About six months ago I had the pleasure of reviewing the Dune BD Prime 3.0 BluRay Media Player. The player has been rock solid in my setup, and with the addition of third party jukeboxes such as Zappiti it has provided an experience in certain respects equal to an HTPC. Shortly after reviewing the Dune BD Prime HDI announced a new lineup of Dune’s called the Smart series. Thanks to Mike @ Duneplayer.com I just received a review unit of the new Dune HD Smart D1 Media Player which I will be taking a look at today. Since the hardware/firmware on the new Smart models is nearly identical to the BD Prime I would expect the same experience. As such this will be a slightly shortened version of my usual review.
- Price: USD 255.95
- The newest Sigma Designs 8642/8643 media processor: enjoy excellent playback and performance of interactive features.
- HDD player: connect an HDD to the player and play content directly from the HDD.
- Network player: connect the player to a local network and play content directly from PC or NAS (UPnP, SMB, NFS).
- MKV player: play HD and SD video in a popular MKV format and other modern video file formats, including top quality HD video with very high bitrate.
- RealD: watch 3D video in this ultra modern format used in cinema for the latest movies.
- HD audio: enjoy top-quality audio tracks (Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, LPCM, FLAC).
- 3 USB ports: conveniently connect HDDs, USB flash drives, USB card readers and other USB storage devices.
- eSATA port: connect an HDD via the most efficient eSATA interface.
- Internal HDD option: use an optional 3.5″ SATA HDD installed directly inside the player.
- USB slave port: easily and quickly transfer files between the HDD in the player (when installed) and a PC.
- SD card slot: easily play media files on SD memory cards from your camera or other devices, or use an SD memory card as a local or system storage (required for BD Live function).
- HDMI 1.3: ensure the best possible quality of HD video and HD audio.
- A rich set of standard A/V connectors: use S/PDIF optical audio, stereo audio, component video, composite video outputs to easily connect any A/V equipment.
- Flexible support for Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio: output as bitstream or decode to LPCM for flexibility when connecting audio equipment.
- Video output flexibility: output video in any resolution and format (from SD to 1080p, 24p/PAL/NTSC).
- Upscaling: high quality upscaling of DVD and any other SD video content to Full HD (1080p) or other HD resolution.
- File browser: convenient file browser with powerful file management (copy, move, delete, rename, organize, sort).
- The best basis for multi-component Dune HD Smart system: built-in VFD display helps to build the most feature-rich solution.
- Processor: Sigma Designs 8642/8643
- RAM: 512 MB
- Flash memory: 128 MB, expandable with a HDD partition, USB flash drive, or SD card (2GB recommended)
- Media sources: internal HDD (SATA 3.5”), external HDD (USB, eSATA), external optical drive (USB, eSATA), USB devices (USB flash drive, USB card reader, etc), built-in SD card reader (SD/SDHC), PC and NAS in local network (SMB, NFS, UPnP, HTTP), other Internet and local network media sources (HTTP, multicast UDP/RTP)
- Video codecs: MPEG2, MPEG4, XVID, WMV9, VC1, H.264; support for very high bitrate video (up to 50 MBit/s and higher)
- Video file formats: MKV, MPEG-TS, MPEG-PS, M2TS, VOB, AVI, MOV, MP4, QT, ASF, WMV, Blu-ray-ISO, BDMV, DVD-ISO, VIDEO_TS
- Optical disc formats: data discs (CD/DVD/BD) (MP3, JPEG, etc), Audio CD (PCM/DTS), DVD-Video (retail and user-authored discs), Blu-ray (retail and user-authored discs) *
- Blu-ray playback: Blu-ray menu, BD-J, BonusView, BD-Live – for both Blu-ray discs (retail and user-authored) (*) and full Blu-ray structures (Blu-ray-ISO, BDMV) played from HDD and network
- Video output modes: wide range of supported output resolutions (up to 1080p) and framerates (including 23.976p, 24p, PAL, NTSC)
- Video output framerate: automatic (according to the played content) and manual
- 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, Ogg/Vorbis; support for very high quality audio (up to 192 kHz / 24-bit)
- Audio file formats: MP3, MPA, M4A, WMA, FLAC, APE (Monkey’s Audio), Ogg/Vorbis, WAV, DTS-WAV, DTS, AC3, AAC
- HD audio support: pass-through (up to 7.1 channels) and decoding (up to 7.1 channels) of Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD MA audiotracks (Blu-ray, TS, MKV), pass-through (up to 7.1 channels) of multichannel LPCM audiotracks (Blu-ray, TS, MKV), decoding (up to 7.1 channels) of FLAC audiotracks (MKV, external)
- Subtitle formats: SRT (external), SUB (MicroDVD) (external), text (MKV), SSA/ASS (MKV, external), VobSub (MP4, MKV, external SUB/IDX), PGS (Blu-ray, TS, MKV)
- Picture file formats: JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF
- Playlist file formats: M3U, PLS
- Photo viewer functions: slideshow, transition effects, picture rotation, zoom, browse playlist, repeat, shuffle
- Audio playback functions: browse playlist, repeat, shuffle, ID3 tags, plasma TV burn-in prevention
- Filesystems: FAT16/FAT32 (read-write), EXT2/EXT3 (read-write), NTFS (read-write)
- Ethernet: 10/100 Mbit
- WiFi: optional 802.11n WiFi (via an external USB WiFi stick, not included, D-Link DWA-140 recommended)
- Dune Network Playback Accelerator: special optimizations ensuring best-in-class network playback performance for the Sigma Designs 864x platform and enabling smooth playback of any supported kind of media content via any network protocol (including NFS and SMB) even in 100 Mbit/s Ethernet networks.
