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KISS DP-500 DVD PLAYER, £250

 

One of the more remarkable things about the DP-500, from Denmark-based Kiss Technology, is how very ordinary it looks. The only obvious clues to this DVD player’s unique talents are a couple of unfamiliar logos on the front panel and an RJ45 socket on the back labelled ‘10/100’, which anyone who has been around computers for a while will recognise as an Ethernet network connector.

 

The DP-500 is the first of what promises to be a new generation of players with PC connectivity, to extend their capabilities beyond merely playing material on disc, to downloading video and audio files from PCs and the Internet.

 

In addition to all of the usual DVD and CD playback functions and the ability to play and display MP3 music and JPEG picture files, the DP-500’s Sigma EM8500 decoder chip can also handle a range of more exotic digital media formats including MPEG 4, DivX and XviD, used to transport high quality video over a fast Internet connection. Once downloaded onto the PC’s hard disc drive they can be played on the DP-500, via the Ethernet connection, or burned to recordable CD and played directly. As an added bonus has it has a facility to receive Internet radio stations. High end users may also be interested to know that the DP-500 has a progressive scan video output (via the SCART socket) and it can be upgraded to all region replay by downloading a firmware upgrade from the Internet.

 

Installation and set-up has been well thought out and what could have been a minefield is actually a straightforward plug-and-play operation. Once the Ethernet cable has been fitted communications between the player and a network enabled PC is taken care of by a Windows utility called Kiss Link, loaded onto the host PC from a supplied CD-ROM (sorry Mac fans, you’ll have to wait, as usual…). Kiss Link displays the PC’s Internet Protocol (IP) address and that is keyed into the player’s set-up menu. Kiss Link then identifies the folders on the PC’s hard drive where media files are stored and the player does the rest, displaying a simple Explorer type directory; files are selected using the cursor buttons on the remote handset.

 

The DVD set-up menus are very easy to follow, which makes up for the brief instruction manual. We’ve no serious gripes with routine operations though the labelling on the remote handset could be a lot better and if the tiny lettering on the buttons wears off you could be in trouble.

 

DVD picture quality is comparable with many current mid and top-end players. Definition and colour fidelity are both impressive and the contrast range is noticeably wider than average with background textures and details crisply rendered in darker scenes and shadows. DVD audio, via the coaxial and optical bitstream outputs is as clean as it gets and worthy of connection to a good quality AV amp/decoder. CD audio sounds good too, there’s not the depth and precision of a top grade player but it should still make a very acceptable audio component.

 

On the confines of a PC monitor DivX material tends to look quite good but how does it fare when displayed on a large home cinema TV? Although not up to DVD standard picture performance is superior to VHS and at its best, combines smooth fluid movement with plenty of fine detail, lifelike colours and very low noise levels, moreover it works extremely well with animated material.

 

It wasn’t all plain sailing though. Our early sample locked up every so often when it was connected to a PC and had to be switched off. This is probably own to firmware bugs but updates, if and when they become available, should be easy to install.

 

Although getting the DP-500 up and running and connected to a network PC is virtually idiot-proof the instructions make no allowances for novices. A working knowledge of networking and file downloading is assumed as is the provision of a fast always-on ADSL or cable broadband Internet connection, and close proximity of the PC or laptop for the network cable connection, though given the pace of development in this area we shouldn’t have to wait too long for wireless or ‘Wi-Fi’ network capability.  

 

VERDICT

A tantalising taste of things to come and plenty for netheads to get their teeth into; it’s also an accomplished DVD player but perhaps a bit pricey for those without the necessary network connections.

 

 

KEY FEATURES

PC networking – for downloading media files from HDD or Internet

 

MPEG 4/DivX/XviD/JPEG/MP3/Ogg Vorbis playback

 

Web Radio

 

Hackable region lock

 

Progressive Scan video output

 

 

Contact

http://www.kiss-technology.com/

 

 

 

FEATURES 4/5

Even without the network features it would be a well specified player, though it’s not much to look at

 

PERFORMANCE 5/5

A star performer on just about every medium

 

EASE OF USE 3/5

No problem if you know your way around PCs and networking but don’t expect any help if you’re a newbie

 

VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5

Worth considering if you can make use of the networking facility but if the idea catches on expect prices to fall rapidly

 

OVERALL 5/5

By any measure it’s a top-notch DVD player but the extra networking features put it into a class of its own. It’s not for everyone though, and to make sense of it you’ll need a network PC and a fast Internet connection

 

CAPTION

Frequently used controls on the remote are easy to find but the small writing and tiny buttons can make secondary features difficult to use

 

 

COMPLETE YOUR SYSTEM

 

Toshiba 35WP26 Plasma TV, £5,000, HE 115

An ideal partner for the DP-500 with top-rated picture and progressive scan

 

Yamaha RX-V630RDS, AV Receiver, £460, HE 114

Plenty of power on tap, an extremely able decoder and a great range of features

 

 

BOXOUT – DOWNLOADING MOVIES

DivX is the best known of a number of ‘codecs’ (coder/decoder) that enables high quality audio and video to be sent over a fast Internet connection. Most codecs are based on or related to MPEG 4 compression, which in turn is a development of the MPEG 2 system used by DVD and digital television. Incidentally, DivX is not to be confused with Digital Video Express (DIVX), a defunct DVD video rental format that prevents discs playing more than a set number of times.

 

The number of DivX files floating around the Internet is growing all the time, many of them are either pirate copies of recent movies (Matrix Reloaded was available for download a day before it was released in cinemas in the US…) or porno films but there is also a legitimate pay to view market for both mainstream and independently made films, plus a lot of free material, including music videos, animations and promos; more info at: www.divx.com

 

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2003, 1905

 

 

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