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Appeared on: Wednesday, May 18, 2005
KISS DP-558


1. Introduction

Nowadays, the DVR (Digital Video Recorder or Personal Video Recorder as it is also called) has become a necessary appliance, especially for those who want to record their favorite TV programmes in digital format without having to understand too much about complicated functionality or confusing formats. While the first DVRs were released with only an optical storage drive, KISS Technology as well as several other manufacturers have begun introducing DVRs with a HDD installed that's big enough to store up to 120 hours of continuous recording with the Mpeg2 format. We tested the latest DVR and Mpeg4 player from KISS Technology, the DP-558 and we present its main features along with the results of our "real life" tests. Lets begin :-)

- Features

The DP-558 from KISS Technology is a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) and as KISS states in the product homepage "...Digital Video Recorder from the next generation, the DP-558 proves to be more than what is first expected from such a product. What if you could watch live television, then pause it for a while and start it again when you are ready to watch more. What if you could browse through an electronic program guide, find the desired program, press Record and the schedule for the next recording would be set. What now if you could have online services directly available from your television screen, be able to see the weather forecast or just play games..."

The main feature of the DP-558 is its internal HDD with a capacity of 80GB that allows recording up to 120hours of television programs, depending of course on the chosen recording quality. Recording can also be scheduled, if you know the time of the program you want to record, or for immediate recording just press the record button on the remote control.

Another interesting feature of the DP-558 is the so called "Time Shifting". In case you don't exactly understand what it does "...You're watching a good movie on television when the phone rings. It's an important call, but you don't want to miss the plot. Easy... just press Pause on your remote control, and just like magic the image freezes. After the call, just press Play to resume watching..."

The KISS DP-558 includes a 10/100 network connection, which means that it can be connected to the local network and of course to the internet, for retrieving interesting information that is provided by the KISS Electronic Program Guide. The EPG is a service giving you the opportunity to check all TV programs on the KiSS DP-558 player. This service provides you with the opportunity to check the latest TV programs directly on your TV screen and makes it easy to decide what to watch and record. The EPG covers all the TV stations available in Europe. But more on this feature later...

Something really interesting is the KiSS Remote EPG. In short, you can log on to the TV Guide from your computer, WiFi-enabled PDA or GPRS and browser-enabled phone, and schedule it for recording within seconds. Another use of the network connection...

There are also three other online functions available: the Online Weather Report , Online Games and probably the most interesting, WebRadio 3.

KISS, in order to connect the DP-558 with your local network, offers the PC/MAC Link software. If you have Windows XP or a later Windows version installed on your PC, you can play Audio, Video and picture files located on the connected PC. The DP-588 also lets you transfer files from the PC’s hard disk to your KiSS DP-558's Hard Disk. All this makes it easy to view and play audio, video, and picture files directly from the PC. Of course KISS doesn't support transfer of copyrighted material "...Please note that original audio CDs, video CDs, and DVD videos cannot be copied down to the hard disk!..".

The PC/MAC Link software also allows direct access to your DP-558's Hard Disk from a connected PC through FTP. Simply enter the DP-558’s IP address on your PC’s Internet browser to view the full contents of the player’s Hard Disk. You can now copy all audio, video and picture content to and from the DP-558. You can rename the Hard Disk’s audio, video and picture files from your PC as well as any recordings you have previously made. If you need to share your recordings, no problem at all. Just copy them to your PC and burn a DVD.


2. Specifications

According to KISS, the DP-558 has the following specifications:

The DP-558 as a player can playback DVD, Mpeg4 compliant streams (DivX certified, XVid), Audio CDs, MP3, Ogg and of course view JPEG files.

Looking at the back, we notice the 10/100 Ethernet jack, the antenna in/out, SCART in/out, S-Video in/out and Composite Video. There are in addition Analog, Coaxial and Optical Audio output jacks. We were also somewhat surprised to find that while the picture on the retail package includes Coaxial/Optical input jacks, in the model we received, these weren't present.

- The package

We received the retail package for the DP-558 for our review. The package includes the player itself, a CD with the PC Link software, the remote control, two AAA batteries for the remote control, and cables for power, composite video, scart and audio. The European edition doesn't include the S-Video cable (the US does). Of course the cost of such a cable is not so high and can be easily found at a local electrical goods store.

