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D-Link DSM-520: Flexible digital media player with HDMI

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June 13, 2006 5:05:25 PM

Quote:
I also couldn't play an MPEG4 movie encoded with an H.264 codec, and even worse, after I tried, the decoder got in a bad state refusing to play videos that had played before. Only a power-cycle restored its state.


H.264 is NOT MPEG4. It is merely in an AVI wrapper. It's D-Links fault for advertising AVI playback (maybe they meant uncompressed RGB24), since that has just turned into a wrapper for any format you want.

I'm also going to assume that Divx playback was fine, though it is not mentioned specifically, seeing how that is an MPEG4 standard codec (of course, without q-pel or GMC :)  ).
June 13, 2006 11:56:08 PM

I was curious why you didn't test any 1080P videos to see if there is a difference in picture quality between analog and digital. I would like to know if you could actually see the difference from 1080i to 1080P. I think we may be getting to the point were the human eye can't detect it but since I haven't seen anything like that I don't know.
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June 14, 2006 1:32:39 AM

I OWNED this player once upon a time. I purchased it because of the USB port. I figured instead of running a NAS storage device, I would eliminated the stuttering media streams experienced often when transmitting high bit rate media over wireless networks. I returned it because the USB port requires a self-powered USB device, except if you using something small like a USB memory stick; and also because when using a powered USB harddrive (=>2.5") and it "hiccups" it breaks the connection with the DSM-520 and causes and error, "no media files detected". This happened constantly. I could never watch an entire video.

Overall, it was a good media player. Anyone with a HDMI tv set will definitely appreciate D-Link's effort in including the HDMI port. As far as 1080i vs. 1080p quality, you are not going to see any additional image detail. 1080 is 1080 meaning for those of us that at sensitive to scan lines, with 1080p they won't be there.I didn't stream any 1080p content, but my guess is 1080p MPEG2 over any incoming connection (wireless, wired, or USB) is going to stutter if even playable. Not to mention that poor little processor inside the DSM-520 probably could not handle it.

I need to go on a rant here because of the 1080i/1080p controversey. Regardless of the resolution viewed the only difference between the two is an alternating image for 1080i and a full picture for 1080p. Some say they see choppy motion 1080i and I guess thats true. I don't see the choppy motion, I always notice the scan lines. I have witnessed 480p and 720p in their splender and I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm sure I will with 1080p. But, with 1080p (or 1080i) you need a large tv set such as 50" or greater. Otherwise the detail is too fine unless you like to sit directly in front and near the tv. 1080p on a 15.4" notebook screen or even a 21" desktop flatscreen is to small. Take it from someone who has navigated the gauntlet of tv sizes and believe me today and tomorrow are not the times to invest in HDTV's or LCDs. Five years from now a little unknown Taiwanese company will emerge and sell 1080p's for a reasonable price. Right now, forget about it. Spend you hard earned money on the PowerBall or something.
June 14, 2006 4:25:55 AM

I have the 320 version of this unit and I have a few thoughts for anyone thinking of buying it:

1) The remote is poorly laid out. And it's the same remote for both units. Additionally the unit/remote have a narrow field of effect so you'll find the nice comfortable "hit the button and it just works" feel of your tivo etc.

2) The system cannot play 99% of downloaded video. It gives an unplayable error and that's all. These videos all work fine on every PC based media player I can find. You wind up having to re-code everything, and most recoders don't seem to work well with it.

3) The Fast Forward/Reverser are downright shameful. They are incredibly slow FF and Rev and there's no extra click to make it FF or Rev faster. It's so slow as to be useless.

4) The "jump" feature that they talk about in the manual to be able to jump ahead in the video instead of the useless FF/Rev has never ever ever worked for me on any video.

5) The system often freezes mid-play while watching a movie and is probably 30% likely to lock up if you use FF or Rev at all. This is doubly painful because teh only recovery is to power the unit off and start from scratch reconnecting to the server. Then you have to sit for, and I kid you not, 15 minutes of pathetic slow speed FF to get back to where you were in the movie and take the crapshoot that it won't lock up when you hit play this time.

6) You cannot do basic things like delete a show when you are done with it.

7) You cannot play mp3s while you run a slideshow to use the system as an entertainment piece at a party or something.

All in all the unit gives an interesting feature set if it all worked like you hope it will when you shell out the money, but frankly it fails to deliver on quality, usability or even the common sense features that any user would want. I can only hope that they have improved on the unit for the 5xx series but frankly after reading the user forms I don't think so.

