D-Link DSM-312 MovieNite Plus review

Jul 23, 2012
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Although Apple’s and Roku’s streaming media players are the darlings of “cordcutters” seeking freedom from cable TV costs and restrictions right now, several other companies are angling for a slice of that rapidly emerging market pie. This review takes a look at D-Link’s most recent streaming player, the DSM-312 MovieNite Plus.

The MovieNite Plus is considerably more conservative and lower-cost than D-Link’s earlier market entry, the iconic Boxee Box (pictured on the right). In contrast, the DSM-312 is meant to go mono-y-mono with the simpler — yet immensely successful — Roku 2 devices. And, as you’ll see, it compares quite favorably.
 

Introducing the MovieNite Plus

Like Roku’s players, the MovieNite Plus features a highly intuitive 10-foot user interface, comes standard with a wide range of TV-formatted apps, includes both wired and wireless communications, is compact and power-efficient, and fits comfortably within Roku’s sub-$100 price umbrella.



MovieNite Plus and its remote control
(click image to enlarge)

 

On its rear panel, the MovieNite Plus provides connections for HDMI, composite video with stereo audio, wired Ethernet, and 12V DC power. The compact device measures 4.8 x 4.6 x 1.1 inches.



Rear panel connections
(click image to enlarge)

 

Speaking of power, the device consumes a modest 2-3W when active, as measured by our “Kill A Watt” meter, and drops to roughly 0W when you press the remote control’s red on/off button. Best of all, pressing the power button again brings it back to life fast enough to encourage users to “do the right thing” for the environment.
 

Features and specs

Given the MovieNite Plus’s functional similarity to Roku’s devices, the table of features and specs below includes both the MovieNite Plus and the Roku 2 product family.


Features and Specs: MovieNite Plus vs Roku 2

D-Link DSM-312 MovieNite Plus Roku 2 LT Roku 2 HD Roku XD Roku 2 XS
Netflix yes yes
Amazon VOD no yes
Vudu yes no
Hulu Plus “soon” yes
YouTube yes no
Pandora yes yes
Total channels ~ 100 > 300
Web browsing no no
Play from USB media no no no no yes
Play from LAN shares no yes (via 3rd-party apps)
Max. resolution 1080p 720p 720p 1080p 1080p
A/V outputs HDMI, composite video, stereo audio HDMI, composite video, stereo audio (varies according to model)
WiFi yes yes
Ethernet yes no no no yes
Remote control IR IR IR IR RF
Active power 2-3W 1W
Standby power ~ 0W 1W
Price $80 $50 $60 $80 $100


 

What’s playing on the MovieNite Plus?

The MovieNite Plus currently comes equipped with 99 TV-formatted channels and apps for quick-and-easy video, audio, and podcast streaming, plus the promise of new apps on an ongoing basis, via firmware upgrades pushed out to users’ devices. In particular, D-Link says it plans to add a Hulu Plus app soon.

The sections below provide an overview of the apps that are currently available on the device.
 

Homescreen main menu

Currently, six featured apps — Netflix, Vudu HD, YouTube, Pandora, Picassa, and AcuWeather — are included directly on MovieNite Plus’s homescreen, as shown in the screenshots below. Of those, the first four can also be started directly from four dedicated buttons on the device’s remote control.

Additionally, the homescreen includes launchers for the “Vudu Apps” and “MovieNite Apps” sub-menus, which together provide nearly a hundred additional sources of content. One more launcher on the homescreen is for starting the “MyDlink” app, which enables watching video from multiple D-Link remote cameras directly on the TV screen.



MovieNite Plus homescreen
(click thumbnails to enlarge)

 

Vudu Apps sub-menu

The “Vudu Apps” sub-menu, entered from a launcher on the homescreen, currently provides 31 additional video- and audio-streaming apps and podcasts. (Note: these are distinct from the “Vudu HD” video-on-demand channel, which is covered later.)

You can read the names of the current set of Vudu apps by clicking the thumbnails below:



Vudu Apps sub-menu, with 31 additional apps
(click thumbnails to enlarge)

 

MovieNite Apps sub-menu

The “MovieNite Apps” sub-menu, also entered from a launcher on the homescreen, currently provides access to an additional set of 61 video-streaming apps. You can read the names of the current set of MovieNite apps by clicking the thumbnails below:



MovieNite Apps sub-menu, with 61 additional apps
(click thumbnails to enlarge)

 

Fling technology

The apps within the MovieNite Apps channel are based on “Fling” technology, and as a result they have a somewhat different user interface style from the other channels and apps on the device.

