Review: Dune HD TV 301

by Damian on August 2, 2012 · 28 comments

in Reviews

As you may already know, I am a big fan of the Dune series of media players (such as the Dune HD Smart D1 and Dune BD Prime 3.0). Well, next up in the Dune family is their “Compact Series”, which is made up of the Dune HD TV 101 and 301. In this review we will be taking a closer look at the TV 301.

Dune HD TV-301A is a compact size hybrid universal media player which allows to play back video of standard and high definition up to Full HD (1080p), and also can be used as a specialized set-top-box for digital TV programs reception. TV-301A – is remarkable primarily for its ultra-compact size, elegant modern design and modest price. Despite the fact that the device can fit on a plam, its functionality has not been sacrificed to miniature size. TV-301A copes with its responsibilities not worse than senior representatives of the Dune HD players model line, which has to date won all possible awards of specialized printed media and exhibitions. This was made possible by using the most recent Sigma Designs SMP8670 media processor.

Specifications:

Price: USA: 159 USD / EU, with VAT: 159 EUR

  • Processor: Sigma Designs 8670/8671 – most powerful low-cost solution from Sigma Designs
  • RAM: 256 MB
  • Flash memory: 128 MB, expandable with a HDD partition, USB flash drive, or SD card
  • Media sources: HDMI 1.3, 2x USB 2.0 (1x rear, 1x side), composite, component, analog stereo output, optical S/PDIF, USB 3.0 slave, Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mb/s, Wi-Fi 802.11n (optional), SD card slot (side), power input, power switch (back), LED indicator (front)
  • Internal storage: Internal HDD rack with hot swap function for SATA HDD 2.5″. USB 3.0 slave interface and provided USB 3.0 (slave-host) cable allow fastest possible way of transferring data between PC and player
  • DVB-T or ISDB-T support: by request (option)
  • Media sources: external HDD (USB), external optical drive (USB), 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)
  • Web Browser: NetFront (ACCESS) or WebKit
  • Widgets support: when using NetFront browser
  • HbbTV and iPlayer support: when using NetFront browser
  • DLNA: Full DLNA (1.5 or 2.0) standard support
  • Adobe Flash: 3.1 (Lite, standalone) supported
  • DRM options: Microsoft DRM10 and PlayReady, Verimatrix, Secure Media, Flash Access (in work). Other DRM can be added by request
  • 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, BDMV, DVD-ISO, VIDEO_TS
  • 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), MPEG, AAC, LPCM, WMA, WMAPro, 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, AC3, AAC
  • 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: 10/100/1000 Mb/s
  • Wi-Fi: Internal Wi-Fi (b/g/n) module [TV-301W modification only]
  • Dune Network Playback Accelerator: special optimizations ensuring best-in-class network playback performance for the Sigma Designs 864x-865x-867x 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.
  • Dimensions: 160mm (width), 115mm (depth), 36mm (height)

Hardware:

Here is the box, not much else to add! Of course, me being me, the very first thing I noticed is that there were no DTS(MA) / TrueHD logos (I seriously was not consciously looking for this!). I will discuss this in further detail in the file playback section.

At the front of the box is the LED indicator and IR receiver.

To the right of the case is a USB 2.0 input and an SD Card slot.

To the left is an internal HDD rack with hot swap function for SATA HDD 2.5″.

To the back you will see your usual array of inputs and outputs. A few inputs worth noting, there is a USB 3.0 Slave and an IR extender (I am a big fan of this).

Here is a picture of all the goods, which includes a USB 3.0, Composite cable, HDMI cable, remote control w/ batteries, network cable, IR extension cable, various power plug adapters, and the power cord.

Here you can get a better sense of the TV 301 size as it is not much wider then my hand (an no I don’t have Andre the Giant hands!).

Overall the TV 301 is a nice little machine. There is no fan so it is silent. The casing is aluminum and feels sturdy. The small size means you can put this nearly anywhere, and the inclusion of an IR extender means you can get creative with where you place (including mounting on the back of a TV). There is an option for digital TV (via an optional Digital TV USB dongle) but this does not apply to U.S users (I believe this is for DVB-T or ISDB-T support).

UI Appearance:

The TV 301 comes with the same UI as the previous Dunes, broken out into several “tabs”. There is an option to change the default skin ( a variety of colors come pre loaded) and rearrange some of the view, but otherwise the UI is fairly basic.

One of the biggest differences between the TV 301 and the other Dune media players is the TV 301 does not support full Blu-ray menus, but instead employs BD-Lite. As you can see in the screenshot below, when you select a Blu-ray folder you will get an option to play (lite), Open, or Cancel.

