VU+ Duo2 Review

Discussion in 'Satellite TV, Sky TV & FreeSat' started by Ekko Star, Jul 27, 2013.

  1. Ekko Star

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    Front.JPG

    Ever since it's announcement at the Anga Com in 2012 the VU+ Duo2 has become one of the most eagerly awaited satellite receivers there has ever been. There's always a great sense of excitement when a new technical bit of kit gets launched but for the Duo2, there really has been a palpable build of tension and anticipation like no other.

    The clamour for this machine leading up to launch has literally reached fever pitch and you may well ask why all the excitement? Well, simply put the Duo2 comes to market with a set of features that potentially make it set to be the be all and end all of Linux satellite receivers.

    There was never any fear that the Duo2 was going to be a chump or a chimp but was this machine really going to have what it takes to make it as a champ ?

    Given its pedigree VU+ have built their success upon every machine they have released. They just seem to nail it every time. The rest as they say is history and the VU+ brand has gone from strength to strength into now being recognised as one of the worlds premium satellite brands.

    The original Duo was a quite remarkable machine and its launch some 4 years ago spearheaded VU+'s entry onto the satellite scene. It wasn't long that the once young pretender was felt to be punching well above its weight. Comparisons were even drawn against the highly rated Dream Multimedia DM8000.

    The daddy that was.
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    The venerable DM8000 however, remained the superior and by far the more flexible machine. The Duo on the other hand was aggressively priced and immediately gained third party and developers support. No wonder then enthusiasts took an instant shine to it as well. The Duo became hugely successful and to this day remains a stalwart twin tuner receiver.

    Before we start on the Duo2, let's iron out some naming conventions. The Duo name is essentially the only hand me down from the original to this new machine. The Duo2 now becomes the flagship of the VU+ range and leapfrogs the Ultimo. The Duo2's little brethren the Solo2 has then effectively replaced the niche the original Duo once had.

    Phew! Is that all clear? Good, let's move on...

    Now, it may sound a bit shallow but in today's day and age first impressions count and first impressions are the Duo2 has gravitas, serious gravitas. This is a street fighter that's come dressed to impress and out to cause major distress.

    Yes sir, we are talking heavyweight championship of the satellite world and the Duo2 has come every bit as hungry to claim the undisputed crown.

    VU+ presents you the Duo2.

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    Let's find out more now shall we.

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    The Duo2 comes safely packaged in an environmentally friendly cardboard box

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    Everything is packed both professionally and securely. This is very much the VU+ way

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    The machine is a bundled with a generous set of accessories and everything is included to get you started and on your way.

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    The Duo2 looks every bit as slick a piece of kit as you could wish to own.

    The front Gloss styling is similar finish in kind to that of the Solo2 and the Ultimo. The front panel being dominated by the LCD screen on the left hand side, a centrally placed VFD and a drop down flap on the right.

    It is also important to note here that the Duo2 moves away from the touch sensitive buttons of the Ultimo and Solo2. This is somewhat surprising as this was becoming a regular VU+ feature? In fact there are no visible buttons of any sort.

    [​IMG]

    The only button on the front is a physical standby located behind the drop down flap. Here you will also find a USB 2.0 slot, 2x DVB CI slots and 2x X-crypt Smart Card reader slots.

    [​IMG]

    The main casing itself has a matt black finish to it. The glossy fingerprint magnet the Ultimo had has gone. Just as well because the Duo2 is a hands on machine.

    From a top view you can see two venting areas. The one on the front left is directly above where the HDD would be situated. The one towards the rear on the right is where the tuners and Wi-Fi slot is located.

    [​IMG]


    At the rear you will see the all important connectivity. As you can see it's a busy rear panel and there's plenty here to keep you well connected. Some may wonder why include scart and composite connectors on such a high end machine. Perhaps there's too much? No, there is simply no point skimping on connectors.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2014
  2. Ekko Star

    Ekko Star
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    [​IMG]

    The case fan on the right sits directly behind the internal PSU. This draws air out efficiently and quietly to keep the machine nice and cool.

