The DVD/DivX players are becomming more common by the minute. Just a few months ago KiSS were basically the only ones with a player on the market. Nowadays we have over 25 players available with support for DivX in some form or the other. Up to now the manufacturers of these players have been fairly unknown to us but some of the big names are chipping in as we speak. Phillips have a player just waiting to get out the door.

It wasn’t too long ago that I glimpsed at the Neuston Maestro DVX-1201. (Keep the link in handy as you will want to compare it to this one.) For those of you who’ve read the review you’ll know I was thoroughly impressed with that player. The originator of DivX playing DVD players are however a Danish company called KiSS Tecnology. Their current flagship product is called KiSS DP-500, a DVD/DivX player supporting ethernet connectivity, and today we’ll be exmamining it.

The DVD/DivX players are becomming more common by the minute. Just a few months ago KiSS were basically the only ones with a player on the market. Nowadays we have over 25 players available with support for DivX in some form or the other. Up to now the manufacturers of these players have been fairly unknown to us but some of the big names are chipping in as we speak. Phillips have a player just waiting to get out the door.

As far as I know practically ALL these players are based on Sigma Designs DVD-8500 decoder which in a way makes the market pretty boring as all players are featurewise very similar. KiSS has some twists and turns to differentiate their player from the rest though. So let’s have a look at the true pioneers of the DivX players.


KiSS DP-500

Manufacturer:
KiSS Technology
Measurements:
43×8,5×29 cm
Weight:
4.7 kg
Decoder:
Sigma DVD-8500
Video out:

SCART, Coaxial and S-Video

Audio out:
Two Analog Stereo Coaxial, Optical and Coaxial Digital SPDIF
Video-output:
True PAL och NTSC, Progressive Scan (Through SCART/YPbPr), up to 1080i/720p, Macrovision
Audio-output:
Analog Stereo, Digital Dolby Digital and DTS (5.1)
Supported video formats:
DVD-Video, Superbit DVD, SVCD, VCD, DivX 3.11 and up, XviD, MPEG4
Supported Audio formats:
Audio CD, MPEG-1 Layers 1, 2 and 3 (MP3), PCM. Ogg Vorbis
Image viewing formats:
JPEG, Kodak Picture CD
Navigational possibillities:
Remote control, Setup-meny, MP3-searching, Time/track-searching, Bookmarks, Playback controls (Play/Pause/Stop/FF/RW/Next/Previous), Reverse (8, 16, 32 and 48x), Fast forward (8, 16, 32 and 48x), Slow Motion (1/2, 1/4, 1/8), Picturezoom (8 x.), Titel/chapter-choise, Language choise, subtitles and angles
Aspect ratio:
4:3 Letterbox, 4:3 Pan & Scan, 16:9 Widescreen
Media formats:

DVD, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, CD, CD-R, CD-RW (80 min max), Ethernet

Estimated price:
3000 SEK

Since the first player of this kind I reviewed was the Nesuton Maestro DVX-1201 it will be used it as a base of reference. The first thing that struck me with the KiSS DP-500 is that it’s a much larger and heavier player. It weighs over three times as much as the Neuston Maestro and is little a bit taller and longer as well. When it comes to the specifications this player is practically identical to Neustons, simply because they both are based on the Sigma DVD-8500 decoder. So before we move on we can already figure out that basically all differences between these players will be physical or firmware related. The major thing we can see in the specifications that differentiate it from the Maestro is the Ethernet connection.


Power on

The left hand side of the frontal display shows what formats this player can handle. Here you also find the power button, though I would rather recommend putting the player in sleep mode rather than turning it off since the startup takes quite a while. (Same thing applies to Neuston.)


Interface

For those of you who like to misplace their remotes (I know I often do) there are some basic controls on the right side of the player.

Design
We look at the estetical as well as the functional aspects of design.

Design is ok all around and it serves it’s purpose. I do think it’s too clumbsy both considering wieght and measurements. (43×8,5×29 cm and 4.7 kg compared to the Neustons 43x7x25 cm and 1.4 kg)


KiSS bundles all the accesories you might need for the player except the digital audio cables.


Accessories

A 21-pin SCART cabel, a remote control, coax cables with Audio L/R & Video, power connector, manuals in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Portuguese and Dutch. Everything you’d expect is included except a spdif or coax cable for digital audio. The cables are a bit too short in my opinion though.
The manual gives some basic coverage but really lacks descriptions of the more advanced functionality. Basically no descriptions of functionality during playback are present which I find a bit annoying.


Remote control

The remote control is light weight and has fairly smooth edges compared to the Neuston remote. However the buttons are in my opion too small. Other than that I find it a bit irritating that they’ve put the button descriptions on the actual buttons. It makes the text too small, it’s hopeless trying to see what the buttons says in a dark room for an example. The functionality varies depending on what you are playing. There’s some functions that I would like to have control over in ”real time” while playing a movie that isn’t supported via the remote. (Such as zooming/streching DivX videos etc.)

Accessories
We look at the amount and usefulness for included accessories and integrated features.