Assuming you choose to play you will then be presented with a list of playlists to choose from. In most cases it should be easy to choose the main movie playlist, but as many of you who are reading this know, the playlists for full rip Blu-rays can get tricky (and in particular if you are looking to play back an extra feature it becomes trial and error).

While in playback with BD lite you get a very basic menu

Responsiveness/Remote Control:

The remote control is IR based which means direct line of sight is needed. However, an IR extender is included which will allow you to conveniently tuck the TV 301 out of sight yet maintain full control.

Navigating around is quicker with the TV 301 then the previous SMP8642 based Dunes.  We are not talking lightning speeds, but it is noticeably smoother with operations such as scrolling through a list.

Network Performance:

One area where the Dunes have always excelled is in network performance. The TV 301 has a gigabit interface, and unlike the Sigma 8642 Dune players, this appears to be more of a “true” gigabit connection. Testing 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 TV 301. Using the infamous “bird scene” from Planet Earth I was able to play back without issue up to the 70 Mbps clip via smb. I did have Fast SMB enabled (called Dune Network Playback Accelerator) and I believe it is recommended that all users who play content over the network enable this feature in the settings.

Audio/Video Playback:

Tests will be broken into 2 sections. The reason for this is because out of the box the TV 301 does not support HD Audio bitstreaming, and decoding is done to 2.0 stereo (not multi channel). There is however an unofficial patch which adds this functionality back. The first section will be based on tests using the OOTB support, and the second section will be to highlight any changes using the patch.

  • mkv w/ chapters – (PASS)
  • mkv w/ 480p internal IDX/SUB subtitles  (PASS)
  • mkv w/ 1080p internal IDX/SUB subtitles  (FAIL)
  • mkv w/multiple SSA subtitles – subtitles are not displayed properly (FAIL)
  • mkv w/ internal PGS subtitles (PASS)
  • HD Audio downmix to stereo – DTS(MA) (PASS) / TrueHD (PASS) * NOTE – downmix is only to 2.0 stereo, not multi channel
  • mkv w/ forced subtitles –  (FAIL)
  • mkv/(m2)ts with DTS(MA) – – bitstreamed without issue (PASS)
  • mkv/(m2)ts with TrueHD Audio Track – decoded to 2.0 stereo – (FAIL)
  • mkv/(m2)ts with Dolby Digital Plus – decoded to 2.0 stereo - (FAIL)
  • mkv w/ VC-1 encoded video – played without issue (PASS)
  • Forced Subtitles in a BluRay Structure – forced subtitles (using District 9) did not automatically display (FAIL)
  • BluRay ISO (main movie only) – played without issue (PASS)
  • BluRay Folder (entire disc) – played movie, only main movie with bd lite menu support (PASS, but no full menus). However, if the BluRay is a seamless branch (i.e. the main movie is broken up into multiple files) playback issues were encountered such as slight stuttering when you jump from one m2ts to the next (FAIL)
  • 2D/3D BluRay ISO (entire disc) – does not play, goes back to Dune main menu (FAIL)
  • DVD ISO and/or Folder Structure – played with full menus (PASS)
  • 1080p quicktime (.mov) trailer – played without issue (PASS)
  • 1080p WMV w/ WMAPro Audio – (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)
  • 3D SBS mkv – played (PASS)
  • 1080p60 mkvs- played without issue – played but jerky (PASS/FAIL)
  • L5.1 mkvs – played, however noticeable blocking in video (PASS)
  • 16 Reference Frame mkvs – – played, however noticeable blocking in video (PASS)
——————————————————————————————————————–

Using HD Audio Patch:

So there are a few items worth pointing out with my tests:

HD Audio: As seen in the tests, the TV 301 out of the box does not support HD Audio bitstreaming of TrueHD but did support DTS(MA) (which I actually wasn’t expecting). When bitstreaming, TrueHD would get downmixed to 2.0 stereo. When set to decoding both DTS(MA) and TrueHD would be downmixed to 2.0 stereo. For multi channel PCM though, the audio gets sent through as multi channel.

When I installed the patch, HD Audio bitstreaming  worked for both DTS(MA) and TrueHD with the exception of TrueHD in an mkv. In this instance the TV 301 will decode the TrueHD track to multichannel PCM. However, in doing this playback gets very jerky and unwatchable.

