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As the boxes in our lounges start to converge, new multi use devices appear on the market. First we had amplifiers and DVD players bolted together and now as games consoles start to incorporate DVD players again the device performs multiple tasks. The KiSS DP-450 is a DVD player at heart however it has one extra feature previously only found in PCs that really sets it apart from other players. It supports DivX/Mpeg-4. What does this mean? Well DivX is a codec which can compress audio and video into a lot less space. DVD players use the codec Mpeg-2 to play DVDs which are encoded using the Mpeg-2 codec. Mpeg-4 is the 4th evolution of this and is very advanced in terms of the amount of compression it can perform on a video file allowing for either more video on one disc or allowing the video to fit onto a smaller medium (for instance a CD instead of a DVD).

Kiss DP-450

Specification
The main points of this player are thus:
[*]DVD, MPEG-4 and DivX playback
[*]CD/MP3 Playback
[*]CD-RW and DVD-RW
[*]Photo Album
[*]Progressive Scan

Let me explain some of these a little. It’s a DVD player so you’d expect it to have DVD playback listed as its main feature. Mpeg-4 and DivX essentially allow the compressing a video into a lot less space with little to no noticeable reduction in picture quality. It supports DivX versions 3.11, 4.xx and 5.xx – in fact all video codecs that comply with the specifications of ISO-MPEG4 – Advanced, Simple Profile. Also supported are Xvid 2.10 and Sigma's RPM4(RealMagic MPEG4). VCDs and SVCDs are also included for completeness – this means files with the following extensions are supported: MPG, MPEG, AVI, VOB. That’s a lot of video support. One thing that may interest some readers – the following formats are supported for DivX subtitles: MicroDVD, SubRIP, SubViewer, Sami, SubViewer 2 and formats which is similar to this. CD and mp3 playback means that you can listen to your CD collection on it and you can also write your mp3 collection to CDR and then listen to them on this machine either through your TV or if it is plugged into an amplifier, then via your sound system. Out of the box it only supports mp3s and audio CDs however a firmware update from the KiSS web site allows the playback of Ogg Vorbis files. These basically perform the same function as mp3 files but provide a higher quality of audio in a smaller file size.

The fact that it can not only play CDRs but also CD-RWs and DVD-RWs means that it would be possible to write music or video to one of these and then erase it later on and therefore not waste a single disc. The 450 also supports a photo album which means photos taken on perhaps a digital camera can be played back on the family television, plasma screen or projector for all to see. The advantage of this is that afterwards the disc can be erased and the pictures left stored on the PC which negates the need to have wasteful wallets of photos stored in the loft for years to come.

Finally Progressive Scan. There are many web sites which go into depth talking about Progressive Scan so here lies a brief description. Like composite, s-video and RGB, progressive scan is another type of video connection to go between the DVD player and the TV/Projector/LCD/Plasma screen. Progressive Scan creates a picture signal with double the scan lines of a conventional DVD, resulting in higher picture resolution and sharper image quality. This is not widely used in UK equipment at the moment however more DVD players and screen equipment are now starting to implement this feature, albeit only on the higher end models usually. Currently the DP-450 only supports Progressive Scan on NTSC material.

Kiss DP-450

Installation


This was incredibly easy – just plug it in and go. The onscreen menus are written to help people with little knowledge of setting up a DVD player and so after the scart lead and digital lead were connected, the DVD player was ready to go. No complaints in this department at all.

Aesthetics and Ergonomics


Aesthetically from the PR photos I thought this player looked pretty swish. The sharp lines and square corners give a feeling of solidity and the middle portion of the player featuring the buttons and drive tray is nicely framed by the black borders. Sleek looking with few buttons gave it a certain appeal and yet inserting it into the home cinema system created an odd effect. In retrospect the machine would have looked better if it had made it’s mind what colour it should have been. It certainly doesn’t work in a black system and in a silver system the black stands out more as cheap looking plastic.

After removing it from the box I was still moderately happy with it, however it wasn’t until I started using it that its true colours started to show. The drive itself is literally a DVD-ROM from a PC and has not been camouflaged properly. Opening the tray reveals a flimsy looking drive tray which is a shame as the rest of the player looks very robust. Even if it is a PC based system, I would have preferred it to be more hidden from the player’s looks. The logos also were a little comical as was the list of supported media since there were just so may of them. The player is obviously very versatile and supports many formats and while listing them here is not so much of a problem, in future generations when KiSS players start (hopefully)  supporting DVD-Audio, Dolby Digital EX, DTS ES, Pro Logic and Pro Logic 2 they will need to extend the players length to compensate. For this player it is not really a problem – it just depends if you prefer your players with less PR material on the front of them.

