Dune HD Realbox 4K


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Dune HD just released their latest media player, Realbox 4K, based on the brand new Realtek RTD1395 System on Chip (SoC).  Unlike what is inclined by Realtek’s numbering in comparison to the previous year’s flagships 1295 & 1296, the RTD1395 SoC is their mid-range offering. This year’s flagship, RTD1619, will arrive later on at the end of the summer. Unlike what anyone would think, the Realbox 4K model is punching way above its weight. Read next to see the reason why.


 

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Packaging – Specifications

The main unit’s small factor leads to mid-sized packaging. It could be smaller, but Dune decided to support its mid-range model with lots of accessories. So inside you will find the following:

  • Main unit
  • 2x Detachable Wi-Fi antennas
  • IR remote
  • Wall type of power supply, with regional adapters
  • A/V cable for legacy A/V connection
  • HDMI cable
  • Batteries for the remote
  • Quick guides in English and Russian language

Specifications are on par with all the latest audio and video demands. Compared to the previous generation of players, this one supports HDR10+ as well. The only “major” video format missing is Dolby Vision (any layered format). In theory RTD1395 supports it, but a license from Dolby must also be acquired. 

Realtek’s RTD1395 is an ARM® Cortex-A53 quad-core CPU with Dune’s implementation supporting almost all audio and video formats like 4K, HEVC, VP9 (4K You-Tube playback should now be possible), HDR, HDR10+, 3D and HD Audio all the way up to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Down-mixing to stereo is also supported in case you want to connect the unit directly to your TV screen.

Dune’s all-time goodies are still here with no major omissions. You still get the famous user interface, support for menu navigation, auto frame-rate switching, subtitle downloading, “My Collection” movie poster wall, and support for various Smart Home technologies. We also have to mention Dune’s great update on their iOS and Android application which can make your life a lot easier while browsing and typing.  

RTD 1395 is supported by 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard ROM.

As far as connectivity is concerned, things look pretty great considering the size of the unit. Some may miss the USB3.0 and SATA connectivity, but Realtek had to save some features for the higher end model (RTD1619). We get:

  • 1x HDMI out (no HDMI in this time)
  • 1x A/V out (composite video + analog stereo audio)
  • 1x  Optical S/PDIF
  • 2x USB2.0 ports
  • 1x MicroSD slot
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi dual-band 802.11b/g/n/ac 2T2R
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • VESA mounting

Dune Realbox 4K relies on Android 7.1 Operating System (OS).


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Media Player – Remote

The main unit has very small dimensions. Approximately 109mm x 21mm x 109mm. Usually, at this size, we get mediocre unbranded plastic solutions but in this case, we get a metal chassis and a front panel display. Even though there is a big Dune HD logo at the top, the overall design is pleasing and in combination with the black color and its tiny size, you will be able to place it anywhere you want. Even if the big (compared to its size) Wi-Fi antennas feel obtrusive, you do have the option to remove them and use the preferred Ethernet connection. The unit is properly ventilated from the bottom, where the VESA mounting is located.

All basic connections can be found at the back (power, LAN, and all A/V ones) while on the right side we get the 2x USB2.0 ports with the MicroSD slot. We do miss the hardware power button. Apparently there was no room for that in such a small chassis. 

The front display shows the time when in standby, and the elapsed time during playback of a video file. There is no option to turn the front display off or dim it from the settings menu. This could easily be addressed in a future firmware update.

The remote is very good considering the price range, but not without some shortcomings. 

It is large, very comfortable, and sports numeric buttons aside from the navigation ones. It is IR type and supports learning functions (the instructions for these can be found in the provided manual) for the four programmable buttons at the top. We located some ergonomic fouls though. The biggest one is the main directional navigation cross in the middle. It consists of separate buttons and the protrusion of the “ENTER” one does not help much for distinguishing one from the other, especially with the lights turned off. IR could be better since you will have to point directly to the main unit to avoid second tries. Ηowever, we understand that a backlit keyboard with BT connectivity is too much to ask at this price range. It is certainly not bad but needs time to get used to it. The smartphone application is a great alternative.

Overall, both the main unit and the remote are way above average.