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    The Duo2 has been launched with a brand new remote control. This is a purposeful move to distinguish this as the premium VU+ machine.

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    Whist the machine itself is the main attraction, the remote is equally so. It is in fact what you hold, touch and feel on a day to day basis. It is your interface with the machine.

    Get it wrong and you have a fiddly cumbersome remote. Get it right and you give the sumptuous feel of quality in the palm of your hand.

    On top of all this the VU machines have always been incredibly responsive and tactile. Channel changes, menu drill downs have always been lightning fast and add to the sense of speed and power of the machines. End users certainly love this aspect and it adds to the whole experience of using and owning a VU+ machine.

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    The new remote is programmable and a list of compatible TV codes is provided (check for compatibility).

    You will note the layout of the buttons has changed compared to the old style remote. The central navigation button has now been bling'd into chrome and is now flanked by the four Volume and Channel +/- buttons. The colour coded fast menu buttons sit just blow the central navigation. The numerical pad has been dropped to the lower half of the remote and the remaining navigation buttons pushed towards the top.

    The Duo2 can handle PIP but there is no dedicated direct to feature button. There is also no subtitle button.

    [​IMG]

    If you are accustomed to the old remote, familiarity with this may not be immediate but it really shouldn't take you long to master. More importantly the remote feels robust in hand, is nicely sized and weighty and the buttons have a lovely soft depression in use.

    It really is very nice, end of.

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    This is an enthusiast's machine so have no fear as to what hides behind the outer casing. Dare to tread and you shall find, remove the five retaining screws, pause for breath and then whip the lid off.

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    Take a moment to marvel at all you see before you.

    The HDD tray is located behind the LCD display. The PSU is at the rear left. To the right you have the main board with the CI slots and card readers at the front right.

    [​IMG]

    The PSU is fully internal meaning the whole receiver is self-contained. This keeps everything nice and tidy. There are some +/- of doing it this way (heat build-up) but the PSU board is detached from the main motherboard. This is best practice and good design. As long as you then provide decent clearance for airflow around the machine you should be absolutely fine. I would also recommend that you install the very handy Fan Control 2 Plug-in as well.

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    Beneath the passive heat sink lies the new Broadcom BCM7425 1.3GHz Dual Core CPU. You may be forgiven for thinking a 1.3GHz CPU may need fan assistance to keep it cool? Not so, a similar heat sink was installed in the Solo2 and has been reliably up to the task dissipating heat very effectively. The Solo2 is proving to be every bit a reliable machine and there is little to suggest the Duo2 will be any different.

    [​IMG]

    There is 2GB of DDR3 1333MHz RAM onboard. This is a huge capacity and it helps the memory is so fast. Juxtaposing EPG data should be a walk in the park. On top of this VU+ have also thrown in a massive 1Gb of Flash memory. What's also important here are the read/write life cycles as Flash is where your images are stored.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2014
  3. Ekko Star

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    [​IMG]

    The Duo2 comes blessed with two pluggable tuner slots. The receiver comes with one twin DVB/S2 tuner pre-installed. The second slot can then be used for an additional twin DVB/S2 making it a Quad tuner machine. In fact, if you really wanted to you could have up to 4 motorised dishes attached. The mind boggles?!?!

    Alternatively you could install a DVB C/T Tuner and toggle between cable, terrestrial or satellite. A DVB/T2 tuner is also on the cards but not yet made available. The third bay, which outwardly appears to house a slot, is reserved simply as an opening to allow for a Wi-Fi adaptor.

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    The installation of a HDD is pretty straightforward. The SATA cable, mounting screws and a power connector are all kindly provided in the box.

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    You can install a 3.5" or 2.5" SATAIII HDD internally. It is entirely a personal choice as to which way you go but nowadays the best practice tends towards a 2.5". Not only do the smaller forms generate less heat (which is always a good thing) than their 3.5" counterparts, they are also designed to be portable and robust.

