Digital Home Canada is a great site that has a very full review of the DLink Home theater receiver that works wirelessly to stream media from your computer. I put this review up because I think that this is a fantastic product.
Billed as a digital entertainment centre, the D-Link DSM-320 Media Player is a wireless networking device that connects your home network to your home theatre. By connecting the two, you can play media files (music, video and photos) that are stored on your computer through your TV or stereo.
Digital Home Canada had the opportunity to install and test the DSM-320 in our home and detail our findings in this review.
Editors Note: Digital Home Canada is currently on summer hiatus from July 22nd until August 7th. During this time, we will be re-publishing some of more our more popular how-to and general interest articles that have run on the site in 2006. This article originally ran on Digital Home Canada in January 2006.
We will return on August 8th with the latest Canadian Digital News and information. In the meantime, if you are looking for information then search the Digital Home website, HDTV Knowledgebase or DigitalWiki. Our Digital Forums, with it’s 21,000+ members remain open for discussion.
The DSM-320 (shown below) measures 16.7 inches wide, 11.4 inches deep and 1.7 inches (about the size of a slim line DVD player) and comes in a matte silver finish with a black strip across the width of the front panel. The only button on the front of the unit is the power button so you’ll need to control the DSM-320 with the remote. The 43-button remote includes all the buttons you’d typically expect on a standard A/V remote and adds direct access buttons for music, photo, video, and online media.
On the back of the unit you’ll find plenty of ways to connect to your home theatre. For audio output you’ll find analog, optical digital, and coaxial digital and for video you’ll find composite, S-Video, and component connections. To connect to your home network, you have the option of 802.11g wireless (be sure to attach the flip up antenna) or a wired connection via the Ethernet port.
The DSM-320 supports three audio formats (MP3, WMA, and AIFF audio); M3U and PLS audio playlists; six photo image formats (JPEG, BMP, PNG, TIFF, GIF and JPEG2000); and five video formats (MPEG 1, MPEG 2, MPEG 4, Xvid, AVI). Through the Online Media button, the DSM-320 can stream Live 365 or Napster radio provided you are a subscriber to the respective services.
Although the list of supported audio and video formats is extensive, we should note that D-Link does not support AAC or DIVX. For online media enthusiasts, the DSM-320 will not work with popular music services such as MusicMatch or Launchcast.
The following diagram, courtesy of D-Link gives you a sense of where the media player would reside in your Digital Home.
The most pleasant surprise about the installation of the DSM-320 was how easy it was to install. From the time we opened the box to the time we were up and running was less than 30 minutes.
After you open the packaging, there are three basic steps to installing the DSM-320: Installing and configuring the Media Server Software on your PC, wiring the unit to your home theatre and finally tweaking the unit to communicate with your wireless network.
Inside the box, we found the D-Link DSM-320 Wireless Media Player, and S-Video Cable, a Cat 5e patch cable, Standard Composite RCA Audio/Video Cable, remote control and a CD with software and manuals in .pdf format.
Step One: Installing and Configuring the Media Server Software
Our initial installation of the Media Server Software was trouble free, however we did run into a problem in step three of our installation which forced us to visit the D-Link website and download an updated version of the D-Link software.
Our recommendation then is to not install the software from the CD and simply browse to the D-Link DSM-320 support page here and download the latest D-Link media server software. At the time of writing we had installed Version 1.0.3
The 16 page Quick install guide, which can be found on the CD, took us through every step of the implementation and we found the instructions complete and very well done. If you’re interested in reviewing the installation prior to purchasing you can download the Quick Install Guide by clicking here.
Once you’ve got the Media Server software install, you’ll need to tell it which folders on your computer contain all of your digital files. Simply start the server software and you’ll be presented with the following screen. Simply add the required folders. This was the longest part of the install as the program took almost ten minutes to catalogue all of our media files.
With the server software running and the files catalogued, it was time to connect up to our home theatre.