Settings

One thing that the KiSS DVD player has dealt with a bit better than Neuston is the setup interface, at least their quick setup guide. The standard setup pages feel a bit boring compared to Neuston on the other hand. (Before we go on here I must apologize for the sub standard quality of the photos, I was using a not so good digital camera that I recieved as a review sample and I didn’t actually check the pictures in full size before I sent back the player.)


Title screen

With a simple press on the remote controls ”Setup” you enter the PLAYER SETUP which is divided into four sections: Language Settings, Video Settings, Audio Settings and Misc. Settings.


Language settings

Basic language settings. Pretty much what you’d expect.


Video settings

Among the video settings we can choose among a lot of different formats of PAL and NTSC. My TV has no support for S-Video but for some reason I found that NTSC C/S-Video gave absolute best image quality on my TV. Probably the separate luminans channel makes some difference. The effect is known from TV-Out on graphic cards where the image quality becomes somewhat better if you enable both S-Video and Composite out even though the TV doesn’t have support for S-Video.

When it comes to size and aspect ratio Neuston and KiSS has solved this problem in different ways. With the KiSS player you can choose either the native format or full screen. On Neuston you can change vertical and horizontal size to your own liking. To say the least I much prefer the more configurable solution that Neuston provides.


Audio setting

Basic stuff, either stereo out or digital (surround) out is supported.

Misc. setting

Here’s the parental lock settings. You can also choose how to configure the screen saver and display brightness. This is also the menu from which you can access the quick setup that I praised in the introduction of this section.

The Quick Setup is basically a short guide with pretty pictures that lets you configure the basic settings of the player. Very nice for those who aren’t ”in the know”.

This player actually supports a wider range of settings than Neuston but still it feels less versatile. One contributing factor is that the Neuston allows you to change settings ”on the fly” while actually vewing a movie.

The only thing among the settings and the remote which is really annoying is that the search/tracking function in AVI films works very bad. When it works at all should be added. This is for me a really big minus and I hope that they’ll fix this in the future versions of their firmware. The Neuston player suffers from the same problems though.

Settings/Control
We look at the number of settings and the control over the players functions. Another thing that is very important is how user-friendly the product is.


Below is a list of all the formats I’ve played. Most formats are clickable, so for those of you who are not familiar with the different formats just click on it for more information.

Video:

Audio:

MP3

CDDA/Audio CD/CDA
Images:
Sub titles :
SAMI (.smi)
SubRip (.srt)
MicroDVD (.sub)

* I could not find a good link that described what XDVD is, but just as with XVCD it’s simply a DVD that doesn’t quite follow the standards considering i.e. resolution and bitrate.

Comparing this player to Neuston quickly made me notice two major differences: the KiSS player handles DivX 3.11 a lot better than Neuston, on the other hand it handles all VCD/DVD formats, except the normal VCD 2.0 format, worse than Nesuton.

An example of the problems I have is found below:


Saving Private BSOD?

This is what I see when I try to play Saving Private Ryan Special Edition (DTS) on the KiSS DP-500. Simply a black screen with a marker on what I assume is a menu item. No sound nor am I able to press enter on any, what I assume is, menu option. In short Saving Private Ryan was a no go on this player. Granted I haven’t seen any other movie with this same problem but if one DVD is ”handled” like this I’m assuming other might have the same result as well.

The new firmware 2.7.1 was supposed to fix problems with an unspecified amount of DVD movies and their menus. Private Ryan is still a no go for me though.

DivX 3.11 worked better as mentioned. This player has less problems with high bitrate DivX 3.11 though it too seems to hit it’s limit when closing in on a 1 mbps bitrate, at too high bit rates the player freezes for a few seconds now and then rendering the movie unwatchable. I also had some slight problems with smearing pixels on the Neuston player but I haven’t seen these problems at all on DP-500.

Neuston – KiSS: 1 – 1

Music playback and picture watching of the supported formats worked flawlessly, no problems whatsoever.

Limitations:
As the specs mentioned it also works fine to burn files on almost any disc. There are two limitations though: the player has no support for DVD-RAM (which isn’t very surprising considering the physical aspects of the format) and no support for CD-R/CD-RW longer than 80 minutes. In other terms: the player cannot handle discs that are overburnt – a fact that bothers me a lot.

Two other unsupported formats are SACD (Super Audio CD) and DVD-Audio.

WMA/WMV support would be very nice but there is none as of yet.

Playing

Even though the player supports a lot of formats that doesn’t say that they work problem-free. A short description of all the different format’s support is listed below. Notice that we don’t take count of the image quality, except when it concerns actual bugs.

Video:

DVD:
The player handles DVD just as good as expected. Fast forwarding, time search, zooming, changing subtitles and audio tracks and more works perfectly and the player works quickly without delays. The exception being Saving Private Ryan which didn’t work at all on the DP-500.

VCD: (All versions)
VCD 1.x – 2.x works very good in general, playback seems slightly smoother than on Maestro DVX. Other VCD formats is a bit worse off though as playback tends to get choppy at times. Especially high bitrate VCDs don’t work very well at all.

XviD:
Works like a charm.

DivX 4.02 – 5.05b:
See XviD.