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    SATAIII transfer rates mean solid read/write speeds. If you have enough tuners in play, the Duo2 can in fact manage to record up to 16 streams at any one time. Impressive stuff.

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    The lower profile of a 2.5" also helps for internal airflow and cooling. Reason being it allows for a slightly greater clearance between the HDD and the vents in the lid. This in turn allows for cooler air to be drawn more easily over and around the HDD, into the machine and then expelled through the rear.

    [​IMG]

    When it comes to networking you are well served. The Duo2 comes equipped with a Gigabit Ethernet LAN and is the first VU+ machine coming with Wi-Fi on-board. The Duo2 uses the Ralink 5370 2.4 GHz 802.11n-300 chipset and this particular chipset maintains a reliable connection and provides a good Wi-Fi range. If you have a draft N-router then you can hit wireless speeds of up to 300mb/s. As I mentioned before there is a slot at the rear where you can install a wireless adaptor should you need further help if you are in a weak/unreliable Wi-Fi signal area.

    If on the other hand you are a no nonsense speed freak then wired gigabit is more for you. This is far faster and more reliable. Should you ever wish to mount a Networked storage device or regularly use the Duo2 as a media streamer for example, this may prove to be the better option.

    [​IMG]

    The 16-bit 256,000 pixel 3.2" TFT LCD display dominates the front left hand side of the receiver. Not only does it provide the wow factor, it simply oozes class!

    There's no doubt about it, the in-built display of the Duo2 simply stands out and is gobsmackingly gorgeous.

    [​IMG]

    Whilst the display is potentially capable of drawing pretty much anything you like you will have to experiment to fully get to grips with it and get it to do as you wish. For this you'll have to use the LCD4Linux plug-in.

    Given the sense of community that surrounds Linux receivers, more than anything else, I envisage that this display will add to the cult status the Duo2 is destined to win. It won't be long before people will be uploading and sharing their LCD configs and picons and all you guys will be busy downloading and experimenting to see what is right for you. There also doesn't seem to be any apparent reason why the display couldn't perhaps in time display a TV picture? For now it seems to refresh every few seconds or so which is far too slow to be able to do that.

    If as an enthusiast you plan to use this as a workbench machine then the LCD display is perfectly sized and informative. From a greater distance, any smaller detailed icons would become more challenging to distinguish.

    [​IMG]

    The Duo2 also has a centrally placed 140x32 pixel VFD. This is clearly not as flexible as to what the LCD can display but it offers a good medium in that it is the more legible at distance. The Ultimo had an impressive central VFD and the Solo2 a 12-digit one. The Duo2's is not up to those but VU+ seems to have struck an acceptable balance that compliments the LCD display.

    [​IMG]

    Flashing - It takes 36 seconds to boot up from a hard reset on the Experimental image. Flashing the 147Mb Black hHle Hyperspace 2.0.4 image took all of 64 seconds. It's an impressive image and the 1.3 GHz Broadcom 7425 bubbles along at 869.37 BogoMIPS.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2014
  4. Ekko Star

    Ekko Star
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    [​IMG]

    The Duo2 is not Usain Bolt just kicking around at a normal race meet. Nope, this is Usain Bolt trying to win Olympic gold and obliterate the World Record at the same time.

    [​IMG]

    HbbTV - Quickly flicking over to Astra 19.2E and ZDF HD to check the embedded features of HbbTV and all works fine

    [​IMG]

    Picture in Picture - PIP is enabled by depressing the blue fast menu button. You can also move the inserted picture around the screen as well as invert the channels. It handles HD material without a glitch.

    [​IMG]

    Transcoding - You will need to enable transcoding via the plug in. Then go to your tablet or handheld device, enter the IP address of the machine and you'll be presented with OpenWebif. Select the channel you wish to watch and away you go.

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    Streaming - The Duo2 has on board hardware and the transcode is excellent quality. The time lag behind live transmission was 15 seconds but your mileage may vary as you adjust bit-rates.

