audio cut out) and buffer underruns (from the Info button). I tested the network read speed via the Info/Read Test and it shows 11MB/s consistently on both BD Prime 3.0 (w/ Gigabit ethernet) and HD Smart D1 (w/ 100Mbps ethernet jack). When I copied the m2ts file to an USB drive and connected it to the media player directly, it played the m2ts file just fine w/o stuttering or audio cut out. Its read speed from an attached USB drive is 22MB/s.

For you or others who are streaming from a media server, the question is “What is the read speed (from Dune player’s Info button > Test Read)”? Has anyone been able to achieve speed much faster than 11MB/s?

If you are able to view Avatar Blu-ray m2ts files fine on your Dune media player via SMB streaming, then please let me know your Test Read speed as it will help me decide if the problem is my Gigabit network or a limitation of Dune player itself. Thanks in advance. John

Damian November 30, 2010 at 5:54 am

Hi John,

Have you tried enabled t hat “Fast SMB” setting? I haven’t had any buffering issues with my BluRays (both in mkvs and folder rips) via smb over my network. If I have some time when I get home I will try to test my read speed. Even 11 MB/s should be more then enough for BluRay (equals approx 88 Mbps)

John December 2, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Hi Damian,

I do have “Fast SMB” enabled already. With it enabled, the file read speed is 11MB/s; without it enabled, the file read speed drops to 7.6 MB/s. I also have “Blu-ray bitstream improvement”, “Blu-ray playback improvement”, and “Fast disk access” all enabled. Not sure if they help. On the Dune BD Prime 3.0, I also have the Gigabit Ethernet Experimental enabled, but it did not increase the file read speed much (it stayed at 11MB/s).

I’m going to try coulple of things on my network: 1) put the server and the player on the same switch (they are on different switches right now) and 2) use Cat 6 instead of Cat 5 cable. It still troubles me why the buffer underrun problem exists when the speed is at 11MB/s.

When the bit stream rate is reported as 45 Mbps via the Info/Read Test button, is that rate for video stream only, or does it include audio also? If it does not include audio stream, then the actual rate may be higher than reported. Thx. John

chrish December 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Is the Dune the only product that (1) plays physical DVDs and (2) streams ripped DVDs in video_ts folder structure with full menu support? I don’t actually care very much about Blu Ray, just DVD, but I’m not sure there is anything else out there? Thank you and really appreciated the detailed review.

Damian January 3, 2011 at 9:11 am

When you say “plays physical DVDs” are you talking about an actual ROM drive? If so then the Dune is one of only a few players that actually has a ROM drive. Another alternative would be the PCH C200 (you would have to install a drive yourself). As far as video_ts full menu support that is actually pretty commonly supported in most media players out there. It is BluRay full menu support that only a handful of players support.

chrish January 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Thanks. Yes, I mean an actual ROM drive to allow me to play a physical DVD. I know there are the countless other networked Blu Ray players that allow some streaming but none that I know of with full video_ts support. And many media players that support video_ts, but without a DVD drive.

I could do a media center PC, but am avoiding trying to go that route.

Damian January 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm

The PCH C-200 and Dune BD Prime / Smart B1 / HD Max all have internal ROM drives. I am not sure if other players support attaching an external USB drive for DVDs (definitely not for BluRays)

chrish January 3, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Thanks, again. Very helpful. I hadn’t followed the Popcorn Hour products closely for a while. Also, I guess I have another requirement I forgot to list, Netflix streaming. Could probably only do it all in a media center PC? The networked blu ray players from the mainstream manufacturers get me close (play physical dvds, stream netflix, stream from a local server but not with video_ts).

Damian January 4, 2011 at 5:41 am

Ahhh, Netflix, an important feature that you left out as that changes things completely. For what you are looking for your best bet would be an HTPC as I don’t see Netflix coming to the PCH or Dune anytime soon. If you want to build there should be some good features coming out this week around Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform. I have three HTPCs in my house, and the latest one I built was based around the Clarkdale platform (http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2010/03/11/building-a-mini-itx-htpc-2/). I will probably upgrade this build to Sandy Bridge in the coming months.

ron January 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Dune Network Browser does not show my vista shares
Can you assist me with this?
Thanks

Damian January 19, 2011 at 8:08 am

Are you trying to add a network shortcut on your Dune main screen, or trying to navigate to your Vista shares via the Dune Network Browser? What happens, do you get an error message or just nothing appears?

ron January 19, 2011 at 10:37 am

Navigate to Vista shares via the Dune Network Browser
The Vista machine appears, but no shares. I am using the latest firmware for the Dune 3.0. The shares are currently setup on external HDD on each of my Vista machines. Everything connected via wired ethernet.