When the TV 301 is set to decoding, both TrueHD and DTS(MA) are output as multi channel PCM (without the patch you would only get 2 channel stereo)

Audio Dropouts: It appears the DTS(MA) audio dropout bug that affects some of the newer Sigma chips (as tested on the PCH A300 and Popbox v8) is still present. With several of my DTS(MA) Blu-ray rips audio would drop out completely (fortunately switching to a secondary AC3 track fixed the sound issue).

Third Party Jukebox:

Since there is no internal media jukebox, reliance on 3rd party jukeboxes is needed for those looking for a better way to manage their media collection. Since nothing has changed here from my previous Dune reviews/writeups and I have discussed in detail (Zappiti, yaDIS, etc…) I won’t go into further.

Online Content

Really not much to report here. The usual requested online services (such as Vudu, Netflix, Hulu, etc…) are not present. You do have access to a basic web browser (Flash not supported) as well as a few other “standard” applications (Facebook, Youtube, etc…)

Final Thoughts:

Overall I found the TV 301 to be a nice little machine. As with any new chip there are expected to be bugs at first, such as periodic issues with HD Audio dropouts. Also, although growing in popularity, BD lite use with Blu-ray folder rips still suffer from some noticeable issues, including skipping during playback of seamless branch Blu-rays and lack of support for forced subtitles. When it comes to HD Audio it is a tough call. If you stick with the TV 301 OOTB you are left with HD Audio decoding to 2.0 stereo, an unfavorable option for anyone who has a speaker setup (of course those who use multi channel FLAC have nothing to worry about). If you decide to go with the patch you regain HD Audio bitstreaming and decoding to multi channel, but will run into issues for any TrueHD mkvs. As well, since the patch is unofficial it is unclear what other affects it may have either now or with future firmware updates.

The key thing to remember is that the TV 301 is not meant to replace the current Dune series of players. The current players (the Smart and Premium series ) are meant to be the flagship models. The TV 301 simply helps to broaden the user base with a cheaper/light weight model that for many people would serve best as a secondary player or those who have lesser demands.

A big thanks to Mike at DunePlayer for providing the TV 301 for review.





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


{ 27 comments }

Ivo August 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Cheers, very nice review!

Ivo August 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm

You mentioned Youtube, can you adress directly or do you need a third-party plugin for it?

Damian August 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Youtube is an included App, so you simply launch from the Dune without needing to add anything

Ivo August 2, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Would you say the HD TV-301 is faster then HD SMART-D1?
What are the biggest differences between those? Technically.

Damian August 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm

TV 301 is faster when navigating around as it is using a newer chip.

Other Dune players use the older SMP8642/8643 chip and has 512 mb RAM (301 has 256 MB). Otherwise, I don’t believe there were any significant differences aside from what I mentioned regarding BD Lite.

Also, since the other Dune players are running the older chip, this has allowed for time for the fw to mature, so more stability.

Magoo August 3, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Great Review Damian! :)

Frank Benign August 12, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Any chance it’ll have full BluRay ISO support in the future? It does have a newer chip after all.

Damian August 13, 2012 at 2:45 am

Highly unlikely. Newer chip has nothing to do with it, it is about paying for the license. Since this is meant to be a more budget friendly player versus the other Dunes the Blu-ray license was one area that was skipped

Damian S August 17, 2012 at 1:47 am

Will you be doing reviews and or guides of Dune Flash Interface and Eversion on the dune players? Dune Flash Interface is now officially my new favourite jukebox but since there aren’t any clear instructions I am sure that a guide from you will help others.

Thanks,
Damian

Damian August 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Hi Damian,

First, awesome first name, glad to see someone else spelling it correct :D

I had actually started a DFI guide when it first came out, but there were too many issues at the time to make it worth using. It may be time for me to revisit though. As far as Eversion I actually just spoke with Accident (the developer) today. Sounds like he may have found a file that was causing issues, so I might be able to help him test and then do a writeup.

If you have an iPad you can use an App like 10 Muse to control (another writeup I have in the works)

I am always open to suggestions or comments.

Cheers
Damian

Damian S August 20, 2012 at 11:46 am

Hi Damian,

Any other spelling would mean you are the Omen wouldn’t it?

I still think DFI is the best jukebox right now but I can confirm that Eversion is working as I have it working on my Dune D1. I think if the creators of DFI put up some nice screen shots then more people will try it.

I have tried 10Muse on my iPad and it is very pretty but I was only using the free version though.

Damian August 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

Yup, I always have to explain this every time I get the “Omen” comment lol

Was the issue fixed with Blu ray folder/ISO playback using DFI? When it was first released this was a limitation of using Flash on the Dune, not sure if it has been resolved (this is one of the reasons why I avoided writing a guide on DFI at the time)

It would be nice if 10Muse came to more platforms instead of just the iPad (in particular Android). My sons have pretty much claimed the iPads for themselves so it is very hard for me to test (and of course I love my Asus Transformer tablet and Android phone :) ).

