HDTV

Dune HD - Base3D and TV-303D High Definition Media Streamers

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction to the Dune HD - Base3D and TV-303D

Streamers have been around for quite a few years. It took them quite a while to reach maturity. When this field was at its infancy, HD was just starting to get popular and Streamers offered a way to play back a DIVX or TS file without requiring a Home Theater PC in your living room. The beginning was very slow and tedious, early streamers were buggy and often had serious image, sound and build quality issues. Typically, you had to place your content in a hard drive inside the unit, or even burn a DVD containing your desired content - not exactly something that most people are prone to do.

As stability improved, streamers offered a way, particularly in areas where HD was not yet standard to play back a variety of files. Streamers had a unique value proposition - you could create a vast catalog of quality content and play it back. There were really no good alternatives for creating such a catalog (forget a multi room setup, even a single location catalog). Jukebox DVD solutions are still quite fragile and complex. kaleidescape offers a great solution, albeit an expensive one, but until recently limited to SD only...

The simplest and most effective way of maintaining an HD movie catalog was through streamers, particularly a catalog that needs to be accessed at more than one point in the house.

As HD became more and more popular and HD PVRs finally allowed one to keep stock of many different types of HD titles. Videophiles adopted Blu-ray, which finally offered a dramatic improvement over any other way of watching movies. However, OTT (TV over the Internet) solutions like Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and Amazon On Demand became popular - these streaming services have a huge catalog of accessible titles, but focused more on buffering and Quality Of Service, with image quality having a much lower priority. This evolution is pretty similar to how audiophiles lost high quality audio, first to digital media and then to low quality MP3.

The problem remains - there was really no simple way for someone to maintain a jukebox solution for high quality HD video. Streamers filled that void quite nicely. However, since the vast majority of users don't really need much beyond what cable, Blu-ray and Netflix offers, the market shrunk and is currently catering specifically to discerning customers and videophiles. I don't know about you, but Netflix video quality hurts my eyes... There is no way around the fact that Blu-rays offer the best video quality today.

Dune HD and Oppo are pretty much the only devices in town that allowed one to take a Blu-ray disk and view it (there are a few others, but these are by far the most popular Blu-ray compatible streamers around), while at the same time as allowing you to view backups of disks from a central location.

Oppo's solution was pure Blu-ray, but was limited to backups stored on SATA or USB storage. As many people will tell you, this is not a comfortable solution, particularly if you need the content accessible from more than one room in your house.

Note that streaming Blu-ray content around your house requires a fast network. I would recommend a 1Gbps wired Ethernet connection to every relevant room.

With the move to 3D, many are looking for a solution that would provide a jukebox Blu-ray solution , that can be streamed from a central location in the house. Videophiles are likely to have a variety of file formats, but likely also content such as an iTunes music collection, family photos and HD (or 3D) home movies. 3D content can come as a Blu-ray file, or a variety of file formats in either SBS (side by side) or Top/Bottom formats, depending on your video camera configuration.

Central storage for the house is pretty simple. I can personally recommend the DiskStation NAS products from Synology, which are high performance storage systems that can offer redundant drives and can stream high-bit rate content fast enough to all areas of the house.

Dune's last generation offering supported almost all of my requirements. Dune had 3 high end models that were relevant: Dune Base 3.0 (HDD local storage only), Dune Prime (Blu-ray storage only) or Dune HD Max (both a 3.5" internal storage plus Blu-ray drive). All 3 were fully capable and supported any file I threw at them, including playing back Blu-ray from the network storage.

Although 3D has not been taking off as expected, 3D content is really picking up and in the last few weeks we've seen an array of really great titles such as Life of Pi, Wreck it Ralph, the Hobbit ("a really long and tedious journey") and Rise of the guardians. What was really called for was a new type of streamer that is fully 3D compatible.

Options are scarce, the only alternatives were the new Oppo models (which supported Anavia, a deal breaker for many), the Popcorn Hour A400 (a great device, but far from stabile) and the new generation of Dune HD models. Dune HD is coming out with 3 different 3D compatible models this year: The Base3D is essentially a souped-up Base 3.0, the TV-303D and the upcoming Dune HD max.

DUNE HD - BASE3D AND TV-303D SPECIFICATIONS

  • Processor: Sigma Designs 8672/8673
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Flash Memory: 256 MB
  • 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: Opera, WebKit
  • DLNA: DLNA (1.5 or 2.0) Client Support
  • Adobe Flash: 3.1 (Lite, Standalone) Supported
  • Video Codecs: MPEG2, MPEG4, XVID, WMV9, VC1, H.264; Support for Very High Bit Rate 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
  • 3D Video Support: MVC, Side-by-side, Top/Bottom
  • Video Output Modes: Wide Range of Supported Output Resolutions (up to 1080p) and Frame Rates (including 23.976p, 24p, PAL, NTSC)
  • Video Output Frame Rate: 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, multi-channel 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), WV Pack, Ogg/Vorbis, WAV, 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 Multi-channel 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/EXT4 (read-write), NTFS (Read-Write)
  • Ethernet: 10/100/1000 Mb/s
  • Wi-Fi: Internal Wi-Fi (b/g/n) Module - can act as an Access Point!

Dune HD Base 3D

  • Connectors: HDMI 1.4, 3x USB 2.0 (2x Rear, 1x Front), Composite, Component, Analog Stereo Outputs, Optical S/PDIF, Coaxial S/PDIF, Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mb/s, SD Card Slot (Front), Power Input, Power Switch (Back), LED Indicator (Front)
  • Internal Storage: Internal HDD Rack with Hot Swap Function for SATA HDD 3.5"
  • MSRP: $299 USD

Dune HD TV-303D

  • Connectors: HDMI 1.4, 2x USB 2.0 (1 x Rear, 1 x Side), Composite, Component, Analog Stereo Outputs, Optical S/PDIF, Coaxial S/PDIF, USB 3.0 Slave, Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mb/s, Wi-Fi 802.11n, 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
  • MSRP: $199 USD
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