18 Dec 2014

Dreambox 820 HD: Awesome and disappointing at the same time

Submitted by drhans

The new Dreambox 820 HD could be considered a poor man's Dreambox. Maybe not really, considering a hefty €450 price tag. But it's still a Dreambox we're talking about right now, so a high price, perhaps even too high, is not surprising. It comes out shortly after the current top model, the 7080 HD, which is much more expensive.

The 820 HD is targeted at those viewers who require high performance but don't need a CI slot or multiple tuners. Yet this new box does not bring anything breathtaking to the market. Even a cheaper Vu+ Solo2 comes with 2 tuners and a CI slot (although the CI slot is redundant since it's not CI+). The DM820HD does not have HEVC support, does not receive multistream channels and it does not support 4:2:2.

One might even ask why get a Dreambox then? Well, the only honest answer I can come up with is buy the box to support the legend and Dream Multimedia (recently renamed to Dream Property), the makers of the first and best Enigma receivers. Other manufacturers just copy whatever Dreambox receivers do. In some cases they copy it very well, like Vu+, but I'm afraid there wouldn't be any Vu+ without a Dreambox, so I'm glad they're still around.

Despite being overpriced and not really innovative product, the Dreambox 820 HD does quite well in technical specs, making it a strong competitor to other receivers. What makes the Dreambox stand out is

- Fastest dual core CPU (1400 MHz, at least I think so, it's really difficult to tell for sure without any official documentation)
- 4 GB of internal flash space (not all of which is free for the user files, though! Less than 1 GB is available for the user.)
- 2 GB of RAM
- HDMI input (whatever that is usable for!)

Of course, these would mean nothing without a great image. And that's where the box lacks so far. It seems none of the image-teams were yet able to create anything to fit these great specifications and keep publishing the same old images with the same old plugins. I know it's not always in the image maker's hands but if DreamPlex, for example, runs just as slow on the 820 HD like it does on the very old 500 HD, something is really wrong. What's the point in making so powerful hardware if the software can't really take advantage? This is quite similar to the year 2012, when the mighty Vu+ Solo2 was released. Powerful hardware, limited use.

I've tested the original image, Newnigma, Gemini and OpenATV. While not really OE2.2 and quite buggy on the DM820HD, the OpenATV image still seems to be the best image ever with very powerful tools and professional looking skins.

But it's not all that bad! The super fast hardware is noticable during image flashing, booting and even during standard operation. Believe it or not, the complete flashing process takes less than 1 minute. The receiver then boots within 20 seconds. Not that great, considering the new hardware, but still fantastic compared to other linux receivers. Vu+, with the same OpenATV image, takes approximately 60 seconds to boot.

Another controversial side of the receiver might be the tuner. It was to my big surprise to find out the tuner is an older BCM4505. This is the same one used in DM500HD. And that's not so good. Although there's no problem tuning into weird signals like BBC at 27.5W. Sorry to say, I expected a newer, better tuner! Not everything might be lost, though, thanks to the fact the tuner is removable. I've already seen attempts to replace the tuner with another, twin tuner. Just check out this thread to see more: http://www.opena.tv/dreambox-dm820hd/11701-dreambox-dm820-hd-pvr-hdtv-1x...

Surprisingly, the receiver comes with no user manual. There's even no PDF to download from the manufacturer's website. Not that I'm a manual-reading person but I could use one right now, just to find out what the hell am I supposed to do with the HDMI input on the receiver. Apparently there's no software support for it yet. So here we go again... the rockin' hardware is there but nobody bothers to actually make anything out of it. More features might stay hidden somewhere deep in receiver menus, but without a manual, it's hard to tell. For example, there's no indication of CPU temperature and the fan seems to be off by default. That's confusing and worrying.

The remote? Well, why change something that wasn't broken. As you probably notice, the remote design has changed. I have no idea why. I don't like it. At least you can still use the old DM remote, without any modifications or configuration.

The multimedia functions of the DM820 HD are not bad at all. Finally there's a decent DLNA support, streaming IPTV works seamlessly and the receiver is capable of streaming your channels, including the ECM and EIT data to a remote tuner. That's actually quite good. I tested streaming from DM820 HD to Vu+ Solo2 of an  HD channel. The reception on Vu+ Solo2 was flawless and the stream start was just a bit slower than it would be from a local tuner. EPG worked too. Overall, I'm happy with this. The only problem was that the ECM stream didn't seem to be sent over the HTTP stream so the decryption of an encrypted channel did not work on the Vu+ Solo2 (receiving end).

What I just couldn't make work is AirPlay, although some plugins advertise to deliver this function. They don't. Even using the DM820 as DLNA renderer failed. I wish Dream PROPERTY could just pay more attention to the software side, instead of relying on amateurish 3rd party plugins which often lead you to a colored screen of death.

The DM820HD did not exceed my expectations but it delivered what was expected from an Enigma 2 box, plus a noticable speedup thanks to the new hardware. I just feel this box should have come out 2 years ago. It's too late now. I bought the receiver and I'm keeping it but I can't stop hunting for the perfect satellite receiver yet. This one is not it. 

What makes the DM820 a great receiver? It's small but powerful. It just works. It's everything you expect from a Dreambox.

What would make it the best receiver? Better tuner, multistream support, stronger software (perhaps Enigma 3?), CI+ slot. And a fucking user manual!