Dream Multimedia Dreambox DM500HD
About Dream Multimedia products.
Dream Multimedia entered the high definition market with the Dreambox DM800 HD. This was a great addition to their previous range of Linux/Enigma based set top boxes. Soon after they exceeded all expectations with the release of the DM8000 HD. Whereas the DM800 has a single tuner the DM8000 comes with 2 HD tuners and can have an additional 2 SD tuners added. The picture and sound quality on both STBs (Set Top Boxes) are pretty much the same, but because the DM8000 has more than one tuner, it is possible to watch one channel (any channel) while recording another channel (or channels if you fit additional tuners). See the comparison chart between the different dreamboxes below.
Enter the DM500HD, the latest release from Dream Multimedia. At a glance it seems like it is very similar to the DM800HD, but you need to look a bit deeper. It boasts a 400MHz processor, similar to the DM8000, rather than the 300MHz processor used in the DM800. It lacks the OLED display on the DM800 and DM8000, instead it has 2 LEDs to show state. The front panel is high gloss black, which looks very pretty until you touch it, and, as with all high gloss surfaces, it shows finger marks. The DM500HD, however, has one advantage over the DM800, as it has a built-in fan to keep it cool, which can be controlled from the remote control, allowing it to be adjusted to keep the STB cool without being noisy.
The DM500HD is strictly a satellite receiver at this point as no cable tuners are available, unlike the DM8000.
There is no point in listing the full specification here as it can easily be found on the web; however, it is worthwhile to look at its connectivity. It sports HDMI and SCART connections for connecting to TV or Amplifier. It has a single LNB-IN connection, but no LNB-OUT so daisy-chaining of a single LNB to multiple STBs is not possible, which in my opinion is a good thing, especially when you connect it to a motorized dish or a diseqc switch. It has a 100MB/s LAN connection and a modem connection. It lacks any USB master connections but has a mini-USB client port (use of this is discussed later). And finally, to support PVR functionality, it has an eSata connection for connecting an external hard disk. It also has an optical out to connect to an older style amplifier.
The DM500HD, as do most other dreamboxes, uses open source Linux and Enigma2 to implement its full functionality. This makes the STB much more flexible than other STBs that run proprietary software, as it allows the open source community to add and change functionality of the STB. This means that you will, most likely, find a version of Linux/Enigma2 out there on the WEB that suits your requirements and has a user interface that you like. Very few dreambox owners use the standard software for the DM500HD, even though it will provide all the standard functionality of any other STB. The power of a dreambox lies in your ability to tailor it to suit your needs and taste. If you wish to update your dreambox, you will require some PC and Linux knowledge, but there are many forums on the web that will provide you with assistance in achieving your goal. Most of the experts on these forums are satellite hobbyists and enjoy providing assistance when required. Many of them participate in the production of the alternative software for the dreamboxes.
One of the benefits of a dreambox over other STBs is its ability to connect to a LAN. This means that you can access the dreambox from your PC. This capability is used in a variety of ways:
To update or change the software running on the dreambox.
Using a browser like Internet Explorer or Firefox, to watch TV from the dreambox on a PC, including changing channels, sound streams and more. Using a wifi enabled laptop or netbook, it is possible to watch TV in the garden suing the dreambox.
To change various configuration files on the dreambox.
To share recordings between multiple dreamboxes and PCs. A program can be recorded on one dreambox and played back on another, or a PC, without having to copy it around.
If it has access to the internet, it is possible to watch UTube videos through the DM500HD.
And a variety of additional functionality that is provided by the various extensions developed by open source developers to run on the DM500HD.
One of the features of the dreamboxes, often ignored, is that it is also a digital radio receiver. There are many digital radio channels available from satellite.
Watching encrypted channels.
The dreambox with standard software is not capable of reading the smart cards used by many broadcasters to encrypt their transmissions. Many of the software images (common name for the Linux/Enigma2 software), support softcams. Softcams are bits of software that make it possible to read these smart cards and decrypt encrypted channels. Many broadcasters make this illegal in their contracts, so the use of softcams has to be checked against the contract(s). In many cases the broadcasters allow only the use of STBs provided by them. The DM500HD has one smartcard reader.
Watching PayTV or subscription TV without paying the appropriate charge is illegal.
Electronic Program Guide.
Electronic Program Guides (EPG) are available on the DM500HD through add-ons from various sources. The standard transmission streams only provide information for the current program and the next program. This includes a synopsis of the program. By installing the EPG add-ons, an EPG can be obtained for up to 7 days, with a synopsis for each program in the period, for most available channels. These EPGs are not perfect (yet), but are satisfactory for daily use and are improving all the time.
Channels can be organized into bouquets, meaning that they can be grouped together based on their content. This makes it much easier to find a specific channel, bearing in mind that there can be as many as 1500 channels on a satellite and a single dreambox can receive many satellites. The user can set up these bouquets to suit their needs or download preset bouquets from the web.
Recording programs can be done by setting a timer (from the EPG or channel list) or by starting an immediate recording, provided a hard disk is fitted. Note that the hard disk is not included in a standard dreambox, but has to be purchased separately. It is also possible to pause live TV if a hard disk is fitted; if you want to go and make a cup of coffee, you don***8217;t have to miss anything.
The DM500HD also supports parental protection. This is especially important as the DM500HD will receive all channels available on a satellite, some of which will be entirely inappropriate for young children.
Accessing multiple satellites.
The DM500HD supports all the various ways of receiving transmissions from multiple satellites. This can be done using motorized dishes or diseqc switches that will automatically aim the dish, or select the LNB, at the correct satellite for the channel selected, once it has been set up correctly.
Adding functionality to the DM500HD.
As the STB runs Linux/Enigma2, various programs can be downloaded from the web to add functionality to the dreambox. There are too many to list here. The best place to find them is on the many forums and websites dedicated to dreambox STBs. This also applies to setting up and configuring the dreambox.
My ratings for the DM500HD: (5=perfect, 0=poor)
Quality of manufacture: 5
Ease of use: 5 ***8211; after setup (see below)
Picture quality: 5
Sound quality 5
Ease of setup: 3 ***8211; requires PC/Linux knowledge to gain full benefit
Connectivity: 4 ***8211; lacks a USB port
Stability of software: 5 ***8211; standard and third party images
just a few examples.
An example of the browser interface from a PC:
The selection in the very left column is ***8220;Bouquets***8221; and the currently selected bouquet is ***8220;Movies***8221;. The buttons across the top allows access to TV, Radio and recorded programs as well as setting up a timer recording. There is also a button for BoxControl allowing the box to be powered off of put in standby mode.
The green button can be used to display the list of available satellites, where a satellite can be selected and all the channels for the selected satellite displayed. Pressing the blue button will display the ***8216;favourites***8217; normally called bouquets that have been set up.
The Remote Control:
Although the remote does not have many buttons, it is very versatile as the buttons change function as different menus are accessed. Note, for example that on the ***8216;Change Channel***8217; snapshot above that the green button will allow satellite selection. On another menu it might mean ***8216;Store the configuration***8217;.
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