I have 2 Vista machine (Gateway and HTPC), the crazy thing is, I see my non hidden shares on the HTPC machine, but I don’t see any shares on the Gateway machine.

I think this may be causing my SMB ‘cannot find URL’ error for both Zappiti and My Movies v3.18 (I know my network setup is solid, as I have no problems with My Movies v3.18 using Window Media Center and Collection Manager software for years)

Fred L over at MPCClub mentioned I may want to move the shares to an internal HDD inside the Dune or use USB stick.

I can provide additional information on my SMB errors if you can help, just let me know.
Thanks

Damian January 31, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Hi ron,

Did you get anywhere with this? All my media is shared via WHS so I don’t know if there are settings specific to Vista that need to be enabled.

ron January 31, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Mike at Duneplayer help me resolve my SMB URL errors (I had to place the MyMovies Index share onto a machine or device that I did not store movies on)
I posted my findings on the MyMovies forum.

My shares seem to show in the Network Browser sometime and then sometime’s they don’t. Weird.

How can I get the MyMovies Icon to show on the Dune (I created the necessary shortcut to the MYMovies Index share, everthing works, but the icon showing is the default Dune Server Icon) Would be nice to get the MyMovies Icon to show instead. Any help would be appreciated.

Damian February 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm

That is weird you don’t get the MM icon, I got it when I created the shortcut. Not sure why Dune wouldn’t acknowledge that unless your MM export did not export the icon as well

steagle May 25, 2011 at 12:32 am

Hey Damian,
Will the Dune automagically switch between resolutions and framerates based on the source material? One thing that consistently bugs me about my PCH A-110 is that I often have to manually set these values before watching a file, which is annoying; plus, I have never been able to get flawless playback of 23.976fps HD movies from the A-110 to my TV (24p-capable LG50PK550). I really wish I knew what the secret was from all these PCH owners who say they get perfect 24p performance.

Anyways, I am considering buying a Dune if there is a real advantage in terms of its network playback and 24p capability and especially if it automatically chooses the correct framerate when I play a file.

Damian May 25, 2011 at 3:09 am

Hey Steagle,

Yes, you can set auto framerate change. I have this set up with my Dunes, and it switches over to 23.976 automatically when playing my BluRay rips.

The secret for the PCH owners could very easily be they don’t have 24p tvs, so they assume that since t hey are playing 23.976 content then it must be flawless (not understanding that a 2:3 pulldown occurs to play on their 60 tv)

steagle May 25, 2011 at 9:42 am

That’s great to know. My media library is about 70% 23.976 BR rips, 20% 25fps PAL rips, and 10% 29.97 NTSC rips, and the A-110′s “NTSC/PAL/24p” framerate option never works properly for me. As an example, I have a MKV 1080p BR rip of the Planet Earth documentary series, and if I have the PCH set to NTSC/PAL/24p, it is unwatchable – looks like it’s going at 10 frames a second. Switching the PCH to NTSC/24p makes a good improvement, but I still get the stuttering consistently every several seconds, and if there’s a lot of activity in a scene (such as the beginning of the first episode, where a gigantic flock of birds are being filmed from over head), the PCH basically breaks down and there is no audio or video until the high bitrate spike is over and it returns to normal. If you’re saying the Dune actually does switch between 23.976, 24, 25, and 29.97 – and doesn’t have an “all-in-one” feature like the PCH that seems to only work if you have a NTSC + PAL capable TV, then I am freaking sold.

And good point about the 24p TVs. A lot of replies I get in the NMT forum are from people saying stuff like “I’m sorry, you’re having problems, but I have had zero playback issues with my A-110!” Chances are, they aren’t streaming high bitrate content from a NAS through a network to a 24p TV. I have yet to hear from anyone who has the same setup as mine that does not encounter some kind of skipping or stuttering with MKV BR rips. Remuxing to TS helps some of the time, which has been my only resort on some MKVs, but that is not exactly an elegant workaround so I’ve been looking for a machine that can decode MKVs with a lot more processing power than the PCH.

