- Review Price: £74.99
When we first heard of Dane-Elec’s arrival on the media player scene we were rather excited. Its G Stream was set to cost the same as the much loved Western Digital WDTV and use the same chipset yet also include built-in Wi-Fi. This sounded like a killer combination of features so as quick as possible we’ve got one in for review. Unfortunately, it’s turned out to be a bit of a let down.
Aesthetically, we couldn’t have been happier. Its top and sides are black in all the right ways and the silver strip that runs round the top is a perfect little highlight. Its super slim profile also means it stands a better chance of squeezing in among your DVD player, Sky box, and receiver than many of its rivals. Being quite wide it also looks more at home, and less toy-like, among all the above boxes.
The build quality is also exceptional with both the top and bottom panels finished in painted metal rather than the usual plastic. This makes it feel very strong and also gives it that all important plus point of just ”feeling” nice, a measure that can be overlooked all too often. This solidity does make the G Stream markedly heavier than many of its rivals but, frankly, we couldn’t care less about this in an AV device.
Looking round the device we see yet more positives, including a satisfyingly tactile power button on the top towards the front right. We also like the addition of a multi-format memory card reader on the left edge. This sits alongside a more customary USB port and provides instant access to SD, MMC, and MS memory cards so you can bypass a computer and watch your pictures and video clips straight from your camera.
On the rear is an aerial socket for that all important Wi-Fi (an aerial is included in the box) and accompanying it, from right to left, are sockets and ports for Ethernet, optical digital audio, stereo analogue audio, composite video, HDMI, and power. We’re glad to see Dane-Elec didn’t decide to go for just Wi-Fi and added in a wired network connection as well. Not only does this provide greater flexibility but also file transfers will be much quicker over 100Gbps Ethernet than 802.11g Wi-Fi.
Remotes can so often disappoint by being generally cheap looking, poorly laid out, or just unresponsive and difficult to use, but we were pleasantly surprised to find this one to be a good size, not offensive to the eye, logically laid out, and responsive. The only significant fault is an apparent lack of a home button which necessitates pressing the ‘Return’ button multiple times to get back to the home screen.
So with all this praise being lavished on the G Stream, you must be wondering where it could possibly fall foul. Well, our first clue was when we turned the device on and were greeted by a less than impressive menu system. At first I preferred the look to that of the Asus O!Play HDP-R1 (and I say as much in the video review), however, with time I’ve come to realise I was mistaken – the Dane-Elec So G Stream’s menus are incredibly basic. This isn’t just an aesthetic complaint either as we found some of the menu options temperamental. In particular, the video options refused to properly recognise our chosen test monitor and even when we could set the right resolution, the menus didn’t properly resize and centralise (again, something that can be seen in the video review).
While we do have some issues with the menus, it’s far from all bad. We particularly like how the home screen doesn’t have three different options for ”Music”, ”Videos”, and ”Images” like on the Asus O!Play HDP-R1. Instead it just lists the various storage devices (USB, memory card, network) and there are buttons for ”Music”, ”Photos”, ”Video”, and ”All” on the remote for selecting which files types you would like to see.
Browsing your media is purely folder driven so you don’t get any fancy CoverFlow style library interfaces or such like, and working your way through your files can take a while if they’re hidden deep in many folders. The only nod towards something a bit fancy is a pane on the right that will show a preview of the file currently selected.
Network connectivity is similarly basic. You can browse shared folders and that’s it. The G Stream cannot be connected to an iTunes server or other video streaming services nor indeed can you browse the web or connect to things like video sharing sites such as YouTube. Not that we’re bemoaning this fact. Just as it was the simplicity of the Asus O!Play that so charmed us, so it is with the Dane-Elec So G Stream. A box that can just connect to a NAS box and play files straight from it and that can also play files direct from a USB stick is all that we require. Unfortunately, while we don’t mind simplicity, there is one fundamental that all these devices must have and that, sadly, the SO GStream lacks; good file format/codec support.
Basic codecs like MPEG-2/4, DivX, and Xvid are present as are a good chunk of file extensions, including mkv, avi, ts, and vob. So, if you have your DVD collection stored on your NAS box then this device will happily play them back, but anything more esoteric will be a struggle. Most importantly, it doesn’t support the essential HD codecs, VC-1 and h.264 so nearly all HD media is out of the question, despite the fact that the G Stream can play files at up to 1080i resolutions (this in itself is a failing compared to the competition which can play 1080p). In this day and age, this nobbled HD support is a fundamental failing. So, despite its bargain price, we wouldn’t recommend this device to many.
The Dane-Elec So G Stream, with its stylish and well-built chassis, Wi-Fi, and low price, looked like it was set to be the multimedia player of choice right up until its lowly codec/file format support let it down. So, unless you’re dead set on converting all your media to files that this device will support and/or you don’t plan on making the move to HD, this device simply doesn’t cut it.
Playback media formats:
- Video: IFO, VOB, DAT, AVI, MPG, MPEG-2, TS HD DivX, ISO, MKV
- Codec: MPEG 1/2/4, DivX, Xvid
- Audio: MP3, WMA,WAV, AAC, OGG (no DRM), AC3, MP4
- Photo: JPG, JPEG (720p/1080i), BMP
Interface: 2 HUB USB 2.0 x 1 (compatible USB 1.1)
Video output: HDMI, Composite
- Analog audio: Stereo RCA
- Digital audio: HDMI, OpticalTV System:
- PAL: 576p, 720p, 1080i
- NTSC: 480p, 720p 1080i
- Wire: Ethernet (10/100M), LAN via port RJ-45
- Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11g
- Protocol: TCP/IP (DHCP client mode, manual IP mode)
- Security: Wireless network secured by WEP or WPA
3-in-1 card reader: SD, SDHC, MMC, MS, MS PRO, MS DUO, MS DUO PRO
Accessory: Infra red remote control
Power supply: Universal AC (CE certified) AC 100V~220V – 50-60Hz – DC +5V/2A
Size: 18,9 x 19,9 x 3,14 cm
Warranty: 2 years
Score in detail