    [​IMG]

    Blindscan - Another great addition is the inclusion of a blind scan feature. Move your dish to one of the lesser traffic satellites and let the receiver scan away. You are sure to find something interesting to watch such as live feeds.


    CONCLUSION


    Right then let's wrap this up.

    If you're reading this review, you are probably after the very best machine out there.

    In terms of what it offers, the Duo2 is armed to the hilt with the very latest firepower. It is simply cutting edge in virtually every department and simply blows away any other receiver out there. It's a fantastic bit of kit. This is a true out and out enthusiast's machine. The extreme machine.

    For now it's a Linux machine running Enigma2 but the Broadcom 1.3Ghz processor and the spec of the Duo2 means it also has the ability to run XBMC. This thing is potentially future proofed.

    If on the other hand you are intrigued by XBMC you may then ask what of the Prismcube and where does that enter the equation?

    [​IMG]

    Firstly, it really is very early days for XBMC4STB. This new DVB/PVR/STB platform is at present lacking a little in development and image support. At the moment it's in early infancy meaning that it's going to very much be a sidewards step from Enigma 2 for a little while yet. In truth, early adopters may find it somewhat regressive in out and out satellite performance terms.

    Secondly, there really is no comparison to be had with the consummate and proven performance you would get with a Duo2. E2 is proven and it is here right now.

    In fact, I would say the only real competition worthy of consideration at this stage comes from its little brethren the Solo2...choices, choices

    [​IMG]

    There is precious little argument to be had as to what you get for your money. The Duo2 is priced at less than half of what the DM8000 ever was and it's priced in the region of where both the Duo and Ultimo launched at.

    Add to all of that the burgeoning support and images that VU+ benefit from....The Duo2 is undeniably the new King of the Hill.

    If you intend to buy this machine, you would be buying the most prestigious and technically gifted satellite receiver out there bar none. It's also your passport into the very top-tier of a hugely well established Linux Community. That's a place you know you want to be.

    The don-dada extraordinaire....

    [​IMG]


    Hope you have enjoyed reading this review

    Thanks

    ES
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2014
  5. uksparx

    uksparx
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    Great review.

    Have you tried transcoding externally ?

    Can you confirm what adjustments can be made with transcoding regarding the bit rate?

    Thanks
     
  6. Sephiro

    Sephiro
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    It's awfully tempting to get one of these to replace my DM8000 mainly for the gigabyte LAN adapter as transferring recordings off the box currently takes ages.

    The only thing I'm worried about is heat with a 3.5" hard drive installed as it doesn't looks like there's much space or ventilation around that area (I installed a 80mm fan in my DM8000 to keep the temperatures down, but there isn't enough internal space or venting on the Duo2 to do this by the looks of it). I'm guessing that the internal fan will probably just ramp up to compensate, but given that it's the same size as the one in my Oppo I'm not confident that it will stay silent if it does.
     
  7. Delvey

    Delvey
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  8. Ekko Star

    Ekko Star
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    The Duo2 is designed so you can install either 3.5" or 2.5". It has vents and there is no need for an additional internal fan or mods. VU+ machines tend to run efficient and quiet.

    As with all Dreamboxes the DM8000 runs extremely hot. It actually needs a fan above the HDD as well as the additional fan tray to sit over the PSU. It is noisier.
     
  9. Sephiro

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    Which happens to be a 60mm fan :D The main issue with smaller fans is that they have to run faster to move the same amount of air and the pitch of the noise they create tends to be higher and therefore more noticeable. I'm guessing I'll have to actually buy the Duo2 before I can determine what the options are in terms of extra cooling because it's difficult to tell from the images.

    On a positive note the Duo2 seems to be a lot more power efficient than the DM8000 looking at the spec sheet so perhaps overheating is less of an issue.
     