- High-quality music playback: play very high-quality (up to 192 Khz / 24-bit) music files in various formats (FLAC, Monkey’s Audio APE, WAV/PCM, DTS, etc).
- Playlists: build playlists from your folders, use your own playlists, use repeat and shuffle functions.
- NAS function: access files on storage devices (HDD, optical drive, etc) attached to the player from the local network (using SMB or FTP).
- BitTorrent: use built-in BitTorrent client to download files from P2P networks.
- Customizable user interface: work with media collections using cover art and icon browsing (with Full HD graphics).
- Flash applications: extend the player functionality with FlashLite applications.
- Internet radio: playback and record various Internet radio stations (HTTP/MP3).
- IPTV: playback and record IPTV streams (multicast UDP/RTP) from your Internet provider (check availability of multicast UDP/RTP streams with your Internet provider).
- Digital TV option: playback and record Digital TV channels using an optional Digital TV USB dongle (Digital TV USB dongle is not included; this option can be purchased separately).
- Internet browsing: view Internet Web sites on your TV using the built-in Web browser (built-in Web browser has limitations and may not allow to view some Internet Web sites).
- Modular System Support: Dune HD Smart players allow to create custom configurations based on the primary (head) unit like Dune HD Smart B1/H1/D1 and several optional extension modules of choice, which can be combined to form an integrated player.
The Dune HD Smart D1 came with the D1 (obviously), HDMI cable, IR Remote w/ 2 batteries, and composite cables.
Looking at the front of the D1 much of the area is taken up by an LCD screen. Below the LCD screen is the power button, IR receiver, SD slot, USB input, and eject button (for use with the option BluRay Drive module)
From the back you can see the LAN port (10/100/1000), 2 USB 2.0 ports, Composite/Component outputs, HMDI out, Optical, eSATA, USB Slave, and the power input.
The Smart D1 is about 2.5 inches tall, 5.5 inches wide and 11 inches deep (the depth is in part to allow for an internal hard drive if desired)
With the case removed you can see the tray for an internal drive as well as the Sata connector. Also, you can see that there is no case fan, so the D1 will operate silent.
If you remove the HDD tray you can get a better view of the board. In the center of the board is a USB input. If you plan on using system storage (which I highly recommend, it is needed to add shortcuts to the Main menu as well as BD Live) this is a convenient area to attach a USB thumb drive. A simple set it and forget it.
A 4GB USB thumb drive installed. As long as the thumb drive does not have any excess bulk it should fit without issue.
Overall the Dune Smart D1 is a solidly built machine. It may be a little deeper then some would like but otherwise has a very small footprint. At no point did I notice any sort of heating issues.
The UI on the Smart D1 is identical to the BD Prime (for more in depth analysis of the UI head over to the BR Prime review). Although not horrible the UI is still very basic, with a windows explorer type experience while navigating through your media. This is hopefully an area that HDI addresses as more and more media players in the market are getting away from the boring stock UI that we have become accustomed to. Simply allowing the Dune to boot directly into a 3rd party jukebox would at least provide a quick and effective solution.
Navigating around the UI on the Smart D1 was the same as with the Dune BD Prime. One thing I noticed is that on a few occasions the D1 became unresponsive for a short period of time. I don’t know if the unit itself became unresponsive or if the issue was possibly with the IR receiver. I used the D1 yesterday to watch a movie as well as test some files and not once did I encounter any issues, so I will have to keep a close eye on to see if it was possibly a one off experience.
The Dune HD Smart D1 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. As with the BD Prime testing out network performance over smb (you can see how I set up here), I did not have any issues playing back all my high bitrate content on the Smart D1. I did have Fast SMB enabled and I believe it is recommended that all users who play content over the network enable this feature in the settings.
