Under the Covers
Figure 9 shows the main board of the PC-on-TV.
Figure 9: PC-on-TV Main Board
It's hard to make out from the photo, but the main CPU is in the Quartics Qv1500 family which also provides an embedded MIPS processor. The wireless support is on a mini-PCI card from Ralink. The Ethernet is under the wireless card in this picture, but it is provided by an IC+ IP101.
At this point in the review, I usually like to probe the device looking for hints about what operating system the product is using and try to exploit a configuration script and use an argument-modifying HTTP proxy to intercept and change HTTP parameters. The main goal of these operations is getting command-line access to the product. These tests usually take a bit of doing and some creativity on my part. But sometimes, it's not so hard. In this case, on a bit of a lark, I first simply issued a "telnet" command to the device's IP address, and was rewarded with the results shown in Figure 10.
Figure 10: PC-on-TV Telnet Access
No username prompt, no password prompt, no hacking required. I was in. And to top it off, I was also the "root" or privileged user! What's the fun in that? It was too easy. Anyway, with command-line access I could really tell what was running inside.
As usual with these types of products, it was running Linux—a 2.4.25 kernel to be precise. I found that, as expected, the CPU info pointed back to Quartics and the 1200 had 16 MB of RAM. Most utilities were provided by busybox and a thttpd webserver was running. But the webserver didn't do much more than show a static info page directing you to run the software on the client PC. A tftp server was also running, which usually is used to upload new firmware. As far as custom executables, I found a number of diagnostic type utilities that would do things like send color-bars to the display and issue various tests.
When you're talking security, it's kind of a no-no to open up root access to anyone on the network. But this device is really geared toward the closed home network, where this may not be as much of a concern. And as soon as I connected, the video stream dropped, so it might be difficult to use to box to snoop on your video traffic. But anyway, this is likely a hole that D-Link should close in a software update.
There was a lot of GPL licensed code on the box and that means that D-Link should be providing source code, but I could find none on their web site or on the included CD. Hopefully this is just an oversight by D-Link, as they do provide code for other products.
So, quirks aside, it was fun to ship my display across the house and control it with a remote. And the DPG-1200 did solve some of the video codec issues you get with other products. But if you look at D-Link's advertisements, they appear to be marketing this device as a home entertainment center type box and I'd have a hard time recommending it for that use.
To me, it appears to be better suited for presentations or other generally static displays where there's not a lot of user interaction or need for high frame rates. So with a street price in the $180 - 200 range, you'll need to decide whether or not it fits your needs or if you might not be better off spending a bit more for a Windows Media Center extender, such as the Linksys DMA2200 [reviewed] or a UPnP A/V media player like the Netgear EVA8000 [reviewed]. Or if you're ok with using your PC to do transcoding, but want better video support look at D-Link's DSM-510 [reviewed] or DSM-520 [reviewed] if you want to keep the PC out of the loop.