 

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Menus – Settings

Dune engineers had an easy task here. A Dune user interface needs no major modifications so we are once again dealing with the closed-source type one we got familiar with for the past 10, or so years. You will never get the feeling that you are dealing with a modified Android OS. The only page reminding this is the “SYSTEM” one inside the “SETUP” menu. You still get the single line of the rotational set of icons on the main screen for easier access to all selections. Theme customization is still available with additional presets available for you to select from. We did find a Dune HD promotional icon in the main menu that could not be removed though. We wouldn’t mind it’s existence if it was at the end, but it being in the middle of “SOURCES” and “RECENT” feels a little cheap. Oh well. 

We still get the Android Apps and Dune apps on dedicated icons, but more on these later.

The “Setup” menu is one of the most comprehensive yet on a media player. You get tons of dedicated button selections and detailed Audio and Video settings (Audio pass-through, Auto frame rate, 3D, HDR tone mapping, HDMI color options, etc.). Compared to previous models, we did notice some missing options like taking a screenshot, but all the major ones are still available.


BT709 shown below only due to video capturing limitations 🙂

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Testing

It appears that this year’s mid-ranger is better, where it matters most than its higher-end predecessor (Dune HD Pro 4K reviewed here).

As always, playback of music files (MP3/FLAC) is hassle-free. You can use the embedded player or any other one from the app store (like KODI). You do get support for stereo SACD images as well. FLAC files can also get multichannel love. Dune has not developed any super hyped audio player so you will probably have to make do with SPMC/KODI or any other Android-based application of your liking. 

Video playback performance is way more interesting. Compared to previous Realtek SoCs, we do get proper HDR10+ support from our UHD backups while at the same time the infamous Realtek banding issue appears to be disappeared or heavily toned down depending on the source. 4K HDR to 1080p SDR conversion (mostly used on projectors and non-HDR 4K TV sets) now works better than ever with very good results which are very close, if not identical, to the original. 24p motion handling is now spot on, measured at 23.973 with an HDFury Vertex in the chain. The only chance to get a 24.00 non-accurate result is when the player outputs a 12bit, 4:2:x signal. This only happens with selected manual video settings (12-bit color, maximum color space). Leave your video settings to “EDID” (or 10-bit) and “as content” and you will not face this. This time we also get proper HDR MaxCLL/MaxFALL passthrough information, which was not a given with previous Dune players. The latest UHD and Blu-Ray menu navigation engine is now better with improved compatibility compared to the competition. Menu loading times are also faster. The unit’s form factor did not appear to have any toll on image quality. Dozens of A/B comparisons were made with day and night scenes and we got the exact same image quality results with last year’s RTD1295 and RTD1296 based media players. All tests were performed on a 4K LG C9, Panasonic 4K (non-HDR), and a Benq W6000 1080p projector (with and without the use of a Lumagen Radiance XD-3D).

HD Audio bit-streaming is flawless, supporting all codecs up to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Stereo analog output is nothing to write home about since its existence is to support the older generation of A/V equipment (mostly the ones without an HDMI input).

Skipping, fast forward or rewind during viewing remains simple since you can use either the arrow buttons (left/right make 10-sec jumps, up/down make 1 min ones) or the numeric keys (for example, press 8 and it will go to the 80% of the film’s length). Subtitles (internal and external) are also very easy to adjust (height, length, font, color, delay, and size) from in movie options menu. There is also a newly introduced subtitle downloading option with precise results. Screen masking lovers will be pleased to know that the vertical shifting of both internal and external subtitles is supported both on UHD as well as BD backups. Forced subs also load automatically (as should) when in menu navigation mode. Another issue fixed from Realtek based previous generation of players.

We are dealing with great video performance results, especially considering the early stage of the unit’s software (Dune has already released four firmware versions!)

The pre-installed SPMC (a fork of KODI) video player also works but you don’t get menu navigation, 3D, and auto frame rate switching. HD Audio pass-through is at least supported. If you are a fan of KODI, you should only use it for your favorite add-ons. Local video file playback (USB or NAS/Server)  should only be handled by Dune’s internal video player. 

