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HDI Dune BD Prime 3.0 review: HDI Dune BD Prime 3.0

The HDI Dune BD Prime 3.0 is an excellent video streamer and CD player, but unfortunately it doesn't quite pass muster as a Blu-ray player.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
6 min read

Back in the days of yore, if you wanted a Blu-ray player you had one of two choices: the AU$700 PlayStation 3 or one of a handful of players costing upwards of AU$1500. Times have changed, as they must, and the situation has reversed with players by top tier manufacturers now under AU$300 and the PS3 Slim at AU$499. As a result, manufacturers asking customers to pay more than a PS3 either need to pile on the features or present you with a picture so exemplary that you'd be crazy to pay any less.


HDI Dune BD Prime 3.0

The Good

Excellent video streaming. CD replay surprisingly good. Easy to use GUI. Heaps of features including BitTorrent client.

The Bad

Blu-ray playback not the best. Flaky at times.

The Bottom Line

The HDI Dune BD Prime 3.0 is an excellent video streamer and CD player, but unfortunately it doesn't quite pass muster as a Blu-ray player.

Enter the HDI Dune Prime 3.0. It's priced at AU$599, so which route has its designers decided to take?


HDI, like Oppo before it, is not an oft-spoken word on the lips of Australians, and so it's had to work a bit harder to show it's not just another knock-off brand. As Oppo did with its BDP-83, HDI ups the build quality on the Dune Prime 3.0. The player features a brushed black casing with rounded edges and a luxurious "hard" power button. The player is relatively squat, with the Dune logo stamped on top and quite a small readout.

The remote control is relatively good with bright, well set-out buttons, and a rubberised, matte-black finish.


The HDI Dune Prime 3.0 is an unusual unit because it blends a network media player, NAS and a Blu-ray spinner in the one box. The unit boasts a built-in FTP and SMB file server as well as a BitTorrent client, which is quite beyond the range of every other set-top box on the market. Unfortunately, this functionality can make the unit a bit clunky and hence more attractive to "enthusiasts".

The device supports a wide variety of popular (and even obscure) file formats including MOV MKV and DivX, and it's almost easier to list the formats it doesn't support: namely OGG. If you have straight "rips" of DVDs or even Blu-rays then the Dune should play them with its support for Blu-ray-ISO and DVD-ISO.

To aid in the playback of these files, the player comes with a feature called the Dune Network Playback Accelerator — optimised playback over a 100 or 1000 network for supported video files, and having watched some MKV files we can attest to its ability to decode a HD stream over a network. The Dune also offers upscaling and deinterlacing to 1080p via the HDMI port for DVD and other SD sources. There is also some flexibility in the player's ability to predetermine autoplay settings by media type — for example, you can ask the player to playback CDs automatically but not Blu-rays when put in the tray.

The Prime 3.0 comes with two USB ports which can be used for a multitude of purposes including adding a wireless-N adapter or a USB external drive. The player also comes with an eSATA drive for adding storage as well, while the AV-centric connections run to HDMI, component, composite, stereo and 7.1 audio and two digital audio connectors (coax and optical).

Like Topfield, HDI loads up its players with plenty of future proofing and adds features over the life of the product. It even offers a voting system whereby users can request new features that will be incorporated into future firmware update. For example, one of the most recent additions (and most obvious to us) was the ability to download firmware directly from the web.


Given the amount of connection options over the usual Blu-ray player (external hard drive, Ethernet, HDMI) it took a little longer to install but once done we sat down and opened the user menu. The home screen is quite user friendly and features large, easy-to-understand icons. Navigating to the feature you want is usually straightforward and there is a lot of muscularity hidden within the menus. It's also easy to make your way back through menu trees thanks to the "website-like" navigation breadcrumbs.

Given the number of options available we started with the player's media-streaming capabilities first. Though the player has support for both SMB (Server Message Block) and DLNA we found its implementation of the latter a little strange. TwonkyMedia is one of the best DLNA streaming apps out there, but the Dune refused to read anything from one, and when reading our NAS it put all of the songs in alphabetical order — one of our pet hates. Also, though the player lists WAV files as supported the browser couldn't find any of them regardless of quality level.

Many players offer some sort of visualisation when you play back MP3s or CDs and they vary from the sophisticated — the planetscapes of the Apple TV — to the rudimentary, of which the Dune fits into. You get the file name darting around your screen and that's it, but after loading up the latest firmware we found that some of the playback information had improved, though it's still just white text on a black background.

Having tested MP3s it wasn't until we tested video streaming that the Dune Prime 3.0 really came into its own. We tried a 720p MKV test file on a Dell M1330 and the Oppo BDP-83 and found that both either lost voice synchronisation or came out so blocky that it was unwatchable. On the Dune the file played back perfectly — even over a 100MB/s network and really demonstrated the strengths of this player.

Unfortunately, we were unable to test the IPTV capabilities of this player as it will only support feeds from your ISP if they provide them, such as TPG, but ours doesn't.

But this is a Blu-ray player after all, and so we tested the players abilities with little silver discs. The player does offer a bewildering number of options and initially the player did quite terribly with the Video and Film tests, but after turning Auto Framerate off we found that it passed the Video resolution test but not Film (which tests 24p compatibility). Noise reduction and anti-aliasing (getting rid of jaggies) on the other hand was good. Disk start-up is quick at a time of 45.1 seconds to load our Vantage Point disc.

When playing movies we found that the Dune's failure to replay 24p manifested itself as a faint jerkiness in movement — not as bad as the Kogan BD 2.0, but not as smooth as the cheaper PS3. But detail, colour and black levels were acceptable for a player of this price. Playing back The Matrix on Blu-ray showed that the on-board decoder was capable of resolving a high-quality 7.1 soundtrack, though it lacked the presence of the Sony DA5500 receiver.

DVD replay was also good, with noise reduction working its magic on the blocky textures of our King Kong test disc. Sound quality of the on-board decoder was also fine with surround effects placed strategically around the listening area during the Brontosaurus Stampede scene.

We also tested the on-board BitTorrent client with a legal torrent of the new documentary Home, and found that while we had to jump through a few hoops it finally downloaded the file, and once there it enabled us to serve it to other PCs on our network. Strangely, you can't access the contents of the attached drive directly through its icon on the main page — it will tell you it's empty. Instead you need to navigate to the Torrents icon and through the drive to playback the content you downloaded. This is a pain in the neck.

Apparently, the first firmware release didn't support CD at all, so we were surprised to hear how well it performed. We tested its analog output versus the ="http: www.cnet.com.au="" cambridge-audio-dacmagic-339297450.htm"="">DacMagic — perhaps unfairly — which had a bit more oomph, clearer treble and a richer mid-range, but for a media player that until recently didn't support CD at all the Dune does a corker job.

Finally, while we enjoyed playing with Dune Prime 3.0 it does feel very much like a "work in progress" as many of these media streamers do. There were a couple of operational quirks — blank or distorted screens — and the load time is always five seconds or so depending on the media type.


Considering that the player is available in the States for US$499 it appears that there isn't too much of a mark-up compared to other manufacturers which makes the pricing relatively competitive. While the product has a lot of networking features they are quite specific and outside of the realm of the usual YouTube browser/internet radio variety. This is a decent machine and its ability to steadfastly playback poor quality web-sourced videos is its strongest feature. The rest is icing — Christmas icing — and we're not too fond of marzipan.