Network Media Players: DLink DSM-320

As I mentioned a couple days back, I’m looking at “replacing my living room PC with a dedicated video player”: in order to waste less electricity and free hardware up for other purposes.

I’ve been looking around and it seems like things have improved a bit since I looked “a year ago”: DLink has an interesting product called the “DSM-320”: that seems to be going for ~$130, after rebate that does native decoding of various MPEG4 formats like Xvid. The native MPEG4 support is cool because it means that existing content doesn’t have to be transcoded on a PC and transported over the network. As a result, I should be able to stream video off my fileserver which uses a low power ~800MHz CPU. I’m also hoping that avoiding MPEG2 will mean that I can get smooth playback over my wireless network.

The DSM has some downsides. A big one is that its wireless network card doesn’t support WPA encryption, only the useless WEP, so I guess I’ll still need to use a WRT54G in my livingroom. It also sounds like video playback has been a bit wonky, but it sounds like the newest firmare versions have corrected a lot of glitches. The UI also sounds like it leaves something to be desired, but it looks like it will work well enough for our purposes.

It requires streaming media server software, but appearantly it adheres to some sort of standard, so I’m not limited to the software they provide, which is good, because I want to run the media server off my Linux box. On the downside, the most likely candidate, “Twonkyvision”: is 20 euros, adding significantly to the cost of the setup. It looks like at least part of the firmware for this thing is GPLed, so maybe someone will release support for playing media directly off a Samba share.

Another shortcoming is that the device doesn’t play AAC encoded audio (which I have a lot of since I’ve ripped all my CDs into AAC for my iPod), at least not without server-side transcoding, which is strange since the “Sigma chip it uses”: looks like it “supports AAC”:

For ~$130 (after rebate) it’s pretty tempting, but I’d hate to be stuck with it if it doesn’t work for me.

8 thoughts on “Network Media Players: DLink DSM-320

  1. eas Post author

    I’m not sure if that’ll work or not. I think they need to support some other standards so the player hardware can discover the device with the media library and the media on it. I did find a couple of open source UPnP media servers that should work though.

    I’m pretty tempted to to buy the device and see how well I can get it to work…

  2. Pete

    For what it’s worth, I’ve had a DSM-320 for about a year now, and I like it. It’s not perfect – for example, fast-forward and reverse in videos don’t work – but it gets the job done. I’ve run it both wired and wireless with no visible differences. I am streaming from an XP box and have used both Dlink’s product as well as Windows Media Connect, and both work fine. I’m in the process of converting my PVR over to Linux, so I need to find a Linux capable media server. Gonna check out Twonkyvision as well.

    Good luck!

  3. Ralph

    Has anyone tried using two DSM-320’s on the same network? I want to play different music in different rooms in the house. This could be wireless or Ethernet cable, from one server. Does it work?


  4. eas Post author

    Ralph, I never bought a DSM-320, largely due to the issues with fast forward and reverse that Pete notes (and the fact that the price went up). However, from my understanding there is no reason you couldn’t use two DSM-320s on the same network with the same server, provided you had enough bandwidth, which shouldn’t be an issue for music, even if you are using 802.11b.

    You will run into issues if you want to sync audio playback between multiple devices.

    If your intended use is audio, you might consider one of the network audio players from Roku or Slim Devices. They can’t do video, or drive a video display, but the flip side is that you can use them without relying on a TV to display the UI.

  5. donny

    i use mediatomb on my linux fileserver for use with my dsm-320rd (same thing as dsm-320 it just has a dvd player and flash card reader) i prefer ethernet over 802.11 b/c it has better throughput.

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