It gets a checkbox on almost everything on the features list when you comparison shop, but it's a minimal delivery on each of those features.
June 14, 2006 1:15:22 PM

From a reader:
Quote:
The GPL source for this device can be found at:
ftp://ftp.dlink.com/GPL/dsm520/

It would be interesting to see what some home-brew code could do with this
device. I notice that there's an IDE connection on the motherboard!
June 15, 2006 12:21:52 AM

Homebrew code is awesome but I can't see a huge community of people buying a $250 device then immediately voiding the warranty. A little down the road maybe when its cheap. Although seeing MythTV on this thing would be cool.
Personally I'm very cheap and would just look for a comp someone is throwing out slap in a new graphics card and a remote and you good to go with GBPVR which will run in whatever delapadated version of windows you have. You could get a cheap 6200 with HDTV out for like $55. I would also get an azurtech x-mystique soundcard that would convert everything on you comp over to dolby digital(run you $80 though so you could go cheaper). For a remote you could go with a $50 firefly.
You may also have to throw in some ram though. Then you could play whatever files you wanted although some formats may teake a little tweaking to launch with the my video plugin you can choose an external video player.
Granted it would not be quiet unless you replace the powersupply and cpu fan. It also would be obtrusive since its in your living room. You could prolly take the money you saved and try finding a small form factor HTPC case to put all this in. Granted my setup would be a pain to configure though if your looking for a video player in world were formats change everyday a PC is the best bet.
I'm currently waiting for an updaged hauppauge media MVP with HDMI and surround sound. This will probably take many years or possible never happen. This companies products are usually embraced by HTPC homebrew coders everywhere.
June 15, 2006 1:22:09 AM

Thanks for the feedback on the article guys - Regarding some of the questions and coments:

H.264 is NOT MPEG4 : I wasn't sure if it was, but I relied on a description on Wikipedia which stated : "The ITU-T H.264 standard and the ISO/IEC MPEG-4 Part 10 standard (...) are technically identical" but maybe I'm mising something. And yes, I should have mentioned it : DivX and XviD videos both played fine.

Regarding the question on 1080i vs. 1080p : My TV will only handle 1080i (I think...)

Regarding the comments on the 320 model: I had better luck with videos on the 520 than you did on the 320. I have a lot ot DivX and XviD movies that play fine. All my mpeg1 and mpeg2 files (with the exception of one 1080i high-bandwith clip) played fine. And i was able to play a slide-show and a mp3 at the same time.

Regarding the homebrew possibilities: Yes - I think that one could put together a pc-based system that would handle more formats than an off-the-shelf unit, but as of now, for myself, I'm just not willing to put up with the downsides that a PC in my entertainment center would bring.
June 15, 2006 1:32:00 PM

I have the 320 and am having great luck with my music collection ripping with C-Dex, and with movies ripping with Nero Recode. With movies I had been having them lock up, but if you keep file size below 4Gb they seem to play fine. I've also got hundreds of digital photos that I run on slideshow with music on shuffle. I'm entirely satisfied. But then, I set my expectations at a reasonable level. I know that nothing I'm buying is going to make a monster home theater system. Convenience of getting it all from the server is offset by some quality and a bit of hassle.
June 15, 2006 3:35:58 PM

One thing to note about 1080p vs. 1080i, is that a lot of the newest 1080 TVs won't actually have any difference between "p" and "i" during display. Most DLP based projection HDTVs and LCDs display the picture one "frame" at a time so any interlacing is digitally removed from the picture. So the "p" vs. "i" argument is null and void, and sending either signal to the screen has no difference in the end result that hits your eye.

But, unfortunately for us the consumer, over zealous reporters in prime time will keep this debate burning on for a very long time. Even though it truely doesn't matter any more.
June 15, 2006 4:17:03 PM

looks like there is no reason why the blue laser players cost twice as much then the HD DVD.
June 15, 2006 6:27:49 PM

Do any of you know if there is a media player that will play Quicktime MOV files?

I'm sure this has come up before, but i haven't found an answer yet. As is the case with many dig camera users, all of our movies are encoded in quicktime, and there are several hundreds of them. I could rake through them and convert them one at a time, but having a media player that can natively play them would be much easier! Somehow I see it as a liscensing issue, or the lack of processing power, but I'm still waiting for that "all in one" solution... Also, do you any of you have any experience playing 8MP pictures? I would assume that the media server converts them to thumbnail size before streaming, but I don't know...

Thanks for your input,
-=Mike
June 16, 2006 2:28:59 AM

Quote:
Do any of you know if there is a media player that will play Quicktime MOV files?