Damian May 25, 2011 at 10:10 am

yeah, mkvs require more overhead which is why the A110 tends to choke on high bitrate mkvs (and the reason why for the A110 many people just used standalone m2ts)

steagle May 25, 2011 at 12:45 am

I forgot to add – I am playing files via NFS from my Synology NAS, over CAT6 GbE. Both the A-110 and NAS are connected to the same switch. And the vast majority of my files are 23.976fps 1080 DTS movies, and the vast majority of those will skip or stutter every several seconds. It’s maddening! If the Dune gets rid of this problem I will be a convert in a heartbeat.

Anthony May 25, 2011 at 12:57 am

Hi Steagle,

Just as a thought, have you set the A-110 ethernet to gigabit or 10/100? If you’ve set it to gigabit then you will most likely encounter stuttering or skipped frames as the A-110 does not support true gigabit. Set it to 10/100 and your problems should go away. I use standard Cat 5e with no problems on 10/100 on my PCH-c200. I stream files off a USB Hard Drive connected to a laptop going to the C200 and never had any problems.

Damian May 25, 2011 at 3:06 am

Anthony,

I believe the A-110 is only 10/100, it wasn’t until the C-200/A-200s were introduced that they came with gigE (and even that is broken for many, a Sigma issue)

steagle May 25, 2011 at 9:46 am

Right, no 1000 on the A-110, plus as an added precaution I’ve manually configured the port on my switch that my A-110 is plugged into to 100Mb speed. I’ve heard that if it is set to 1000 or Auto it can cause problems so I’m forcing 100. Jumbo frames are also turned off as it cannot handle those either.

Hey, speaking of which, can any of the Dune models handle Jumbo frames and I wonder if it would make any difference in streaming?

Damian May 25, 2011 at 10:08 am

The Dunes has issues with gigE, just as the PCH C200/A200 (this is related to the Sigma chip).

As far as jumbo frames there is no benefit to using for media streaming and there is more chance it does harm then good

Damian May 25, 2011 at 3:10 am

To add, zero issues with stuttering. I stream from my WHS via SMB over cat5e/cat6 to my Dunes and have zero issues with playback (and with multiple switches involved)

steagle May 25, 2011 at 10:31 am

Great to know. Performance-wise, does the Dune have more RAM or faster processor than the A/C200?

Damian May 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

I believe same RAM and it is the same Sigma processor

steagle May 25, 2011 at 7:15 pm

So do you think HDI’s claim of having the best network & high def playback is legitimate, considering specs are the same as the A/C200? There are so many variables that go into a network media player – quality of the network, quality of the files, quality of the media player’s components – that I don’t know how you could exactly quantify which is better based on the published specs alone. In other words, I’m still as confused as ever about which new player to get.

One last question for you and thanks for your patience in answering everything. What about files encoded at L5.1 or more than 4 ref frames. I have that infamous Planet Earth BDRip download (1080p, x264, DTS, 23.976fps, High@L5.1, 16 ref frames) and I’m curious if something encoded out of spec like this will play back without issue on the Dune. Do you have any files like this you could test over NFS? (or SMB if you don’t want to go through the trouble of setting up NFS). I would love to know how the Dune reacts to these kinds of files, as they are popping up more and more often, and I would love to be able to play back everything I download rather than spend hours or days reencoding or remuxing or redownloading new files.

Damian May 26, 2011 at 2:46 am

Well, first you must remember that how well a player performs is much more dependent on the software/firmware then it is the hardware. You can have two players with the same hardware specs but if one machine has poor firmware support it will clearly suffer

As far as “bad encodes” such as Planet Earth, etc… I have tested in the past and for the most part most of these files play fine. However, I have stopped using them as a test (except the Planet Earth Bird scene for a bitrate test) because honestly it is worthless, these encodes are not representative of the majority of encodes, so I don’t want to start lending weight to whether or not a player supports bad encoding. 1080p60 are really the only ones worth testing since it appears many camcorders are going in that direction.

steagle May 26, 2011 at 9:59 am

Gotcha. Makes sense. Thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions. I think I’m going to try the Dune next, if for nothing else than giving another product & firmware a shot. Not thrilled about having to switch to another media jukebox but anything is worth getting rid of the playback issues I have right now. Thanks again.