Cheers

Damian S August 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I only started using DFI from the latest release so I cannot comment on previous issues. I only have one Bluray ISO and dozens of Bluray folders so I can confirm the issues must have been resolved because they work for me. My favourite feature on DFI is having separate tabs for my movies, music concerts and nature shows.

I use DMC on my Galaxy note but the adverts are kinda annoying so I prefer just using the regular dune remote

Damian August 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Good to know, I will definitely revisit since a large part of my collection is Blu Ray folder rips.

I had DMC set up, just found it was a bit laggy, but I guess that is teh tradeoff since it is network based (vs. 10Muse where you actually load the jukebox files onto your mobile device)

Jeff August 28, 2012 at 12:16 am

Hey Damian, great review as usual! Out of curiosity, have you ever tested out the new android bluetimes players? A friend of mine brought one over recently and I was very impressed, actually looked something like a dune clone, but was significantly cheaper. I have a Dune Smart D1 and I love it, but I was impressed by this android player though I can’t speak to its reliability/lifespan.

Damian August 28, 2012 at 8:05 am

Hi Jeff,

Those players run on the Realtek 1186 chip, and in general are rather buggy. I am currently testing out two players and a third one I threw up on eBay. I would also be very careful with no name brands right now, as support has been abysmal compared to some of the more well known names (i.e. Mede8er). I also think the whole Android thing is a gimmick right now, not ready for prime time.

Evan December 12, 2012 at 9:15 am

Damian – My TV-101 cannot obtain an IP address. It’s hardwired ethernet cat 6 cable to my router. I tested all four ports on my router with other devices and they all obtain the IP address instantly and get internet access. The TV-101 can connect wirelessly to my router, but that’s not sufficient to stream movies from my PC which is my goal. I have a Dune Smart D1 connected to this same router and it works flawlessly. I connected the TV-101 to all four ports on the router using cables that work with all my other devices. TV-101 cannot obtain the IP address. I’ve got the latest firmware installed. Any ideas?

Vin Mendoza February 19, 2013 at 6:40 am

Hi Damian,

Again thank you for the great review and information. I bought a box from this family, to test and use in a secondary area. (playroom). However, 90% work and work well, even high speed nitrates, where I use DTS/DD bitstream, no HD audio. But certain movies don’t play at all, namely the Star Wars rips in MKV container. the audio is sparse, and the video doesn’t play, the info shows format as “DTS” rather than H.264 and shows a rather low bitrate. I thought I narrowed it down to 20th center fox movies, but my 2002 Spiderman collections did not run either, maybe something with DTS MA? anyway, I saw that you also had issue with star wars, but not identical to mine. curious what you though the cause was?
thanks for you time,
Vin

Damian February 19, 2013 at 6:42 am

The Star Wars movies are one of the most common ones that have issues with the DTSMA audio bug (I thought my rear speaker was going to blow out from the drops). Not sure if it is related to it being a 6.1ch soundtrack, but supposedly a fix will be in the next FW update

Cheers
Damian

Vin Mendoza February 19, 2013 at 6:40 am

Sorry, forgot to mention it was a TV 101,

IT MAN February 24, 2013 at 9:59 am

Hi Damian

can I watch moive with ipad from Dune HDD TV 301 ??

Damian February 24, 2013 at 10:53 am

Do you mean watching a movie on your iPad that is stored on your TV301? If so it might be possible as long as you have the UPnP and smb servers on with your Dune, but then again you would probably also need to jailbreak your iPad. I personally wouldn’t look to use a setup like that

Damian February 24, 2013 at 11:03 am

i don’t understand . It mean i install app player can connect with protocol SMB of dune and play ?

Damian February 24, 2013 at 11:05 am

If you have an App on your iPad that lets you see smb shares over the network, and you have storage with videos connected to your Dune, then yes you should be able to play back on your iPad (assuming the format is compatible with the iPad). I assume this is what you are thinking

Damian February 24, 2013 at 11:19 am

But i not sure dune have share file with protocol Smb ?

Damian February 24, 2013 at 11:20 am

Yes it does, that is the SMB Server I commented about (it is a setting on the Dune, I use it to test transferring files from my PC to an internal drive on the Dune)

Damian February 24, 2013 at 11:25 am

Thanks you. => ipad work w any hd player have smb or ftp … ( because ipad have app connect w smb protocol)

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