I believe it will if it is encoded with the simple profile and the extension is changed to .mp4.


Quote:
Also, do you any of you have any experience playing 8MP pictures? I would assume that the media server converts them to thumbnail size before streaming, but I don't know...


LOL, thumbnail size! The media server, or even the unit itself, will not dissapoint you. Send in a 8MP picture and the clarity will be as good as the display you view it on.

The media server is a good piece of work. If the codec is on your pc, the media server SHOULD be able to break it up and stream it. However, this is a different story should you be connected through the USB port. The firmware only supports those listed on D-Link's website. I use Nero Recode and there is virtually no noticeable quality loss when encoding a DVD at 1Mbps using the Cinema profile. Nero Recode and DivX are both excellent codecs, my preference is for Nero Recode because of its easy to use interface and TREMENDOUS speed.
June 16, 2006 3:06:55 AM

Did you try FF/REW in ANY movies?!? I've had this unit since January '06, and it has NO ability to FF/REW. When you try the FF/REW option it may or may not actually begin, but there is NO WAY TO RESUME NORMAL PLAY SPEED...

The "HD" support sucks - it's limited to 8mbs which is less than HALF the standard, most common bit rates on most HD content. The only way to play HD files is to re-encode them, which is a time consuming process.

Also, Dolby 5.1 won't play thru the HDMI so you need an optical cable in addition to the HDMI to get true digital sound.

I've been in contact with D-Link and they said they were aware of the problems. No promises to fix it or anything. I've also seen on other forums that many many owners have experienced the same problems.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been a single Firmware update since I've owned the machine, and D-Link hasn't even indicated that they're working on one!

I think it's important for your readers to know what they might be getting since Truth in advertising is NOT being enforced when it comes to these machines.!!
:x
June 16, 2006 4:02:13 AM

I tried the idea of just changing the extension for the MOV to MP4 and MPEG, with neither working in Windows Media Player... I didn't think it could be that simple... :?

Thanks for the tips though and the feedback about the pictures
June 16, 2006 4:41:10 AM

Quote:
I think it's important for your readers to know what they might be getting since Truth in advertising is NOT being enforced when it comes to these machines.!!


This oh-so true, escpecially when dealing with D-Link. D-Link had this model and others (DSM-320, 320RD, and 320CR; well maybe the 520 wasn't ready yet) ready in early 2004. They were even listed on D-Link's website for about a month. Suddenly, D-Link removed it from their website. About every six months D-Link would release a new model starting with the DSM-320. I waited till Jan 2005 to buy the DSM-320 because I spent all that time waiting for the DSM-320RD, which buy the way included a dvd player built-in. Yet, no sooner than I bought the 320, here comes the 320RD. Because of this type of marketing, I nolonger buy D-Link products. All they really are doing is piecemilling technology. They are not innovating a single item. I now go out of my way to stay away from D-Link products.
June 16, 2006 9:16:51 PM

You all act as though you've never been screwed buying a gadget before. For the price of these things you've got to expect that it's going to have some quirks or not quite measure up to the hype. Does your car really get the MPG that it says it does? Does that gum really make your breath minty fresh? And I promise you those pills you got online didn't add 4cm. Why should this thing be any different?
June 16, 2006 9:54:16 PM

your point is not entirely without merit, however your analogies are not quite equal ;

1) MPG does not prevent you from BRAKING or ACCELLERATING ..
2) I didn't spend $250+ for that minty gum...
3) Those pills didn't get a 'technical review' espousing how good they were from an otherwise reputable site resulting in the encouragement of non-technical users to go and spend their money.

Those of us who are technical understand the ups & downs of buying these toys, but D-Link is now marketing these to general consumers and they won't understand.

Personally, I think someone should start a class-action suit against them (and several other mfgrs) for releasing a product that does not deliver what it is advertised to deliver. Maybe a few suits like that would motivate these companies to actually TEST their products before release and only advertise what actually works!
June 16, 2006 10:27:59 PM

Did you try FF/REW in ANY movies?!? I've had this unit since January '06, and it has NO ability to FF/REW. When you try the FF/REW option it may or may not actually begin, but there is NO WAY TO RESUME NORMAL PLAY SPEED...