Damian May 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

Not a problem. Right now the Dune is the only media player that I have used that I have been able to play back all my content (including BluRay rips) with zero issues. The PCH performs well but has had some bumps in the road with fw. Don’t hesitate to ask any other questions.

steagle May 27, 2011 at 8:48 am

Ok well in that case :) I’m worried that if I get a Dune I might encounter the same core problem all over again – that is, super high bitrate scenes in various MKV files stuttering. I haven’t 100% confirmed it’s the A-110′s fault, it could be the read speed of the hard drives in my NAS, or the NAS’s speeds itself, or a combination of those factors with NFS. However, I really don’t want to go back to using physically connected or internal hard drives with my media player, maybe for a test, but not permanently. Love the versatility and tiny footprint of this NAS (Synology DS411slim). I’m going to do some serious benchmarking this weekend of my NAS speeds and might play with setting up HTTP on my Mac as well. I want to be absolutely the sure the stuttering isn’t caused by my own equipment before purchasing the Dune, because if its, chances are the Dune will stutter too.

Ok so there really wasn’t a question in there, lol. So how about this: Do you know where NFS speeds cap off, and with my setup (the DS411slim NAS streaming NFS over a GbE network to the A-110, which is at 100Mb), should the A-110 be able to play those Planet Earth scenes without stutter, or do you think it’s how I’ve set things up?

Damian May 27, 2011 at 9:24 am

As far as the Planet Earth scenes, it depends on which file you have. I have multiple Planet Earth files at varying bitrates (I think starting at 30 MB/s and going up to 100 MB/s).

Is your NAS and PCH connected to the same switch?

The A-110 is old hardware with an older chip, so I would expect high bitrate mkvs to stress it out

steagle May 27, 2011 at 10:46 am

Yeah they’re both connected with CAT6 patch cables to my Netgear GS-108T-NAS switch. The L5.1 + 16 reframe download actually played, but of course choked up on the bird scene, and had audio/video skipping every 10 seconds or whenever the scene changed. I’ve since replaced that with a much more practical version, still 1080p and same overall bitrate but L4.1 + 5 reframes. It chokes at every scene with lots of action (in ‘Mountains’ when the snow leopard is pulling its prey up the cliff when it’s snowing, and the eagles attacking the crane; and of course the bird scenes in ‘Pole to Pole’.) But at least there’s no audio/video skipping in regular scenes. The highest I’ve seen the bitrate go is 55Mb/s in the bird scene and that’s before it cut out and stopped reporting bitrate, so who knows how high it actually went. It seems the trend is when it reaches 30Mb/s and/or a lot of stuff is happening on the screen, the A-110 is going to freak out.

As a side note: strangely, when I remuxed these MKVs to TS, the A-110 wouldn’t even play them. I posted a thread about this in the NMT forum and waiting to get some suggestions as to why. So for now I’m stuck with these stuttering MKVs.

Tonight I’m going to put those two Planet Earth files on a USB drive as well as the PCH internal drive and test – if they continue to skip in those scenes (which I believe they will) then that will basically make up my mind to buy a newer player. I’m losing patience with the whole demuxing/extracting/remuxing solutions – I’m pretty technically savvy, but it’s so time consuming and annoying to have to do this for my files.

steagle May 27, 2011 at 10:52 am

I should also specify, that the PCH is set to 1080/60Hz and NTSC/24p framerate sync. I’ve tried all sorts of variations… 1080p/24Hz with no framerate sync, 1080p/23.976fps no framerate, auto video and NTSC/24p framerate, etc etc. 1080p/60 + NTSC/24p is the only thing that works somewhat OK for 24p playback which is what I’m trying to accomplish with Planet Earth and essentially everything else in my collection.

steagle May 30, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Update: Contrary to my prediction, the Planet Earth files that stuttered repetitively over NFS did not stutter at all when played back directly from a USB thumb drive. I also tested myiHome on my laptop, with the Planet Earth file on the laptop hard drive, and the file did not stutter either… and this was wireless! Is HTTP truly that much more robust than NFS, even over wireless?

