Most consumers on this side of the Atlantic have never heard of Denmark-based KiSS Technology, but European fans have been touting the versatility of the company's digital media-friendly A/V products for some time. The DP-500 is KiSS's first networked DVD player: in addition to DVDs and CDs, it can also stream video, audio, and photos from PCs on your home network. It retails for $300 and is available in North America through &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Emtsbs%2Ecom" target="new">MTS Consumer Electronics.
Eschewing the slim form factor of many newer DVD players, the DP-500's beefy dimensions--3.25 inches high by 11.5 inches deep by 17 inches wide--look comparatively titanic. Likewise, the gray-and-black color scheme and circular transport buttons seem to have taken fashion cues from VCRs of the early 1980s. The remote control is of the long and thin variety. It looks great, but the closely grouped, identically shaped keys made for tough navigation of some advanced tasks.
Around back, the large SCART connector betrays the DP-500's Continental origins. It's a standard interface throughout Europe, providing for easy single-cable connection between A/V components--sort of a larger, analog version of the new HDMI standard. KiSS bridges the connectivity divide by including a SCART-to-component-video cable (with stereo audio), though its fixed 48-inch length may require an extension for those with a far-flung home-theater setup. The rest of the basics--composite, S-Video, optical, and coaxial digital audio output--are present, along with an Ethernet jack for connecting to a home network. (Wireless fans will want to spring for a wireless bridge or step up to KiSS's DP-1500, which sports a slimmer design and includes a Wi-Fi adapter.)
As a standard DVD player, the KiSS DP-500 has nearly all the bases covered. In addition to DVD video and CD audio discs, it spins DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW, and CD-R/RW discs; only the notoriously finicky DVD-RW format won't play. And while it wouldn't be our first choice to anchor a high-end home theater, the DP-500's picture quality was more than adequate. For example, 2:3 pull-down video processing was noticeably engaged during the opening credits of Star Trek: Insurrection, so the picture lacked the annoying jagged edges and video artifacts seen in players that aren't so equipped.
But the KiSS DP-500's real talent is playing back digital media, both on disc and via a network connection. The player's file compatibility is prodigious: MP3, WMA, and Ogg Vorbis audio; DivX, XviD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4 video; and JPEG photos. Like all other networked DVD players, the KiSS uses a small software client installed on your home PC to access compatible multimedia files on the computer's hard disk. While the DP-500's lack of a native wireless connection will be inconvenient for some, the guaranteed throughput of a hardwired Ethernet connection means that even high-bandwidth video files play with barely a hiccup. Unlike most other DVD players that have trouble digesting mixed media CDs (user-burned discs with photos, videos, and/or music), the KiSS immediately detects multiple file formats and lets the user choose between them. Even better, the DP-500 is the first networked DVD player we've seen that supports streaming Internet radio. Hundreds of Shoutcast stations from around the world are available free and easily browsable via an onscreen interface.
For such a media-friendly device, the KiSS had a few notable frustrations. Some missing niceties, such as a shuffle/random play available for music and video files, seem like an obvious oversight. But stranger still was the burying of the progressive-scan video support within a hidden menu (you must enter a special code via the remote--Eject, Clear, 2, 4, 6). There's no reason such a pivotal function should be relegated to hackers only. On the bright side, though, KiSS makes frequent firmware upgrades available on its &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ekiss%2Dtechnology%2Ecom%2F" target="new">Web site; just power up the player with a CD-R/RW to which you've burned the downloadable disc image, and the player upgrades itself in just a couple of minutes.
Since the DP-500's release, the market for networked DVD players has become increasingly competitive. In addition to cheaper, wireless options currently available from Gateway, Amoi, and , newer players from networking giants D-Link and Linksys will be available later this spring--as will KiSS's own DP-600, which adds Windows Media Player 9.0 compatibility. In the meantime, the KiSS DP-500 is a solid, albeit expensive, choice for tweak-minded propeller-heads who are serious about their digital media collections.