When we got our D-Link DSM-330, we were genuinely excited. We've long anticipated that media streamers would be a useful thing to have in the home, especially if you have a lot of downloaded content that you'd like to watch away from your PC.
For £130, the DSM-330 carries great promise. For a start it can play Xvid and DivX files, which opens up a lot of possibilities for files from the Internet. It is also reasonably cheap, unencumbered by the expensive -- and for the most part unnecessary -- materials used in. Would it fulfill its promise?
The DSM-330 is the tofu of media streamers. While it completely lacks the pizzazz of Apple TV, its squat grey box with a single rear Wi-Fi antenna is small, unobtrusive and functional.
At the front, the DSM-330 continues to keep things simple with a single USB socket and a power button. There's also a light that tells you when it's on, and two others that monitor network traffic -- one for wireless, the other for Ethernet. Regretfully, these lights flicker when you are streaming content, which is ridiculous as it only distracts you while you're using it to watching TV.
If you hunt around the back, you'll find Ethernet, Scart, composite video, S-Video and HDMI sockets. You'll also discover analogue audio outputs, and coaxial and optical digital audio outputs. This treasure trove of connections is exceptional, and means this product is suitable for use with virtually all TVs, no matter how old.
The remote control rounds out this basic but functional package with its useful buttons and comfortable grip. From an overall design perspective, the D-Link may not be flashy, but it's making all the right moves.
At £130, there must be some sort of catch, right? Sort of. The reason for the the D-Link DSM-330's low price is that it doesn't actually handle decoding video. It also doesn't have a built-in hard drive, which would obviously drive -- no pun intended -- up the cost.
Essentially, you're getting an extender for your PC. Because of this, you must run a special piece of software on your PC to make it do anything. This is where the first problem lies, because by relying on the PC to decode video means you need a really fast PC to do so, especially when it's HD video.
The software you need is called 'DivX Connected', and you can download it from the DivX Web site, but finding a link was about as easy as finding a specific grain of sand on a beach when there's a strong wind. Once you get it, it's pretty easy to use and requires very little configuration. All you really need to do is point it towards your photo, audio and video collections.
To test the D-Link DSM-330, we tried two different machines. One was an old Athlon 3200+ with 1GB of RAM with Windows XP as the operating system. The other was a far newer 3GHz, Intel Core 2 Duo with 2GB of RAM with Vista. Try as we might, we couldn't get the DivX Connected software to work on the XP machine. It would install okay, but adding folders resulted in nothing showing up on the D-Link, and the software would forget the folders instantly. Sand, beach, wind -- frustrating. Luckily, the newer Vista machine was happier to cooperate.