Step Two: Connecting the DSM-320 to you Home Theatre
Anyone who has hooked up a DVD player or VCR should have no problem connecting the media player to their home theatre.
Simply connect the flip up antenna, connect to your A/V receiver with the supplied audio and video cables, and finally plug the DSM-320’s power plug into the wall. Please note that for the best audio quality, we recommend you use the digital audio connection. A digital audio cable is not provided so you’ll need to pick one up when you’re at the store.
Step Three: Configuring the DSM-320
The final step in setting up the media player will be for many the most difficult but it shouldn’t have to be provided you know the name of your wireless network, the type of wireless encryption you are using and your WEP key. If you do not know this information, we recommend you consult your router manual and find out the information before performing this step.
So, once we had physically connected the media player to our home theatre it was time to turn it on. Armed with the appropriate information, we simply followed the prompts that came up on the television and entered the required information using our remote. We were slightly confused on how to enter our WEP key when prompted but a quick check of the manual and we had everything figured out pretty quickly.
Once the appropriate network information was entered, the media player found the 802.11g network without any problems. The unit then checked for online updates and automatically upgraded the firmware to version 1.0.5ca.
After the DSM firmware had been upgraded we ran through the setup screens and made two changes. The first change and most important was to tell the unit that we would be outputting audio through a digital optical cable (the default I analog audio out). The second change was to set the aspect ratio to 16:9 (default was 4:3) since we were hooked up to a widescreen television.
Once we hooked up and configured we were ready to view some photos and listen to some music!
Using the DSM-320
We found the DSM-320 very easy to use and the navigation very straightforward.
The following is a screen shot of the home page you will see when you turn on the DSM-320. We were able to navigate through the menus quite easily using the remote and the direct access buttons let us jump out from deep within a series of folders back to the main page or directly to the audio, video or photo menu.
Since it was first, we began by listening to some music. We found the sound quality to be excellent and did not experience any problems during playback.
Our biggest complaint while selecting music to play was the limited number of files that are presented onscreen when navigating through the menus. Frankly you could spend all day paging down looking for a particular song to play. The unit’s ability to search by such things as artist and genre can speed things up but it’s still inefficient. We found the best way to get around this problem was to create playlists in Windows Media player and then save them to a folder on our hard drive. Once saved, we simply selected the playlist we wanted onscreen and we were playing songs right away rather than navigating through menus.
After listening to music we moved onto to viewing photos. Once again the player performed flawlessly but again menu navigation was time consuming. Thanks to a speedy 802.11g wireless connection we were also able to stream audio and photos at the same time. This led to a nice relaxing picture session where we were able to listen to our favourite songs while viewing digital images.
Our only complaint while viewing photos was photo quality. Frankly a digital image can look pretty crappy on a 50” widescreen television. This has nothing to do with the media player and everything to with the fact that even a high resolution .jpg simply does not look good when presented on a screen that size.
Finally, we played back various video files without any difficulty. We did not try to stream any online media to our home theatre since we lacked a subscription to either live365 or Napster.
DSM-320 Pros and Cons
The D-Link DSM-320 Media Player is a good looking, easy to install, and affordable device that can stream the most popular formats of digital media to your home theatre. On the downside, if you require the ability to stream AAC or DIVX files, or wish to stream Internet radio from such services as MusicMatch or Launchcast then this unit is not for you.
Here’s what we liked the following about the DSM-320:
Easy to setup;
Easy to use;
Fits nicely into your home theatre;
Excellent quality sound when using the digital output;
Can Control playback from Living Room.
Here’s what we disliked the following about the DSM-320:
Digital audio cables not included;
Unable to stream Internet Radio from services such as Musicmatch or Launchcast;
Difficult to navigate and find files if you have a lot of files.
For home theatre enthusiasts, the DSM-320 Media Player, which retails for $189 Canadian, is a reasonably priced solution for those who want to stream more than just music files to their PC and want to control playback from the armchair in their living room.
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