DF Solutions Base3D media server review

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posted on Wednesday, 21st November 2012 by Steve May

Media Server 

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Usability, reliability, expandability: all prerequisites when it comes to choosing and installing a media server. Hitting all three, with the promise of adept back-end support and low HDD overheads, is a surprisingly rare combination - but that's exactly what's offered by DF Solutions with its latest Base3D media server.

The brand has been a fixture on the UK rip 'n' serve scene for years, but this model marks a change from what's gone before. Media storage has been taken out of the box completely, allowing users and installers to cater for that completely separately. There's an 80GB solid state drive inside for the OS and general management, but music and movies are intended for elsewhere on the network. CI channel distribution is via AWE Europe.

DF Solutions Base3D media server: Build quality and installation
The Base3D is a compact, well built unit, that's whisper quiet in operation. Unlike many traditional media servers, it can quite easily be accommodated in a living space without drawing undue attention to itself.  The fascia is distinguished only by the slot loading disc mechanism. Rear outputs include HDMI, VGA, DVI, digital optical and coaxial audio outputs, plus 3.5mm stereo. The bespoke UI sits atop a locked down Windows platform. The unit ships with a regular Windows media remote, however the brand provides an app for iOS and Android devices. There's also native system support from AMX, Crestron, Control 4, RTI and others.

Fresh from the box, the Base3D is only able to import CDs; installers are charged with the task of upgrading the unit to rip DVD VOBs and Blu-ray ISOs using AnyDVD. As part of the installation routine you'll need to set three target drives for the Base3D to rip to. These are then monitored constantly for new content (torrented bits and bobs can be dragged to them anytime).

During setup, it's highly likely that you'll need to set custom paths to locate existing shares on the home network which have media content that you'll want the server to assimilate. Helpfully, the DF Solutions support team is primed and ready to help at the end of a phone line. They will log into the box remotely, using the serial number on the rear of the unit, and write any custom scripts (including passwords) which are required to access deep servers.

Rather conveniently, the Base3D box can amalgamate whatever disparate NAS and PC devices your clients may be running, so that they all appear to be in the same location when viewed via the main interface, even if physically they're strewn around.

DFS doesn't supply a different form factor for additional client devices; the idea is that you simply use multiple Base3D units, arranged in a hierarchical client/slave order. The system can cope with ten simultaneous standard definition video streams.

DF Solutions Base3D media server: User interface
A key attraction of the system is the graphical UI, which is rich in album art and other visual flourishes. Downloads are assigned faux Blu-ray sleeves if they're in HD, and the interface makes great use of online fan art. As you browse your collection, the background image changes. If you like a particular piece it can be set as the wallpaper. 

The brand has also integrated third party online entertainment apps, some more familiar than others. Skit channel Funny or Die and the Asian Crush movie service sit alongside YouTube and Vimeo. There's even a Hulu app, although outside of the US this offers little of interest (of course you can always spoof a US IP address, which could prove to be an interesting value added service).

DF Solutions has also done an excellent job of blending the main interface with Spotify. Very quickly, you forget what audio content is local to the server and what is a Playlist. Other online embellishments include internet radio, Flickr and an RSS feed reader.

DF Solutions Base3D media server: Performance
We ripped a variety of content, including both Blu-rays and DVDs, and were impressed with the quality and accuracy of the metadata scrapped. There's obviously provision for manually intervening if the results are a bit wonky. Welcome refinements include the ability to arrange recordings from a multi-disc box set in a stack, and tag movies with multiple genres, which aids search. Provided downloaded MKVs and AVIs have the correct naming parameters (simple is better), the correct information is located and added.

The system is fully compatible with 3D Blu-ray releases, and the picture quality from all movies is excellent. Obviously once ripped, discs can be accessed immediately.

Currently the system does not rip compact discs in FLAC format, although AWE intimated 'never say never' to Inside CI. The system is FLAC compatible though, should there be any FLAC titles in a personal collection. Additional audio file support covers WMA, Ogg, AIF and AAC/M4A. CDs are actually ripped as WAV or MP3s (128-, 256- or 320kbps). The server is also fully compatible with native lossless bitstream audio from Blu-ray, giving you the option of delivering DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks direct to a waiting AV receiver.

DF Solutions Base3D media server: Verdict
There's much to like about the Base3D. The provision of technical support is a real confidence booster during the installation process, while the unit itself is exceptionally easy to accommodate. Picture and sound quality are Attack of the Clones perfect; but perhaps most importantly it's also fun to use. 

Important update:
We're sad to report that Digital Future Solutions Ltd (DF Solutions Ltd) has now ceased trading, announcing: "accordingly all sales/support operations have now ceased."

DF Solutions has issued this statement on distributor AWE's website: The company had striven for many years to produce a strong brand with a unique product range underpinned by class-leading support. With the tremendous support from our distributors worldwide, whilst we had enjoyed periods of healthy growth, the on-going global recession together with the constant financial cost of keeping the product at the 'cutting edge', and the loss of key DF personnel have combined to make the company unable to fulfil its financial obligations. 

AWE adds: "We are making efforts to clarify the full implications of this and kindly ask dealers for patience whilst we work through this unavoidable situation." More news here as we get it.

For more on AWE Europe visit our Partner Page
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Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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Posted by James Middleton on 6th December 2012, 12:28 PM
I have the older version of this in my demo room looking to shift it on if anybody interested

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