The power button on the player is a proper push switch. While the player can be put into standby via the supplied remote control this button has the final say as to whether the player is on or not. To be honest, I liked pushing this as it reminded me of hifi equipment of old. Each to their own tastes here however. The other buttons on the unit felt awful however. There was little feeling of actually pressing them and this results in multiple presses to achieve the required action. The remote control however was a different story. While not exactly being a feat of engineering and not looking particularly sexy, the buttons functioned well and this provided a better interface to the player.

DVD-Video


After placing a DVD in the tray I decided to watch a different film. Pressing EJECT on the player did not give the disc back as the player was starting to play the disc so I pressed it again. The tray finally opened but as it opened to about three quarters of the way, it retracted the disc again. Several repeats of me trying to get the disc back (which took a while as once a disc is swallowed the process from spinning up to ejecting is not short) resulted in me sitting on my hands while the player opened and closed the tray until finally whatever it has inside buffering commands was finally emptied. The tray remained open and the next disc was inserted. Why commands would be buffered like that is beyond me, and it is not like it was just a couple of commands either.

Kiss DP-450

First up was the MGM Bond flick Die Another Day. The DP-450 performed quite well here however it was not in the same league as other similarly priced DVD players. The slightly soft picture contained well displayed skin tones and the other colours of the various digitally graded scenes were produced well however the real problems were uncovered when watching an animated computer feature called <a href="http://www.animusic.com";  target=anim>Animusic (click for link)</a>. This features weird and wacky musical instruments playing various pieces by themselves. As the camera panned across the orchestra the picture jerked occasionally and irregularly. At first I thought it was the disc however when checked on a different player the same problems did not happen. The next problem was that there were a lot of moiré patterns present. These were highly noticeable on the strings of the stringed instruments. Again checking with a different DVD player showed no such artefact. The nature of the player means that these problems potentially could be updated via a firmware upgrade in the future however these alone were enough to doubt the players technical ability.

Playing of non-DVD discs was painless and produced picture quality varying on the input source. There are many codecs out there and so the machine cannot support all of them but it works hard to have a wide range of compatibility supporting the most common types. A few trips to the internet and a couple of CD-RW discs resulted in the following:

<table width=435 border=o><tr><td>DiVX 4/5/5.01/5.02</td><td>Compatible</td></tr><tr><td>XVID</td><td>Compatible</td></tr><tr><td>SVCD/VCD</td><td>Compatible</td></tr><tr><td>Real MAGIC MP4</td><td>Compatible</td></tr><tr><td>DiVX 3.11</td><td>Compatible</td></tr></table>

Audio wise, for a player costing 300UKP I was surprised to not find an onboard Dolby Digital/DTS decoder, however recently the 450 has been going through some price alterations and dropped to 225UKP and then to 199UKP. The player has stereo outputs and ports for digital connections but no inherent 5.1 decoding. Is this a bad thing? Well I would always let my amplifier do the decoding for the audio since it was expensive and that is it’s main function where as audio decoding is really a DVD players secondary function. So if adding one would have upped the cost even more then it is probably best not to have it as it is expensive enough as it is. This player is aimed at a specialist market and it is unlikely Joe Public is going to purchase a player at this price without a decoder (if they know what one is!) when sub £100 DVD players come with one from supermarkets of all places. However the recent price cuts on this model do bring it into a much more competitive market. This should have been the market aimed for originally and at this price point the player should sell faster.

Musically the player performs averagely. The inclusion of MP3 and the newish Ogg Vorbis format give it a helping hand in the compatibility stakes and the navigation of these is adequate. The menu options allow for navigation between folders on the disc as well as the ability to display the ID3 info. Not having a DVD Writer I could not say but from other reviews online I believe MP3 playback can only be performed from CDs and not DVDs.

So while this resulting in an average DVD player with excellent features there is one problem with this player that would prevent me (and many other potential buyers) from purchasing it (taken from the online FAQ):

Kiss DP-450

Obviously the macrovision part will not bother most people (other than those with projectors) however the lack of multi region support is indeed troubling. I brief look on the Internet revealed nothing in the way of handset hacking information either, and while it is a Toshiba DVD drive in the machine it is hard to perform a firmware upgrade on such a DVD-ROM without access to some form of Microsoft based operating system and therefore this option is also ruled out for the moment. This will be the main reason people do not buy this DVD player and instead utilise a home cinema PC.

Overall


So near and yet so far. I had high hopes for this player after once using a REAL Magic Sigma Designs decoder in a PC to watch DVDs on the television however this does need work in video production. The KiSS DP-450 does an average job for DVDs and its DiVX support is an excellent idea (particularly the addition of DiVX 3.11 via a firmware upgrade to this player) however the rest of the player is a let down. The new sub 200UKP price point will make this a lot more accessible to the people it is aimed at and this will be good news for KiSS. The lack of multi region support will prevent many people from buying it and therefore I hope the recently released DP-500 is an improvement on this player.


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