Digital Stream DPS-1000 £90
25th Mar 2011 | 09:25
Onyx brings iPlayer, Lovefilm and YouTube for less than an Apple TV, but where's the Wi-Fi?
Digital Stream DPS-1000: Overview and features
But while the big international brands have sought to create global hubs with local content – and with mixed success so far – Onyx has developed a simple yet dynamic interface that's stuffed with plenty of recognisable content.
New to the party comes Lovefilm, a service that – if you already have a standard subscription set up – can simply be logged into via the DPS-1000 to start streaming movies.
A few widgets are on the front screen's right-hand side, including Facebook and Twitter, though the novelty of social networking on a TV screen is fast wearing off.
The Onyx interface has three main content icons at its core. Blinkbox is box set heaven, with a nice mix of US and British fare from House, The West Wing, The Mentalist, Heroes and, err Friends, to Come Fly With Me, Being Human, Spooks, Planet Earth and Outnumbered.
Some series are available only as a total package, while others can be rented or bought by the episode. It's even got a selection of Ross Kemp-fronted fare – what more do you want? Movies? Blinkbox hosts a fair few of them, too, though not enough to rival Lovefilm.
The presence of BBC iPlayer adds more gravitas, and puts this set-top box ahead of some major TV brands' web platforms. It's done simply and includes links to high definition content, though it's not quite as easy to navigate as the dedicated iPlayer website.
The Lovefilm service, meanwhile, is pleasingly identical to the online service, featuring options to stream some (though certainly not all) of its movies in SD (sadly no HD is available), or to instruct Lovefilm to post you a DVD or Blu-ray disc.
The front screen also includes a Web TV hub of online video, websites such as YouTube and Flickr, news and football feeds and podcasts.
Get the DPS-1000 on a home network and it can play most major video, music and photo formats (including DivX HD, but not AVCHD files from HD camcorders) from a PC or NAS using DLNA, with two USB slots proving similarly talented.
Digital Stream DPS-1000: In use
Ease of use
Some online services can be slow to load and skipping back a page can take a few too many seconds, but overall the Onyx interface on the DPS-1000 is very impressive indeed.
The problems we had were primarily hardware-related. Most troublesome is the remote control, which is nicely weighted at one end, but otherwise poorly manufactured. It suffers from the all too common mistake of a button for every command, which means that not only are they all bunched-up, they're also too small to use easily.
As if to underline the budget nature of what will most probably be an unwelcome guest on your coffee table, the battery compartment of the remote rattles. Yuk.
The DPS-1000 has Wi-Fi, of course it does – why would anyone consider a media streamer without Wi-Fi? Except, of course, that it doesn't.
We're into dongle territory, though Digital Stream doesn't actually make one (various third party dongles work, apparently, though not the Xbox 360 dongle that we had to hand). It does, however, explain why there are two USB ports on the rear of the unit.
Lovefilm's search function is effective, though it presents dynamically changing results based on every letter you add to the search term, which slows the process. More impressive is the way the box searches both YouTube and any networked PC or Mac, producing – for instance – some of your own ripped or purchased music alongside videos from the internet.
The lack of Wi-Fi consigns the DPS-1000 only to living rooms with routers, but there's another reason why this piece of kit won't be suited to all AV set-ups or home cinemas.
Audio output is severely restricted to the Scart and HDMI outputs, so unless you have a modern AV receiver in your home cinema with HDMI switching, you're out of luck with surround sound. And even with sound in general if you have a projector.
Picture quality from streaming video varies primarily because, like most similar platforms, that annoying buffering has been completely banished. Like Sony's connected TVs and Blu-ray players, the Onyx browser uses adaptive streaming technology that dynamically changes the amount of video data it receives via streaming according to how fast the line is.
That does mean the occasional drop in picture quality if you have, say, a 2MB broadband connection, but to our eyes that's a small price to pay for no buffering.
What we do like about the DPS-1000 is its Apple TV-like size; this is not a piece of kit that's going to dominate your set-up. It's certainly more polished and, crucially, content-rich than most connected TVs.
While we expect that to change on the latest haul of high-end TVs, this £90 gadget seems an attractive alternative to replacing your telly. Bear in mind, though, that it does replicate a lot of the services on a PS3 or Wii.
You could, of course, spend an extra tenner and get an Apple TV, with iPhone niceties and built-in Wi-Fi. The choice is yours, but don't let the traditionally peerless Apple interface sway you, because Onyx has arguably topped it.