- Review Price: £287.00
Early last year we looked at the Kiss DP-500, one of the first DVD/DivX players which could stream video over Ethernet. The DP-558 though does this and a whole lot more. In fact Kiss has really thrown the kitchen sink at the DP-558. When first released it only featured an 80GB drive but this has now this has been upgraded to a 200GB drive. In addition there’s a TV tuner and component video with output and remarkably, input too.
Now, most TVs on this side of the pond don’t feature component video so luckily Kiss has included two RGB SCART connectors – one in, one out – S-Video and composite video in and out, stereo audio in and out and optical and coaxial S/PDIF output. It doesn’t have any digital video outputs, but as it doesn’t support HD content, this is not a major issue.
The only thing really missing is a built-in DVD writer, but you can transfer recorded content from the DP-558 to your PC and burn the content from there. You can of course copy content from your PC to the hard drive as well. This works in varying degrees depending on the file encoding but Kiss had done a pretty decent job by supporting the most common formats.
In terms of file compatibility it’s almost easier to mention what it doesn’t support first, namely WMV, but Kiss hoping to add it to the next version. What it can handle is DVD, VCD, SVCD, MPEG-2, DivX, XviD, MPEG-4, Audio CD, WMA, MP3, OGG files. It can also display JPEG pictures.
It’s slightly disappointing to find that the DP-558 records only to MPEG-2, although in its defence the files are stored on VOB format so they can be burned straight to DVD without any conversion. I would have preferred MPEG-4, not only because it takes up less space than MPEG-2, but also because the recording quality doesn’t justify the use of a low compression format.
There is of course a wide range of recording formats available, ranging from best quality at 8Mbit to super long play at 1.5Mbit. Personally I wouldn’t use anything below 4Mbit (standard quality) as content recorded at any setting below this resulted in visible compression artefacts. With a 200GB hard drive this is hardly going to be a problem though, as you can fit hours and hours of video to it. The DP-558 supports time shifting, but this was not as slick as a Sky Plus box by any means. There seems to be a lag before it starts recording the video and getting it to play and record at the same time was slightly confusing.
To help, you choose what to record via the DP-558s built in EPG, which fortunately works in most countries in the world. However, unless you get all the channels through your aerial you can’t take full advantage of it. The Kiss doesn’t come with an IR blaster so as if you use a set-top box to view your TV, it will only see the channel the box is tuned to, which is quite limiting. Also, each channel has to be added to the favourites list in the EPG one by one, which makes it quite a tedious task. EPG updates can also only be done over an Internet connection.
Perhaps the most impressive feature though is that Kiss has made it possible to access the players EPG from a WAP enabled mobile phone. Using this you can send recording requests to your player via a portal on Kiss website. Other online features include weather reports, web radio and a few online games, though these are also available on the DP-500 with the newer firmware.
Pleasingly, Kiss has got the network setup right and it’s very easy to set up the DP-558 to access your network and the Internet. The most straightforward way is if you have a DHCP server – this could be your router – as this way you don’t have to enter any settings. But even if you’re using static IP addresses it only takes a couple of minutes at the most to get the DP-558 up and running. Copying files back and forth is done via FTP and the DP-558 can even be set up as a local FTP server, so several users can access files stored on it. You can still stream files to the DP-558 – as with the DP-500, but sadly the PC Link software that sits on your desktop doesn’t show any signs of improvement.
Oddly I discovered while copying files back and forth that the DP-558 is far from using the full speed of the 10/100Mbit Ethernet interface. Using Flash FXP to copy a wide range of files I could never exceed 1.5MB/s which means that a 700MB file took about ten minutes to copy across. The DP-558 also lacks FTP resume, so if you for some reason have to abort a file halfway through uploading, you have to start over from the beginning again.
The remote control hasn’t changed much either. The buttons are now white which makes them slightly easier to read, but apart from this the only changes are to accommodate the recording features. I’m not that fond of the new button layout as it’s actually harder to use than the DP-500s remote and simple operations require multiple key presses. For example, if you want to delete a file you first have to press the mark button which is located at the bottom of the remote and then the delete button which is located at the top half of the remote; hardly ideal.
The menu interface ranges from very easy to frustrating. For example, I don’t understand why you can’t press the setup button when you’re in the menu. Instead you have to exit the menu first. The same thing applies if you’re watching a video file stored on the hard drive; you can’t go directly back to the menu but instead you have to press the back button first.
Finally, as far as connectivity goes, Kiss supplies a SCART cable, power, aerial and extension cables, a composite video cable and a stereo audio cable – not a bad bundle.
The DP-558 is definitely a step forward for Kiss, but there are too many little annoying things with it to prevent me from looking elsewhere, especially as hard drive recorders are far more commonplace now than when the original DP-558 was launched. Sure, it plays DivX content and you can copy your recorded material to a PC, but at £286.79 Kiss is facing tough competition from the established home electronic brands. The only difference being that those machines offer built in DVD recorders in favour of DivX and Ethernet support. There are also several other companies that are doing streaming devices like the DP-500, although most of them are unable to record TV programs.
If you want a hard drive recorder with easy access to the stored content then the Kiss DP-558 might be for you, but right now there are far too many little niggles to make it a great product. I look out for the next generation of products from Kiss but right now I’d give the DP-558 a miss.
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