It’s tough times for high-end media centres. TV’s are shipping with more functionality, video components for computers are getting cheaper, games consoles are getting smarter and even tech giants Google and Apple are crawling under the TV. So can Dune’s dedicated media centres, decidedly rammed with features, still compete?
Well, we hope so. There’s something beautifully retro about Dune’s design that shouldn’t be cosigned to history. Sharp corners, glossy black casing and a blue LED display – it’s a media centre for eighties’ bachelors.
Dune HD Max
The alpha male of Dune’s new line-up, the Dune HD Max pumps out Full HD (1080p) video, plays CD/DVD/Blu-Ray discs (on a silent optical drive) and lets you plug-in various external storage options: SD cards, up to three USB 2.0 flash drives and a 3.5″ SATA HDD.
Like a true alpha male, it can also muscle its way into your business and hook up to to your network, playing content directly from the PC or a network server over SMB, NFS, UPnP or HTTP.
Then there is the huge number of A/V connectors, masses of audio output options, a huge range of playable video content, DVD upscaling and RealD, for watching 3D videos.
Honestly though, the only way to do justice to the Dune’s versatility is with a big ol’ fashion list:
- Video codecs: MPEG2, MPEG4, XVID, WMV9, VC1, H.264; support for very high bitrate video (up to 50 MBit/s and higher)
- Video file formats: MKV, MPEG-TS, MPEG-PS, M2TS, VOB, AVI, MOV, MP4, QT, ASF, WMV, Blu-ray-ISO, BDMV, DVD-ISO, VIDEO_TS
- Audio codecs: AC3 (Dolby Digital), DTS, MPEG, AAC, LPCM, WMA, WMAPro, EAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), Dolby True HD, DTS HD High Resolution Audio, DTS HD Master Audio, FLAC, multichannel FLAC, Ogg/Vorbis; support for very high quality audio (up to 192 kHz / 24-bit)
- Audio file formats: MP3, MPA, M4A, WMA, FLAC, APE (Monkey’s Audio), Ogg/Vorbis, WAV, DTS-WAV, DTS, AC3, AAC
- Subtitle formats: SRT (external), SUB (MicroDVD) (external), text (MKV), SSA/ASS (MKV, external), VobSub (MP4, MKV, external SUB/IDX), PGS (Blu-ray, TS, MKV)
If all of this isn’t enough, it also has room for two extension boards, letting you add things like satellite TV. It also supports torrents, so you can set your illegal video to download straight to the box. It’ll set you back around $499, or €499
Dune HD Smart
The HD Smart is actually an umbrella term for Dune’s modular system. Taking inspiration from high-end stereos, with the Smart you can choose a base unit with one key function, and add to it when you’re feeling more rich/needy. The base unit options are:
Dune HD Smart H1: a 3.5’’ SATA HDD rack with hot-swap support
Dune HD Smart D1: a digital info display and an expansion bay to connect a 3.5’’ SATA HDD
Dune HD Smart B1: a low-noise optical disc drive (CD/DVD/Blu-ray)
All three units have also got three high-speed USB 2.0 ports, an SD memory card slot, an eSATA port for external drives and a ethernet port for hooking in to your network.
They also have the same myriad of playback options as the Dune HD Max, which means that if playing a range of content from the internet is important to you, the Dune HD Smart is the most affordable option.
Each base unit costs between $255 and $299, which has (strangely) translated into €265 to €309. Dune’s media centres are clearly more advanced than their calculators.
Of course, no module system is complete without its expansion options. There HD Smart has three:
Dune HD Smart HE: adds a rack for installing a 3.5” SATA HDD with hot-swap support
Dune HD Smart ME: adds two slots for extension boards (also compatible with Dune HD media players)
Dune HD Smart BE: adds a low-noise Blu-ray drive
While it is great that Dune are giving its customers choice, surely any reasonable-minded soul will simply buy the Blu-Ray version and use the USB slot to plug-in a cheaper external hard drive, rather than buy a whole new expansion model for a 3.5″ HDD?
Dune HD Lite 53D
If the HD Max is the alpha male, the HD Lite is his incredibly cute child. The one you look at and think, how did you spawn from that? Gone is the glossy black, gone are the hard corners and gone is the bulk of the Max.
What’s stayed are the huge number of supported video and audio formats, the connectivity options (two USB-ports, SD slot, eSATA), network connectivity and torrents. They’ve also added the option to plug in a 2.5″ SATA HDD, for oodles of space without compromising the cutesy form.
The HD Lite is Dune’s best chance at competing with the other technologies encroaching on the media centres territory. It features all of the playback and connectivity options that make Dune such an attractable proposition, and it doesn’t take over the living room with its gigantic form. It’s also the most affordable option, at $169 or €169.