On the front of the player, we find all the certification logos for the DP-558 (Dolby Digital, DivX, DVD-Video), the on/off button, the tray and of course, the basic control buttons for operating the player without the remote control (play/stop, next, previous, etc...). The display, located just above the tray, is not all that big and displays the current function as well as the playback format (DVD, Mp3, CD). The remote control has a very good grip and has very good layout and placement of each function.

After removing the mounting screws (not suggested since you will void your warranty), we can see the internal layout of the DP-558, which is very simple. We can clearly see the HDD drive (Samsung SV0802N) and the DVD-ROM reader (TOSHIBA SD-M1802)

along with the chipsets (click for a hi-res picture)

Click To Enlarge!

The main processor is from Sigma Designs: "...The EM8510 family provides highly-integrated solutions for products requiring MPEG-4, MPEG-2 and DVD decoding. Incorporating flexible, advanced audio/video processing, the EM8510 family enables cost-effective solutions for consumer products, such as portable media players, digital media adapters, and networked DVD players. Unique features offered by the EM8510 family include analog YPbPr/RGB video outputs with optional scaling up to HDTV resolution and support for external MPEG encoder and networking chips. A wide variety of media types are supported, accessible through a powerful navigation engine..."

The remote control, according to the information, comes from Bang & Olufsen. Its effective range is about 5 meters and you need to have it pointing at the DP-558.

There are two special menus that can be activated with a special sequence from the remote control:

You can see various interesting bits of information available from the KISS DP-558 hidden menu. The used DVD-ROM comes from Toshiba SD-M1802 (with KISS ID) and the CPU speed is 216Mhz.


3. Installation - Page 1

After unpacking the DP-558, we hooked up the antenna cable to the recorder and connected the TV via the SCART output cable. As KISS Technology suggests, the TV Tuner inside DP-558, will give much better picture than most TVs. This setup however has a big negative. In order to watch TV, you have to use the DP-558 functions and not your TV, so its suggested you use a second antenna cable and bypass the DP-558 TV tuner. Next step was to connect the device to the local ethernet network. We simply used a 10/100 cable and connected it to our switch/router, which was connected to the internet. The player automatically determined the IP settings and was immediately able to access the Internet. In case you need to use a different setup, you will need to make changes in the appropriate setup menu.

When we powered up the DP-558 for the first time, the welcome screen came up followed by the quick setup wizard. The first thing on the agenda is to choose the language.

We chose English and were then prompted to indicate our location (region/country):

This is then followed by the type of video connection used between the player and our TV, the format of our TV (widescreen or conventional) and finally, our audio configuration:


4. Installation - Page 2

We then had to format the HD Drive:

The last step before being able to use the DP-558 was to search for TV channels. We used the automatic search function:

With all steps finished, we have to congratulate KISS for the very good job they've done with the step-by-step wizard


5. Installation - Page 3

We pressed the setup button and checked the player's firmware version (1.1.1).

KISS had released a newer firmware that improved many features (1.1.2), so we went ahead and installed it. The procedure is simple. Download the latest firmware, burn it onto a CD disc, insert the disc in the player's drive and...

You need to power the player down and then up in order to start the firmware flashing... Shortly after the DP-558 boots and reads the disc, we were given two options: a full or partial update. It is advised to choose partial update, or you will lose all your settings...

After rebooting, we checked that the player's firmware had been upgraded to v1.1.2


6. The Menus - Page 1

The setup menu includes many functions that were already set with the start up wizard.


7. The Menus - Page 2

Since the TV tuner had detected a large number of channels, we decided to play around with the channel management functions for the detected channels ( remove, rename). By pressing on "Manage TV Channels", you get a list of all the channels that have been detected. After quite sometime, we managed to arrange the channels the way we wanted them, in the order we wanted. Unfortunately, you cannot make multiple selections (for either move or erase), which makes the whole process very time consuming. KISS could improve the channels management functionality in this area...

Going to the Main Menu, you have access to the main functions of the DP-558. The pictures below are self explanatory and show how simple to use the player is:


8. Online Functions - Page 1

Since the player was already connected to the Internet, we decided to see what KISS offers to its buyers. We selected the KISS TV Guide function and shortly afterwards we were presented with this interesting screen:

By selecting "What's On Now?", while we could see the programs available, they were not for our particular region but from a pre-defined channels list.

We moved to the settings, selected our country (Greece)

and we were given a list with all the major TV channels.

Selecting a station, you can then see today's program for that station.

While you are viewing any program, you can easily access the "What's on now" function by pressing the down button and moving to the "What's on now" option. Very handy!