I decided to test playback using the latest Dune IP beta firmware 101029 2349, which can be found here. Here is a description of what I tested and the results:
- mkv w/ chapters – supported (PASS)
- mkv w/ 480p internal IDX/SUB subtitles (PASS)
- mkv w/ 1080p internal IDX/SUB subtitles(FAIL)
- mkv w/ internal PGS subtitles (PASS)
- HD Audio downmix to stereo (PASS)
- mkv w/ forced subtitles – the Smart D1 does not respect the forced subtitle flag (FAIL)
- mkv/(m2)ts with DTS(MA) – bitstreamed without issue (PASS)
- mkv/(m2)ts with TrueHD Audio Track – bitstreamed without issue (PASS)
- mkv w/ VC-1 encoded video – played without issue (PASS)
- Forced Subtitles in a BluRay Structure – played without issue (PASS)
- BluRay ISO (main movie only) – played without issue (PASS)
- BluRay Folder (entire disc) – played movie with full menu support (PASS)
- DVD ISO and/or Folder Structure – played with full menus (PASS, also appears an issue with audio stuttering has been corrected)
- 1080p quicktime (.mov) trailer – played without issue (PASS)
- avi/mpeg/m4v clips – played without issue (PASS)
- mkv w/ FLAC – played w/ multi channel PCM (PASS)
- mkv w/ header compression – played without issue (PASS)
I must admit I am disappointed that mkv chapter support has still not been addressed, as this should be a very basic feature to implement and one that many other players on the market supports. That combined with support for forced subtitles in mkvs (which slowly players are starting to support) would provide a complete solution for the many mkv users out their. Overall once again the Smart D1 hit a home run playing back my various test files.
When it comes to online content there is currently very little offered. I noticed a new icon showed up recently on the Main Menu called Kartina.tv which I had never heard of (from reading around it appears to be a site for accessing Russian TV, the last Russian show I watched was Rocky IV!). I am not a big online content person but as more and more players add support for online content I believe this is something HDI will need to address to make the Dune players a more complete player. I did test PlayON streaming from my Windows Home Server to the Smart D1 and had no issues with playback (although PlayOn is a bit of a hack solution versus native integration).
3rd Party Jukeboxes:
This is the area for me that is real important as the stock UI of the Dune is lacking in so many areas. I have been using Zappiti with the Dune BD Prime, so it was nice that once the Smart D1 was set up I was up and running with Zappiti on the D1 in no time. One thing I like about a 3rd party jukebox is the ability to centrally manage the jukebox. Some players such as the Boxee Box you would manage the jukebox from the player itself. When having multiple players this could add extra work as you need too manage each player individually. With Zappiti or the other 3rd party jukeboxes I can simply manage the jukebox from my PC and know that both the BD Prime and Smart D1 will be updated and in sync (this also comes in handy since a majority of the time I am updating Zappiti remotely). For more information on Zappiti see my guide here. I also hope to take a closer look at yaDIS 2.0 and MyMovies (for this one I am waiting for individual TV episode support before digging in to).
Just as with the Dune BD Prime the Smart D1 lived up to expectations. From a hardware standpoint it is very well constructed, fanless, and quiet. Undoubtedly when it comes to local video playback, the Smart D1 not only does it but it does it well, and I would argue for local video content the Dune is amongst the best out there. Like many of the other media players out there music and photos is a weak spot, and if that is an important area then I would recommend looking elsewhere. With the expanded lineup across a variety of price ranges this should as well open up the Dune to a wider consumer base. The challenge that will present the Dune players is how they evolve in the coming year(s). Online content (such as Netflix) is becoming more important (emphasis on the U.S market), and if more media players continue to add online content Dune runs the risk of being left behind. There is also Cinavia looming and the question of how it will impact the current and future Dune players (more on Cinavia and the potential impact shortly). A simple solution for the bland stock UI would be to more tightly integrate the 3rd party jukeboxes into the UI (the easiest way would be to allow the user to have the Dune load directly into the jukebox of their choice).
Overall I feel that HDI has another winner with the Smart D1 and others in the Smart series. Continued work should be focused on forging online content partnerships, enhancing the stock UI, and bringing new features to their players (such as source direct, mkv chapter support, and mkv forced subtitle support to name a few). For my setup my top priority is flawless playback of my local content (in particular HD content) with an emphasis on Audio and Picture Quality, and the Smart D1 does not disappoint.
I should also mention that for owners of the Smart series there will be an option to upgrade to the next Sigma chip once available. It is unclear though exactly what the cost will be associated with the upgrade, so for now we will just have to sit tight and await further details.