  10. Delvey

    Delvey
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    Haha sorry. Wrong link. Totally understand smaller fans probably will be louder. But as you said you won't know until you buy one
     
  11. keithccr

    keithccr
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    I don't see what this'll give me over my current Duo box (I have no need of transcoding)... but boy do I want one :)

    Thanks for the review!

    Keith
     
  12. robbeec

    robbeec
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    As a complete and utter noob, how difficult is one of these bad boys to set up?
     
  13. Stanman

    Stanman
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    If your confident around a PC not too hard, its quite testing but very doable
     
  14. kevkbuk

    kevkbuk
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    They are easy, if you're prepared to read up and prepare before hand. If you have knowledge of Linux and FTP then all the better but it's by no means essential. Most images now have most things you'd want and anything missing can normally be added via remote menus rather than command line etc. You can flash an image, setup your sat/s and load a channel list and be up and running in 30 minutes easy.
     
  15. robbeec

    robbeec
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    Thanks guys.

    Kev when you say read up before hand what do you mean by that? Is there a manual that comes with it to familiarise myself with or should I be looking at other info?
     
  16. kevkbuk

    kevkbuk
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    Don't know if they come with manuals but Google for VU+ forums and you should find plenty of info/guides.
     
  17. robbeec

    robbeec
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    cheers:)
     
  18. Bas Rabbit

    Bas Rabbit
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    Hello I am new here :D
    Can someone tell me how I cut me recordings ??
     
  19. haji24

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    Got dm8000 great machine shame doesnt support 1080P. i am thinking of getting VU+ Duo2, any advice about pro and cons?

    thanks
     
  20. Trollslayer

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    The BCM7425 has hardware support for transcoding - very nice.
    As to XBMC it should be able to run that without stressing.
    I would be very interested in this.
    7425 is the top end 90nm STB chip, nothing better.
    Any chance of open source software for this?
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  21. tdw

    tdw
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    My Vu Duo has broken down after 18 months, I was considering a TM-T2 but this box looks tempting even though I really didn't like my old Duo. I stopped updating blackhole after 1.76 and I never really bothered to learn about all of the features, the streaming from the box worked for me and CCCam and I was satisfied.

    Which image is most popular with this box?
     
  22. Delvey

    Delvey
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    I use Vix
     
  23. stevenjonas

    stevenjonas
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    I'm a noob too. I currently have an old Technomate receiver with 3 satellite feeds & a CRT TV. I also have a BT Vision box for my Freeview PVR. I also have BT broadband & a home wireless network. I'm about to replace my CRT TV with 3 HD TVs in different rooms. I have just discovered the Duo2. I was thinking of having the 3 satellite feeds + the Freeview feed in to the Duo2 & then feeds out to the 3 TVs. Is this possible for a noob like me to do? If so, do I place my BT Vision box in the terrestrial Freeview feed before or after the Duo2? I know that means having 2 PVRs, but the BT Vision box is more than just a PVR.
     
  24. thorley37

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    anyone know when T2 tuner will be available for the VU+ receivers
     
  25. meansizzler

    meansizzler
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    Can you test what media files it supports?

    i.e

    M2TS (H264/VC1 with DTS Audio)
     
  26. stevenjonas

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    Supposed I wanted a satellite tuner with all the facilities of the Duo2, but without the PVR? What would you recommend?
     
  27. Stanman

    Stanman
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    Apparantly listed in euro land but no date for UK.

    Drop World Of Satellite email and they should be able to confirm UK date.
     
  28. Stanman

    Stanman
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    That will be the DUO as nothing else comparable exists without PVR afaik
     
  29. PL50

    PL50
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    Hi,

    First of all, thanks for the review. :)

    My son would like to buy a VU+ Duo2 receiver.
    He has one TV and an Ipad 2.
    He would like to watch one channel (tuner 1) on the TV and another one (tuner 2, transcoding) on Ipad 2.

    Is it possible?

    Thanks a lot for your help!

    Regards,
    PL50
     
  30. Stanman

    Stanman
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    Yes it is.
     

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