9. Online Functions - Page 2

In short time, we removed all the unwanted channels and made our own favorite channels list

Below you can see the list that appears with all programs available for the channels list we created, including the title and of course duration, which is needed for scheduling any recording.

Choosing a specific program, will give you further details, if available,

and still further details, after connecting to the IMDb :-)

You can choose to record a program from this screen too. Simply select the Record button.

In our case, we had already made another selection for the same timed period and with the DP-558 having only one TV tuner inside, meant that we could not record from two channels at the same time, nor watch one channel and record from another.

Returning to the main setup window, we then had to map the current channel to our favorites list, which will enable the DP-558 to know from what channel to record what...


10. Online Functions - Page 3

Selecting KISS Online directs us to the main portal that includes all the online functions:

Choosing webradio3, we can access many online radio stations, filter them by genre and see the various details about the selected station:


11. Online Functions - Page 4

The online weather function is another neat feature. All information is taken from www.weather.com where we can see the weather from all over the world in a matter of seconds.

Very low temperatures in Athens

Satellite image is also available!

Lastly, KISS online games may be of interest to you if you have some spare time, and includes four classic and well known games...


12. Recording

There are two ways In order to schedule a new recording. Either from the TV guide or manually

After making a selection, from Main Menu->Manage Recording Schedule, you can see what you have scheduled and optionally remove it.

In order to start recording immediately, just press the record button. On the top left corner, a timer will come up, indicating the remain recording time.

The DP-558 can record continuously up to 5 hours before stopping...

All videos are recorded at Mpeg2 VBR (Variable Bit Rate) format, according to what the user has selected in the menu setup screen. We suggest using at least the 4Mbit setting, since the lower recording bitrates produce many noticeable artifacts.


13. FTP Link

In order for a user to view their recorded files or edit them, they would have to use the network functions and specifically the FTP server, which allows the contents of the DP-558 to be shared around the local network. From the Setup screen, we can set the FTP server access: disabled, read only or allow both reading and writing to the DP-558.

By selecting either Read Only or Read/Write, you will be able to read the contents of the DP-558 HDD.

From your PC, you can then access the contents of the DP-558 by using an FTP client program or by simply using an internet browser and entering in the address bar the following url: ftp://KISS_DP_558_IP_ADDRESS.

Entering the PVR folder, you can view all the recorded videos. As you can see in the snapshot below, the recorded videos have been given a unique name based on the program number, name of the channel and recorded date/time. The file sizes are variable of course, depending on the bitrate and total recording time. Note that the .IDX files (typed as "Subtitle Files" by IE), are required in order to carry out any editing of the VOB files.

Unfortunately, while it is not available on the DP-558, we would like to have the option to be able to edit the VOB files directly on the DP-558 player, since this is a feature offered on other DVR recorders.

During the DP-558's FTP-Server Setup we chose reading/writing access, which means that we can read from as well as write to the device. What was a bit puzzling though was the transfer rate which was only 1.63MB/sec, meaning that big files would take a long time to transfer to our PC HDD. We don't know where the problem is since KISS states that the player is 10/100 compatible...


14. PC Link

In order for the DP-558 to access your PC/MAC HDD contents, you need to install the included KISS PC-Link software. After our installation had finished, we had to make some changes to the Windows Firewall (allow access). The KISS PC-Link interface is very simple. You can either do an automatic search or manual add folders/files.

Probably searching with the Search Wizard is what most users will use:

In our case, we added a MPEG file and several .VOB files (CSS free) to test if the DP-558 could play them. The KISS PC-Link doesn't offer any kind of transcoding, meaning you won't get any additional playback features (as in the case with IODATA's AveLink).

The info tab shown below, gives a few details about the network setup. The more astute readers will have noticed the "Connected Players" box which indicates that more than one player can be connected and accessed on the same network.

Going back to our DP-558, we tried to access our PC by selecting the option "Search for PC-Link host" from the Main Menu->PC Link screen.

We waited for a few seconds...

The Kiss DP-558 found our PC-Link host PC...

And the HDD contents were immediately available for playback!


15. The Tests - Page 1

Disc compatibility

Format Content Booktype Playback
DVD-R DVD-Video - Yes
DVD-R DL No
DVD-RW Yes
DVD+R DVD+R Yes
DVD-ROM Yes
DVD+RW DVD+RW Yes
DVD-ROM Yes
DVD+R DL DVD+R DL No
DVD-ROM No

The above tests were performed with the stock CD/DVD loader installed on the DP-558. The KISS DP-558 couldn't recognize ±R9 media with either DVD-ROM or DVD+R DL booktype set.

