Review: D-Link DSM-520

D-Link's high-def TV media appliance promises much, but fails to deliver.

April 13, 2006

2 Min Read
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Storing your video content on a centralized media server is an idea that's been around for a while. Since video requires lots of (relatively) noisy hard drives, it's not something you want sitting in your home theatre room. Also, by storing your content centrally, you can view the same programs or movies anywhere in your house that you have a TV.

The problem is that the set-top appliances designed to act as a bridge between media servers and traditional home AV equipment have usually been behind the technology curve. For example, although the capability to record TV programs in HDTV has existed for a while, there weren't any set top boxes that could stream the content to your Plasma TV in the bedroom. And even non-HD streamers, such as Hauppauge's Media MVP and Gateway's Connected DVD players, had any number of implementation glitches that could make them nearly unusable.

Now D-Link is attempting to bring media streaming firmly into the HDTV universe with their DSM-520, a set-top box complete with HDTV capabilities, HDMI and composite outputs, and optical and coax digital audio. Like most streamers, you need both the appliance and a Windows desktop running their streaming media server software. You tell the server where your content is located, and it makes it available to the appliance.

The DSM-520 can use either a hardwired Ethernet connection or an 802.11a or g wireless connection. Setting it up is simple, all the configuration is handled via the remote and I had the unit attached to my network in less than 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, the DSM-520 suffers from the same kinds of design flaws and poor execution that have plagued other streamers. When watching content, attempting to fast-forward or rewind frequently dropped you back at the beginning of the program. There's also no way to jump forward or back by a set about (commercial skip), you can only fast-forward. There are also strange quirks, such as the fact that you can set the player to fast forward and rewind, or allow you to jump to a specific time in a show, but not both. Changing from one mode to the other requires going into the setup menu.The DSM-520 comes with offers for several music and one digital movie service. What you're really being offered is the chance to download content onto your PC and then stream it from there to the set-top. The only content at present that will stream directly to the D-Link product is music from Live365.Com.

The DSM-520 aims high, one of the first if not the first to offer streaming HD content to your TV. But for nearly $250 street price, it should do a better job.

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