This kind of sucks, because I invested a lot into my NAS and its hard drives, and I’d really like to use NFS for file serving to the PCH. So now I’m not sure the Dune will be the answer after all, but a re-assessment of my storage and protocol setup.

Damian June 1, 2011 at 5:09 pm

WHat happens when you try using SMB?

steagle June 1, 2011 at 5:29 pm

My NAS doesn’t support SMB; the only protocol that will communicate with the PCH is NFS. However I got a recommendation on the NMT forum to try llink for my NAS which will stream via HTTP which will be superior to both SMB and NFS. I also learned that the 200 Series has double the speed for NFS (66MB/s approx.) so I might just upgrade to that, keep my YAMJ jukebox intact, and not have to worry about installing software on my NAS to get smooth playback. Decisions, decisions. I’ve got a lot to think about!

Sadhana June 8, 2011 at 6:43 am

I am trying to use you tube as there are mnay movies on you tube that I would like to watch from my Dune which has ethernet connnection and hdmi to TV
However, it asks for macromedia flash player and adobe flash player for most movies. Any way around this apart from spending yet again for playon tv interface?

asianjabba July 25, 2011 at 11:21 am

hi Damien – again, thanks for all the help. A quick problem that i am having with my dune base 3.0 is i am trying to make a shortcut of Zappiti on my main page at DUNE. all my stuff is in a hp ex487 and i am using the NFS. when i create a shortcut and click on it, it comes up with the error udp:nfs path not found. but i can go into it fine if i go to NFS option and then choose Zappiti folder that way. I thought it’ll be easier for me to have a shortcut on the main page of my dune that will go directly to zapitti. I hope i’m making myself clear. thanks again for your help!

p.s. an ‘opinion’ question. do you think dune will come out with new players in the next year or two that will incorporate the new sigma chips for 3-d films, usb 3.0, giga-ethernet, etc.?

Damian July 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Hmmm… not sure what the problem is. I have both nfs and smb set up on my whs. Can you try adding your videos share as smb and see if you then get the same issue adding the shortcut (I assume you are using one of the later firmwares and you have system storage set up?)

The next big ship with be the SMP8910 (HDMI 1.4, gigE, VXP Video Processing, Blu-ray 3D). I think it is rumored this chip will hit in 2012 and I would expect Dune to be on board. This is what I am waiting for

asianjabba July 28, 2011 at 8:14 am

Hi Damian – I have a problem with my dune player base, maybe you can think of a solution. I currently updated my internet to a docsis 3.0 modem which is a giga ethernet router. i know the dune player does not work well with giga but i have to connect it to the modem regardless. back when i was on an old ethernet router, everything was working perfectly with my NFS shares. Now that i switched to the router with gig-e the stuttering has started and everything is slower. i know i need to force it back down to regular ethernet but i’m not really sure how. Only thing i can think of is to use a cat5 cable and force it down to regular ethernet or maybe attaching another old router to the modem and force it down to just regular ethernet. if you have any suggestions, i would love to hear them. Thanks again for taking the time to read my inquiry.

Damian July 28, 2011 at 8:17 am

You shoudn’t have to force anything down. My Dunes are connected to gigE switches with cat5e/cat6. The Dune will only try to operate as gigE if you have that option enabled in the Dune settings (I don’t have this enabled)

asianjabba July 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

are you using SMB or NFS? i am currently using NFS UDP which was working fine before, but now causes stuttering. I should test it with SMB instead and see if that is better. thank you again for your quick response.

Damian July 28, 2011 at 8:23 am

I have both NFS and SMB set up on my WHS but I use SMB to connect to the Dune (and have FastSMB enabled in the Dune settings). No stuttering issues for me

Full Name August 3, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Hi Damian, Good review! I actually *just* ordered the Dune HD Duo (which I suppose is similar to the Base). I’m very excited :)

A killer feature for me is that even though pricey at about 400 delivered, it gives me a great media player AND audio decoding in one package. My surround receiver does not have HDMI, but is very good still, and does have 7.1 analog in, so this fits the bill perfectly! I have been itching to hear how much improvement there is between DTS and DTS HD MA :)

Other than that, it seems like it just works, with minimal setup/complications (fingers crossed). I could have spent money on upgrading my pc to do the same, but I have grown tired of ever-existing codec issues, and throwing analog output into the mix would make it even worse…

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