D-Link DivX Extender Brings the Flash (!)

Dave Zatz —  September 6, 2008

dvix-flash-1

D-Link’s DivX Connected media extender just got a whole lot more interesting. With the beta release of PC server software (v1.4), you can now stream select Flash-based video sites from the Internet and through the PC to your TV by way of the DSM-330 ($230).

Flash video and audio can now be launched through DivX Connected plug-ins, opening the floodgates to a vast library of content.  Upon release of 1.4, users can expect to be hit with a wave of new plug-ins, including the likes of YouTube and Dailymotion, and developers will have the tools they need to port countless other Flash video sites to the DivX Connected platform.

I played with the new features for about an hour this morning, viewing content from YouTube, Hulu, and ABC News. Of course, the video quality isn’t going to be any better than the source and playback wasn’t always super smooth – but that could be related to the beta status or my over-taxed XP virtual machine. Unfortunately, the biggest limitation is that many of these sites don’t provide or expose keyboard controls which could be mapped to the D-Link remote. As in: I sure wish I could pause or rewind content. Having said that, I’m very surprised (in a good way) to see this capability added.

The Internet is an efficient and effective video delivery method, however it’s fairly obvious that the various players (TiVo, Apple, DivX, ZvBox, Sling, Roku, Xbox, PS3, etc) are thinking beyond the computer as they race into the living room. Questions remain and it’s too early to declare a winner: Who will offer the best experience and the best sources – and at what cost?

10 responses to D-Link DivX Extender Brings the Flash (!)

  1. Did you notice what processor utilization was like on the PC running the server software? I’m guessing the way this thing works is it converts from flash to DivX or something else the Dlink hardware can natively playback. So apart from the relatively low quality of a lot of online video, you could be losing more quality in the conversion. Then again at least with YouTube we know they have h.264 versions of everything for Apple TV, iPod and iPhone. And DivX now owns MainConcept…

  2. Yah, I had task manager up. I agree it’s probably transcoded as streamed (which is what they’ve historically done with non-Divx content). CPU usage went from maybe 25% to 75-85% while serving Hulu. Again, I was running in a virtual machine which isn’t ideal and Melissa’s got a low-end laptop which I also tried. My Mac VM actually did better. They also have a H.264 plugin in the works, but I believe this YouTube plugin is Flash-based. Unfortunately, Hulu resolution in general is low – lower than say the stuff Netflix and Amazon offer.

  3. As you mentioned, it is too early to declare a winner, but in your opinion and experience who are the front runners? Thanks Dave

  4. I think it comes down to what you want to watch, Damain. And how much you’re willing to spend. What’s your goal? Maybe I can give you better advice…

    I’m also playing with ZvBox today. Unlike D-Link, it scrapes everything. Hulu is a better experience on Zv than on D-Link, but the DivX software is in beta. Zv plays Netflix content, whereas D-Link doesn’t. And I might add the Netflix stuff is very watchable on the plasma (it’s higher res than Hulu or YouTube). Of course, the SlingCatcher is also in the pipeline which does screenscraping – though I think most control is initiated at the PC, whereas Zv has the two-way remote with mouse pad. Given some of the reviews, I wasn’t expecting much – but it’s decent and they tell me it’ll have a faster response with their next software update, maybe in Oct.

  5. Dave – thanks for the response. Really, I am just looking to stream my videos, pics, and music to my tvs from my PC (particularly my son’s Disney collection). I don’t do a lot of internet watching (i.e. Hulu, etc…) so that isn’t of big priority. Wide codec support is important, as my Hi Def videos are either mkv or mp4 (h.264). I have an Xbox360, PS3, and Apple TV, so the codec support is really what bothers me on these devices. Really, what I am willing to spend is based on the expectations of the device. For instance, I would be willing to spend $200 on a PCH knowing the wide codec support, but somewhat choppy interface and quirks. The higher the $$$, the more the device had better hit a home run. So using the ZvBox which is probably at the high end dollarwise, in my mind it had better do everything it says without fault. Maybe I am just looking for the holy grail right now, which we are getting closer, but aren’t quite there yet..

    Noticed at the bottom of your site it says “Go Terps”. Maryland fan???

  6. No one’s hit that holy grail, God-box level yet…

    Given your broad codec requirements and minimal interest in streaming web video, I wonder if you should take a look at the Popcorn Hour products? I’ve only played with one a few hours and like most extenders had it’s share of quirks and format hiccups, but the official codec lineup is extensive and the price is reasonable.

    (Yep, Terp fan and UM graduate. Was a football season ticket holder for many years too, but now I watch on the big screen from the comfort of my living room.)

  7. Good to hear, my sister and brother in law went to UM, my brother in law played on their football team. He came out to visit last weekend and we hit the bar to see the UD vs UM matchup (I am a U of Delaware grad). Good game, wish the result was different!!!

    Once again, thanks for for the response. I like the idea of the Zvbox, but reviews haven’t been all that great, so think I may wait on the sidelines until some of the bugs are worked out. Slingcatcher is “supposedly” due out by the end of 2008, correct? That would probably serve as a good comparison (price and performance)

  8. SlingCatcher is like a chupacabra — I keep hearing about it and seeing pictures, but no one has proved that it’s real yet ;)

    Aside from PCH, Sage HD Extender looks good (and has Netflix support).

    Another, more expensive, solution would be just to buy or build a miniPC-based HTPC. Mine’s two generations old (1.5 yrs), but runs Vista Ultimate and has no problems keeping with up 720p and 1080p MKVs using CoreAVC + CCCP. Do have to turn off advanced processing in CoreAVC, but new Montevina-based systems should be fine —
    http://usa.aopen.com/products_detail.aspx?Auno=2661

    Combined with myTV (http://mytv.senseitweb.com/) plug-in for VMC and Logitech diNovo Mini keyboard, it’s a nice system. Typing from it right now :)

  9. “…the biggest limitation is that many of these sites don’t provide or expose keyboard controls which could be mapped to the D-Link remote. As in: I sure wish I could pause or rewind content.”

    API tools to make fast forward, pause, etc work on the remote control ( plain old Javascript ):

    http://code.google.com/apis/youtube/getting_started.html#player_apis

  10. Ivan,

    Yeah, I’ve been wondering how useful a real Home Theatre PC would be myself. Maybe one of the new Dell Studio Hybrids running VMC and that diNovo keyboard/mouse.

    So what would I use it for? Watching YouTube I can already do with my AppleTV. Ditto various video Podcasts.

    I would use it periodically for Hulu, just to catch up. But if the quality is marginal as Dave suggests when blown up on a big screen… might be easier just to buy the occasional episode from Apple or Amazon Unbox on the Tivo…

    What about web surfing? Can I realistically do any web surfing from the couch? Even with a big 1920x1080p display, I’m not sure it would really work. Any comment?