Playback Tests

In order to test the KISS DP-558, we used several encoded files with the latest versions of XVid, DivX, x264 Mpeg4 codecs, along with several Mpeg1 and Mpeg2 clips. You will find further details regarding all encoded files in this PDF. The tests were performed with the player's CD/DVD loader. In short, the device supports the following audio/video/picture extension file types:

Audio Tests

We used several audio formats covering almost all current compressed/uncompressed music file types:

Format Details Result
MP4
(.MP4 & .AAC)
CBR (32~192Kbit) Yes

VBR (30~300Kbit)

HE/LC VBR 2.0
HE/LC VBR 5.1 No sound
AC3
(.AC3)
5.1 Yes
ACE
(.AC3)
2.0 Yes
DTS
(.DTS)
5.1 No
MP2
(.MP2)
2.0 Yes
MP3 (Layer 3)
(.MP3)
ABR (32~320Kbit) Yes
CBR (32~320Kbit) Yes
VBR (32~320Kbit) Yes
MP3 (Layer2)
(.MP3)
CBR (8~160Kbit) Yes
MP3 (Layer 2.5)
(.MP3)
CBR (8~160Kbit) Yes
MP3 Pro
(.MP3)
CBR (18~ 96Kbit) Yes
VBR (Lowest-Highest) Yes
OGG
(.OGG)
CBR (45~500Kbit) Jerky playback
VBR (25~100 Quality)
VBR 5.1 Unsupported codec
WAV
(.WAV)
PCM 44.1 /48Khz 2.0 Doesn't recognize the file format (.WAV)
PCM 48Khz 5.1
DTS_CD_5.1
WMA
(.WMA)
CBR (5~320Kbits) Yes
VBR (48~192Kbits) Yes
WMA Pro 5.1 No

The KISS DP-558 with 1.1.2 firmware doesn't support the AAC, WAV and DTS file formats. We didn't notice any problem with MP3 playback or WMA. However, the OGG format which uses a lot of CPU time, produced some jerky playback with almost of the used test files.


16. Playback Tests - Page 2

KISS DP-558 - Page 16

Playback Tests - Page 2

Uncompressed Video Formats (.avi)

Format Details Size Bit Rate Result
AVI
(.AVI)
2.1GB sized 720x576 26Mbit Unsupported video codec

DivX Video Files (.avi codec)

Format Details Size Bit Rate Result
DivX
(.AVI)
Home Theater Profile 720x400 1~4Mbit Yes
High Definition Profile 720x400 4~8Mbit Jerky playback for 6 and 8 Mbit files
High Definition 1280x720 4Mbit Jerky playback
GMC 720x400 1Mbit Yes
GMC Multi consecutive
GMC & QP Doesn't Support QP
GMC & QP Multi consecutive
QP
QP Multi consecutive
VBR MP3 & AC3 Sound Streams 720x400 1Mbit Yes but you cannot switch Audio Channels

The KISS DP-558 with 1.1.2 firmware had playback problems, especially with 6 &8 Mbit files, while with 4Mbit fast action, playback was jerky but with less problems than with 6 & 8Mbit. No problems were noticed with 1, 1.5 and 2Mbit files.

Due to the device's chipset limitations, KISS doesn't support Quarter Pixel encoding format and switching audio channels to a file that includes them also doesn't work. Fast forward and rewind seems to work OK in most cases.

Special Video Files (.AVI)

Format Details Size BitRate Result
DivX
(.AVI)
ASP Adapt Nero 720x288 965Kbit Yes
ASP Custom XVid 720x288 406Kbit Yes
ASP GMC 1Warp Point DivX 720x288 356Kbit Yes
ASP GMC 3Warp Point XVid 720x288 396Kbit Jerky playback
ASP Mpeg XVid 720x288 396Kbit Yes
ASP QPel DivX 720x288 493Kbit QPel doesn't supported
SP 3ivX 720x288 454Kbit Yes

The KISS DP-558 with 1.1.2 firmware, supports GMC 1 Warp point as supported by DivX but does not support 100% correctly, GMC 3 Warp point as produced by XVid.