Wired network performance was excellent even with very high bit-rate 4K files. Skipping chapters action is handled instantly with no lags or buffering delays. You must be aware that in order to do so, your network setup should be up to par (Gigabit certified components). Wireless performance was also very good since almost all of our 1080p Blu-Ray backups had no buffering issues. Just like in the wired connection, your access point should also be up to the task (a high-speed dual-band with good range).

Internal flash ROM module is very fast for a mid-ranger, with reading speeds up to 112mb/sec and writes ones in the 55mb/sec range. 


 

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My Collection

Realbox 4K uses the same movie poster engine as last year’s model. The result is very good and detailed in terms of movie-related information. Synopsis, info on the protagonists/directors/crew, and related trailers. All you need to do to get that is import the folder of your movies and then let the scraper do its magic. It would be wise to rename some folders that could confuse the scraper. You always have the option to manually edit the movie posters in case something goes wrong. Even though the end result is eye-pleasing, we miss the more refined options of other solutions. For example, you don’t get to choose the movie’s main poster. You have to settle with the pre-selected one. You are able to input manually the movie’s IMDB code for perfect matching which is excellent.

There is also an automatic movie recognition built into the default file manager that works well if the folder name makes it easy for the scraper to analyze on the fly. If your files and folders are properly labeled, you can do without movie scraping. Unless of course, you want the full list of movie posters in front of you to select from.


 

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Android Apps – Dune Apps

Dune’s user interface sits on top of an Android 7.1 based operating system. The only way to see a familiar Android menu is through the “system” selection in the setup menu. 

Although not pre-installed, you do get the option to install Google Play Store. Aside from that, the Aptoide TV market is also installed but we couldn’t search manually since there was no on-screen keyboard to be found. You should stick to Google Play Store, at least for the time being. You are able to install .APKs from your local storage which makes things a lot easier.

The alternative You-Tube version is fast and supports HDR. Depending on the bit-rate, you may experience skipped frames. Especially on 4K HDR @ 60fps. Lower resolutions should be okay.

Even though Dune Realbox 4K is Google Widevine L1 certified, Netflix is not supported (nor pre-installed). Dune confirmed that as well. Even though potential Realbox 4K buyers care more about local content (from USB, or NAS/Server) it would be great in Netflix could be officially supported.

Google Chrome (BETA) works kinda slow but totally acceptable for use on a media player.

There are also Dune HD apps. The first one (Radiotime) supports internet radio playback and can detect or filter the selections based on your region. Pretty comfortable. The second one (Music) is also interesting since it finds information and You-Tube video files based on your search per artist or album. Certainly not a refined app but an interesting one, mostly for the song and artist information. 

For better navigation, you can use Dune’s excellent iOS or Android remote application. In addition to emulating the remote’s buttons, you also get the main menu’s icons, the movie posters from your collection and superior movie navigation during playback (slider for jumping forward, etc.)

Android gaming is possible, but only for light 2D titles. Some 3D ones may work on low settings too, but not the demanding ones like Call of Duty or even Fortnite. 

You can also use keyboard combos of your own for frustrating free typing. Realbox 4K had no problem accepting the old but trusty Logitech K400. Just remember that you can always use the iOS/Android application too. 

The OS is based on Android 7.1.1 We don’t mind the OS version, but an updated security update would be welcomed.

As always, Dune provides excellent support for its products with frequent firmware updates. In addition to that, you can contact them via their support page and fill the related form to try and address your issue even faster.


Summary

You can’t go wrong with Dune Realbox 4K. Especially at such a low price (159$). It got all it takes to perform admirably where it counts (High bit-rate playback, Menu navigation, Forced subs, HD Audio, HDR10+, Perfect 24p motion handling, Proper HDR MaxCLL/MaxFALL passthrough information) and is already better (or equal) than any other, usually more expensive, previous generation media player by Dune or its competitors. Its minor omissions simply cannot diminish all the aforementioned goodies.

We are just eager to see what upcoming flagships using Realtek RTD1619 can offer in addition. Chances are, not a lot. If you don’t care about additional SATA and USB3.0 ports, and HDMI In, then the Realbox 4K has got you covered 99.9%. 

  • The review unit was purchased by us. No one offered it and we were not forced to any opinion other than our own.
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