D-Link's DivX Connected comes home

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Oftentimes, it's difficult to qualify enthusiast-class hardware when it's just plain buggy, especially early in its lifecycle. Such was the case with D-Link's DSM-330 DivX Connected box, a digital media extender with wireless HD streaming.

D-Link's DivX Connected began its life as GejBox, and evolved into what we have today. At CES earlier this year, we looked at the device, and saw a promising future in it for DivX fans.

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Let's say I know this guy, and the chances are good you know a similar guy -- the friend who somehow gets every movie before they're even in theaters. He comes over with a backpack full of Sharpie-marked DVDs of the latest or strangest things and is always more than happy to help you find a copy of something you've been wanting for a long time. We will call this guy an "enthusiast." He is in the same class with your friends the film student, and the overprotective disc cataloger. Guys like these are the main body of DivX consumers. As a companion to their always-on PCs, DivX Connected would find a welcome home in any of their living rooms.

But how about the more casual content consumer, who would prefer to browse content with thumbnails and descriptions in an orderly menu format? This is where Stage6 came in, featuring a slick interface and surprisingly high-quality content for the amount of user-uploads it had. However, not a month after we looked at this box at CES, DivX had to shut down its Stage6 HD video service, a facet so integral to the DivX Connected platform that it had its own button on the device's remote, and was the only content provider built into its firmware.

D-Link did not release this device into the wild US market without any content, though. With a firmware upgrade, the company provided links to six content providers, including videos from Pulp Secret, Indy Mogul, Frederator, and Revision3, ambient backgrounds (turning your TV into an ever-charming HD Fireplace) from DivX, and casual games from Funspot. Though these are best classified as "niche" services, the list of third-party plug-ins is just long suit almost anybody. I was personally won over by the plug-in from Last Stop, a service which offers vintage films as well as public domain silents. The SDK is available from DivX Labs.

In our tests of the DSM-330, we found the main drawback to be its unreliability in streaming video. Quite a major problem, when this also happens to be the device's ostensible focus. Straight out of the box, DivX connected frequently stuttered and lost connectivity when streaming content.

Playback problems were not limited to just HD content, either. To improve performance, we upgraded both the device's firmware, and the server's software. After the upgrade, the unit crashed numerous times before routinely working. At one point, the DSM-330 determined the server PC had gone into sleep mode and endlessly tried to wake it up to no avail. The system also manages to completely freeze up when either the Wi-Fi connection or the Server connection is disrupted. While it streams DivX, Xvid, and transcoded WMV9 (as well as other codecs with proper plug-ins), video playback still needs more behind the scenes work to decrease necessary tweak-time on the user end.

Other main features of the device, browsing photos and streaming audio, fortunately never failed. The interface did get just a bit laggy when accessing a large MP3 collection and all the album artwork loaded onto the screen, but audio worked well. A decent selection of interface upgrades is available on the DivX Connected site, some of which may fix lag issues.

DivX Connected was released last week in the United States though Amazon, Newegg, and Buy.com with an MSRP of $299. After two rebates, the price comes down to $179.

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