Hi Mystic1 - After reading your post, I went back and played a bit again to make sure I didn't miss something. On my unit, I can FF/RW on HD content without issue and get back to normal speed by pressing the "play" button. That said, the "speed" of FF and REW leaves something to be desired (maybe twice?) but it works. And the info button tells me the content is 1280x720 at 4165 Kbps. The test streams I use are HD movie trailers from DivX.com and the 4000 Kbps seems to be common on those. I suppose depending on the encoding of the content you use, FF/REW could behave differently. Testing FF and REW on some mpeg2 streams worked as well (but maybe not as smoothly?) . As mentioned in the article, a 1920x1080x16,000 Kbps mpeg2 stream did not play at all for me and I had one SD mpeg2 stream that played back out of sync with the audio.

My firwmare vesion is listed as 1.01
June 16, 2006 11:44:58 PM

Quote:
On my unit, I can FF/RW on HD content without issue and get back to normal speed by pressing the "play" button.


Wow. I'm on the same FW version and when I hit the play button after starting a FF or RW it restarts playing the movie from the beginning. On virtually every kind of file I've tried (vob , mpeg2, divx, xvid, hd, etc.).
when I call d-link support they said it was known problem, and indeed I've seen it reported on other forums as well. I wonder what's different between our setups? My unit is on a dedicated switched gigabit network with Cat-6 cabling, so I know it's not wireless issues. I'm using the HDMI output with a TOS digital audio.
June 17, 2006 1:04:12 AM

Quote:

Wow. I'm on the same FW version and when I hit the play button after starting a FF or RW it restarts playing the movie from the beginning. On virtually every kind of file I've tried (vob , mpeg2, divx, xvid, hd, etc.).
when I call d-link support they said it was known problem, and indeed I've seen it reported on other forums as well. I wonder what's different between our setups? My unit is on a dedicated switched gigabit network with Cat-6 cabling, so I know it's not wireless issues. I'm using the HDMI output with a TOS digital audio.


I thought one difference might be that I normally use the Twonkyvision server, but I just tried the D-Link server to see if there was any change. It seems to work for me as well. I tried VOB, mpeg2, DivX and XviD. On occasion the reverse behavior seemed a bit "flakey" but I don't think I've ever seem it jump back to the beginning when I hit the play button. There's nothing special about my setup on a 100 Mbit LAN using cat5 and Linksys switches hooked into the TV with an HDMI to DVI converter.
June 17, 2006 3:38:34 AM

Quote:
Wow. I'm on the same FW version and when I hit the play button after starting a FF or RW it restarts playing the movie from the beginning. On virtually every kind of file I've tried (vob , mpeg2, divx, xvid, hd, etc.).


If you go into the player's setup menu, you can change the way the ff/rev buttons function. This may solve you issue. It's worth a shot. How much wrong can you do?
July 3, 2006 11:33:07 AM

Can I remote control it from my pc?

I would much prefer to just send the songs to it from any or maybe just one pc without having to use the user interface on the device itself.

Is that possible?
July 3, 2006 1:10:12 PM

Quote:
Can I remote control it from my pc?

I would much prefer to just send the songs to it from any or maybe just one pc without having to use the user interface on the device itself.

Is that possible?


No, I don't think so. The only user interface is from the TV.

Jim
July 3, 2006 6:57:09 PM

UPDATE: I just finished testing the latest firmware release 1.02 and it fixes many of the issues I had previously! I can now FF/RW in most (not quite all, but pretty close) of the movies. The FF/RW won't win any speed records but I'm just glad to have it! I can also now play most (again, not quite all) of my HiDef movies, including many that are at a higher bitrate than the documented limit. Very big improvement and now it's definitely worth having!
August 10, 2006 4:01:35 PM

Sounds like the forum I need.
I need some help. D-Link can't seem to help me out.
I purchased my new DSM-520 yesterday and began to install the software on my computer this morning. After the mediaserver software loaded it launched and I recieved the following error. "MediaServerGUI Application has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience." I tried deleting the install and installing it again to no avail.
I called D-Link and they don't know what this problem is, but is must be the computer. I was able to load this software onto a laptop that I have, so it's not a glitch in the software. Anyone have any ideas where I might start? Searching on the internet (where I find most solutions to problems) hasn't yielded any help.

Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks,
Brian
August 11, 2006 2:41:16 AM

Not sure how much help I can be, other than to recommend you switch to Twonky or Microsoft's MediaConnect and forget D-Link's crappy server. Both Twonky and MSFT's run as native services so you don't have to stay logged on - and both are far, far, far more reliable than D-Link's (imho).
August 27, 2006 1:09:06 PM

Hey - What about jumping to chapter points, I've always found these far more useful that FF & REW anyway. Since the 520 will play .VOB files, is the DVD's start up menu accessible, and can it see the chapter points as well?
September 19, 2010 3:28:23 PM

This topic has been closed by Reynod
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