Stage6 isn’t the only online service available through the DSM-330, though. You can also access a free service called Funspot with it, which provides access to a number of simple games, from quizzes to puzzles. And things may also brighten up in the future: users should eventually be able to download and install third-party plug-ins to enhance the player’s capabilities, and though there were none available to purchasers at the time I wrote this review, DivX provided a couple of beta plug-ins for accessing Google Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth.
The hardware itself is a much more convincing proposition, thankfully, and it seems a very capable wireless streamer. It’s slim and compact for a start, which makes it easy to slot into a crowded AV rack – on top of a DVD player, for instance – and it boasts a comprehensive array of connections. Around the back there are not only SCART, composite and S-Video sockets, but also an HDMI output and both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, so you can ensure that audio reproduction is kept to a suitably high standard. There is one major omission, however: despite the presence of a USB port on the front panel, you can’t actually use this to connect removable media – it’s used for flashing the firmware.
Once you’ve fired it up and run through the set-up wizard, it’s very easy to use, too. The interface is smooth and slick and it’s easy to find the stuff you’re looking for. A particularly nice touch is the way thumbnails and album art fly in and out of the screen as you browse your files, and there are other thoughtful features included such as a resume function that remembers where you left off watching a file. This automatic bookmark function seems to work for any number of files – it doesn’t appear to be limited to just a handful. Connecting to what there is of the DivX service is pretty straightforward, Finally, the remote is pretty good quality too, and has echoes of the familiar Sky and Sky+ remotes.
Of course the biggest advantage of the DSM-330 is the fact that it can play DivX files natively – which means any video you download from the Stage6 website – via the box or downloaded separately – doesn’t have to be converted or transcoded first. It’s a feature that not many other wireless streamers can boast, in fact the only other streamer I’ve seen do this is the Netgear EVA8000 I reviewed earlier this year, which also had an HDMI output and HD capabilities.
The box is also compatible with rival WMV 9.2 and XviD formats, though VOB files aren’t, alas, on the compatibility list. For music playback, the list isn’t that impressive though, with only support for WMA and MP3. The Netgear EVA8000 is much more impressive in this respect, playing FLAC, WAV and AAC in addition to MP3 and WMA.