One particularly interesting app in the MoviewNite Apps area is the “Fling queue” channel, which contains pointers to videos you that you “fling” to the queue from your PC or mobile device.

To fling videos into the queue, you need to add a special Flingo bookmarklet to your desktop or mobile browser or, in the case of Android devices, install the Send2TV Android app. For Android users who’ve installed Send2TV, flinging conveniently becomes one of Android’s “share” options. Currently, Flingo only officially supports videos hosted on YouTube, Vimeo, and CrunchyRoll.

You can see some examples of using Flingo in DeviceGuru’s review of the Netgear NeoTV box, which also provides Flingo queue support. Technical details regarding the open source Flingo technology are available here.
 

Netflix movies & shows

What streaming media player would be complete without Netflix? The MovieNite Plus, which is no exception, provides Netflix’s standard streaming media player app, accessed conveniently from the main menu, or by pressing the dedicated Netflix button on the remote.



Netflix movies and shows
(click thumbnails to enlarge)

 

Vudu HD movies & shows

As with the device’s Netflix app, the Vudu HD movies/shows channel is based on Vudu’s standard streaming media player app. Also, like Netflix, Vudu HD is available from the main menu as well as from a dedicated button on the remote control.



Vudu HD movies and shows
(click image to enlarge)

 

YouTube videos

The device’s YouTube app makes it easy to access featured videos, videos within various YouTube channels, videos saved to your personal YouTube queue, or videos discovered via keyword searches. Like Netflix and Vudu, YouTube can be launched directly either from the main menu or with a dedicated button on the remote.



YouTube videos
(click thumbnails to enlarge)

 

Other featured apps

The device’s main menu also includes several other featured channels, which currently include Pandora, Picasa, Weather, and the MyDlink remote camera display app. Additionally, D-Link plans to add Hulu Plus to the mix, via an upcoming firmware update to users’ devices “soon.”



Other featured apps: Pandora, Picasa, Weather, MyDlink
(click thumbnails to enlarge)

 

Incidentally, although Pandora, like Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube, owns one of the dedicated buttons on the remote, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Hulu Plus commandeer that button in a future release.
 

Overall assessment

So, how does D-Link’s MovieNite Plus compare to the most popular streaming media player devices currently on the market? Here’s a run-down of some of its pros and cons:

  • Pros:
    • Approximately 100 content channels and more on the way, including support for Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube
    • Hulu Plus “coming soon” (but don’t let us down!)
    • Easy to setup and use
    • Reliable and stable
    • Low-power operation and ultra-low-power sleep mode; fanless and silent
    • Highly compact
    • Ethernet and 1080p are both standard, as are both HDMI and composite video outputs (the latter are limited to 480p video output, however)
    • Nifty “Fling queue” feature
  • Cons:
    • Lacks S/PDIF optical audio output
    • The presence of three categories of apps — main-menu apps; Vudu Apps; and MovieNite (Flingo-based) apps — compromises ease-of-use due to the presence of three different user interface styles
    • Lacks a means for rearranging the main menu, or creating a 2-dimensional array of favorite apps on the homescreen
    • Lacks a means for designating favorite apps within the Vudu apps and MovieNite Apps sub-menus

In addition to the pros and cons listed above, the following incremental features would be interesting to add in the future, either via firmware updates to the current product or as part of next-generation device designs:

  • Suggestions:

    • AirPlay or DLNA media rendering, under the control of iOS and/or Android devices
    • Apps for streaming from network shares, via AFP, SMB, and/or UPnP
    • RF, rather than IR, for the the remote control’s wireless communications, to eliminate directionality
    • Support for rendering multimedia from USB-interfaced devices
    • A web browser function, allowing users to view or stream from a specific URL

 

Further info

The D-Link model DSM-312 MovieNite Plus streaming media player is currently available from various internet and brick-and-mortar sources, priced at around $80. Additional details may be found on D-Link’s website, here.

For a thorough comparison among today’s most popular streaming media players, including detailed device reviews, screenshot tours, and comparative ratings, see our comprehensive streaming media player smackdown.
 



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