D-Link's latest entry in the crowded streaming media market is the MovieNite Plus, or DSM-312 ($79.99). D-Link is also the hardware manufacturer for Boxee's media players, the Boxee Box and Boxee TV. The MovieNite line is a completely separate entity from Boxee, with its own interface and its own collection of apps.
The DSM-312 includes many of the major streaming services: Netflix, VUDU (with Apps), YouTube, Pandora, Picasa, and more. However, there are also some high-profile omissions: Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Spotify, HBO Go, Vimeo, MLB.TV, and other sports apps. D-Link has been saying that Hulu Plus is "coming soon" since the product's original press release back in June 2012, but the app has still not arrived.
The DSM-312 supports a 1080p output resolution and has Dolby Digital+ decoding. The connection panel includes an HDMI output, an analog A/V port (with supplied adapter), and an Ethernet port for a wired network connection. You can also go wireless with the built-in 802.11n. There's no USB port or SD Card slot for personal media playback, and the DSM-312 does not support DLNA streaming from a networked media server. The box itself has a form factor similar to the Roku 2 and Apple TV: a small black square that measures 4.8 x 4.6 x 1.1 inches. The supplied remote has a nice selection of buttons: power, transport controls, navigation/enter, return, home, info, and direct buttons for Netflix, VUDU, Pandora, and YouTube. It does not offer backlighting or a full QWERTY keyboard. D-Link does have a free control app for iOS and Android devices; the control app adds gesture/touchpad control, but it does not have a virtual keyboard to speed up the text-entry process.
D-Link has wisely made the setup process as simple as can be. All you do is turn it on and connect to your network. That's it. Upon connecting to the network, my box immediately detected a firmware update and installed it. A settings menu is available to adjust things like resolution, audio output, etc. However, the initial process is designed to get you on your streaming way as quickly as possible, and I think that's a smart approach for the general consumer. Likewise, the colorful interface could not be easier to navigate. Large icons run horizontally across the screen for Netflix, YouTube, VUDU, Pandora, Picasa, AccuWeather, mydlink, VUDU Apps, and MovieNite Apps. mydlink allows you to view video from a networked D-Link camera. VUDU Apps contains about 30 apps, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and lots of news/entertainment channels. MovieNite Apps is the "Fueled by Flingo" Launchpad, which has over 60 specialty channels like TV Guide, CrunchyRoll, TMZ, CNET, and more. Unlike Roku, D-Link does not provide access to an Apps store where you can customize your channel lineup. If you're only interested in the major streaming services and don't really care about the secondary apps, D-Link also sells the MovieNite DSM-310, which omits the MovieNite Apps and currently sells for $48 at Walmart.
In terms of performance, I was more than satisfied with the MovieNite Plus. Apps loaded quickly, the box responded quickly to remote commands, and the product never crashed or froze on me. The speed and reliability of Netflix was on par with that of the Apple TV, faster and more reliable than the recent Netgear player I reviewed. I do wish that the control app contained a virtual keyboard; hopefully this will find its way into a future update.
Read about the high points and low points of the D-Link MovieNite Plus on Page 2.
The MovieNite Plus offers 1080p output and wired Ethernet at a lower price point than similarly equipped Roku and Apple players.
Streaming services include Netflix, VUDU (with Apps), YouTube, Pandora, and Picasa.
The box has an analog A/V port for connection to older, non-HDMI-equipped A/V products.
The interface is colorful and very easy to navigate. Setup is also very simple.
If you own a D-Link Web camera, you can view the video via the mydlink app.
D-Link offers an Android/iOS control app that adds gesture/touchpad navigation.
The MovieNite service does not have as many apps as some of its competitors, including big omissions like Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video. There's no Apps store to browse and add services.
There's no digital audio output for a digital connection to older, non-HDMI-equipped receivers.
The iOS/Android control app does not include a virtual keyboard for easier text input.
The box does not support DLNA streaming from a media server, nor does it have USB ports for playback of personal media files.
Competition and Comparison
You can compare the D-Link MovieNite Plus with its competition by checking out our reviews of the Roku 2, Netgear NeoTV MAX, Western Digital WD TV Live, and Boxee TV (link tk).
If you're looking for a simple streaming-media player that just provides access to major services like Netflix, VUDU, and Pandora, the MovieNite Plus is a competitively priced option that offers reliable performance. Right now, you can buy the MovieNite Plus through Amazon for about $43. That's a tough deal to beat. The MovieNite Plus is not the right choice for someone who wants to access his/her personal media files. At this point in the game, Roku still has a big advantage in the number of streaming services and apps that you get for the money, but D-Link is off to a good start. To become a more formidable presence in the streaming media space, the company needs to finally add that Hulu Plus app and a few more high-profile partners.