DivX 3.11:
Works nicely except when the bitrate gets too high (roughly 1 mbps).

RMP4:
Of course Sigma’s own format works splendidly with their own decoder.

MPEG 1 and 2:
Again the player seems to dislike the high bitrate MPEG files here as playback is a bit choppy.

Audio:

MP3:
Sounds as good as an MP3 does.

Ogg Vorbis :
Works as good as one would expect. .

Audio CD:
Works as it should. I really like that KiSS has built a menu for Audio CDs, Neuston don’t have this which makes navigation cumbersome.

Images:

JPEG/Kodak Picture CD:
Works very well, loading times are shoter than on the Neuston player.

Just like on the Nesuton player I made a CD which really tests the limits of the player. A high bitrate XviD file with 5.1 AC3 audio and subtitles was played. While audio and video was as good as it ever gets I did have some very slight problems with subtitles being out of sync (before the 2.7.0 firmware subtitles was completely out of sync by several minutes) not a bad problem, at worst it was a few seconds (1-3) but still in a scene with lots of conversation it’s pretty irritating.

Formats/Playing
We look on the number of audio and video formats supported, and how it works practically. The media formats are also included in the judgement.

I had a hard time deciding if this player should get the same grade as Neuston or a bit lower. In the end I’ll have to lower it a bit. Mostly because the fairly poor SVCD support but also because of problems with subtitle sync.


A small set of pictures of the player in use.


Audio CD

When playing Audio CD’s you get presented with a menu unlike Neustons solution. Personally I much prefer KiSS take on Audio CD playback.

This is the menu used when choosing what to play: (This is a new feature in the firmware version 2.7.1, in previous version you couldn’t have various content on one disc.)


Classics…

Pretty basic interface but it works and that’s the main point here. Neuston exected this better though in my opinion.

The Hardware

In our review of the Maestro 1201 we provided some nice pictures and information on what hardware is inside the player. Unfortunately we cannot provide this for the DP-500 as the screws simply would not budge and KiSS didn’t want to help us out with any pictures.


The image quality is on a high standard irrespective of it is XviD or DVD. Of course the player cannot avoid the limitations present when files are heavily compressed, but in general the KiSS DP-500 gives a picture that is definitely better than when using your TV-Out on a graphics card (includes the high-quality TV-Out offered by Matrox, ATI and others). For DVD’s this player is probably not the best choice, there are other more expensive players with a much better image quality. On the other hand; high-quality players will probably not be able to decode DivX/XviD.

Since it doesn’t have the pixel smearing problems I saw on DVX-1201 I’m going to rate it a bit higher.

Image quality
The image quality in all kinds of playback formats (and outputs) are examined and compared with other products in the same price range.

Looking at sound quality it becomes a little trickier. If you have an amplifier supporting Dolby Digital and DTS you can achieve a great sound, and the same goes if you can use SPDIF pass through on your sound card in your computer (which I did). If you instead only use analogue stereo you will have a loss in quality. It sounds quite muffled, especially when listening to MP3 (or playing a video with an MP3-audio track). However, both CD-Audio and AC3 sound clear and sharp.

To get a decent sound from an MP3-file through the coaxial outputs a bitrate at 192 kBps is required, and the standard is mostly 128 kBps. Why it is like this I don’t know.

When it comes to Audio I cannot see any difference at all when comparing this player to Neustons.

Sound quality
The sound quality in all kinds of playback formats (and outputs) are examined and compared with other products in the same price range.


KiSS has done a good job with the DVD-8500 decoder from Sigma. As with Neuston the player still suffers from some minor flaws though.

Unfortunately I could never test the enthernet connetivity since it requires a router or switch (which in itself is a flawed design choice in my humble opinion.)

All in all it’s a great player with support for multiple codecs and formats. The poor SVCD playback is bugging me though but I’m very confident that KiSS will solve this in a firmware update.

KiSS DP-500

Pros:
+ Supports loads of different formats
+ One of a few that supports DivX 3.11
+ Good picture and sound

Cons:
– Poor SVCD support
– Minor sync problems with subtitles
– No support for DVD-A, WMA, WMV or SACD

Design:
7.0
Accessories:
7.0
Setup/Control:

8.5

Format/Playback:
8.5
Picture quality:
9.0
Sound quality:
8.5
Final mark :
8.1
Price:
3000 SEK (Exchange rates)

If I had the choice between the Neuston Maestro DVX-1201 and the KiSS DP-500 I think I’d opt for Neuston. SVCD playback is important to me as is subtitle synchronization. On top of that I like the design and remote of the Nesuton player better than KiSS’. Though I think I would have liked this player a lot if I ever got the ethernet connection working. For an example: have your computer in the bedroom and hook it up via ethernet to the DP-500 in the livingroom.

However, the DP-450 is a cheaper choice than Neustons DVX 1201 so for those on a tight budget I recommend checking that one out. KiSS has a truckload of new players on their way to the market as we speak and I hope to take a look at one of them soon.

A bit off topic is my wish to see a DVD/DivX player that sports a DD/DTS decoder it will of course make the product pretty expensive but it would be a nice choice if possible.

Many thanks to Kiss

Annons

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