Packaged Video Files (Video, Audio and Subtitles Streams)

Format Details Size BitRate Result
DivX
(.Divx)
3 VBR MP3 Audio Streams & 5 Subtitles ? ? No menu, neither you can select Audio/Subtitles
Slideshow ? ? No menu, but slideshow works, pictures are showed very quickly
Matroska
(.MKV)
DivX5 Video Stream, VBR MP3 AudioStream, 2 Subtitle streams 704x288 1Mbit Doesn't recognize the .MKV file format

17. Playback Tests - Page 3

Xvid Video File (.avi)

Format Details Size BitRate Playback
Xvid
(.AVI)
No special modes 704x288 1Mbit Yes
BVop Yes
BVop & Packed BitStream Yes
BVop & Packed BitStream & QP QPel doesn't supported
BVop & Packed BitStream & QP & GMC
BVop & QP & GMC

Unfortunately, FF and RW skip doesn't work very well with XVid files...

H264 Video Files (.avi)

Format Details Size BitRate Playback
x264
(.AVI)
VBR Mp3 Audio Stream 704x288 700Kbit Unknown Video Codec
1Mbit
1.5Mbit
2Mbit
4Mbit
6Mbit
8Mbit

NeroDigital Video Files (.mp4)

Format Details Size BitRate Playback
NeroDigital
(.MP4)
Mobile 176x144 400Kbit Yes
Portable 352x288 2Mbit
Standard 720x576 4Mbit
Cinema 1280x720 9.8Mbit Doesn't supported
HDTV 1920x1072 9.8Mbit
- XVid Encoded with AAC Sound and Subtitles Streams 720x576 217Kbit Doesn't support the encoded file profile

With the latest firmware, KISS said that its player is NeroDigital compatible. However, both Cinema and HDTV profiles are not playable.


18. Playback Tests - Page 4

Mpeg Video Formats (.mpeg)

Format Information Resolution Bitrate Playback
Mpeg1 (.MPG) VCD Compliant 352x240 1152Kbit Yes
352x288 1152Kbit
XVCD 352x288 1500Kbit
XVCD 352x288 2000Kbit
Out of specs 640x480 1200Kbit Yes
Mpeg2
(.MPG)
- 720x480 2713Kbit Yes
AC3 Sound 720x576 9800Kbit
SVCD 480x576 2519Kbit
Mpeg2
(.M2V)
Compliant Test Stream 352x288 1.5Mbit .M2V extension doesn't supported
704x576 4Mbit
6Mbit
8Mbit
12Mbit
18Mbit
40Mbit
Mpeg2-TS
(.TS)
5.1 Surround sound 720x576 12Mbit .TS extension doesn't supported

FF and RW doesn't work with Mpeg1 files and if used, sound is lost after a while.

Windows Media Video Video Files (.wmv)

Format Information Resolution Bitrate Playback
WMV (.WMV) Windows Media Player 10 Digital Life Clip 320x180 300Kbit -
Windows Media Player 10 Striker Clip 320x180 300Kbit -
WMV HD DRM
(.WMV)
Alexander Trailer 1280x720 6Mbit -
1920x1080 9Mbit -
WMV HD DRM (.WMV) Underworld Extended Cut European Edition 1280x544 9Mbit -
WMV HD
(.WMV)
The Magic Of Flight Clip 1280x720 6Mbit -
1920x1080 9Mbit -
WMA Pro 5.1
(.WMV)
Peter Gabriel Sledgehammer Video clip 240x192 466Kbit -

WMV files are not supported at all.


19. Playback Tests - Page 5

Special Tests

Format Information Resolution Bitrate Playback
Mpeg 1
(.MPG)
Filename contains Greek Characters 352x240 1Mbit Doesn't display correctly the filename, but can play it with distorted sound!

Subtitles Test Files

Format Information Playback
Text (.SRT) English Subtitles Yes*
Greek Subtitles No
DVD
(.IDX .SUB)
English Language No
Greek Language No
Netherlands Language No
Text (.PSB)
MicroDVD Format English Language Yes*
Text (.PSB) PowerDivx Format English Language No
Text (.SSA) Substation Alpha English Language No
Text (.SUB) Subviewer English Language Yes*

The DP-558 supports several subtitle formats (SRT, AQT, MPEL2, MPSUB, MICRODVD, RT, SMI (SAMI), SSA, SUBRIP (old and new), SUBVIEW, VPLAYER). However, you have to make sure that your subtitles have exactly the same title as the main video file (.AVI). To give you an example:

At the start we had problems playing back subtitles since most of our test files were named Test.avi.srt, a common way to name subtitle tiles. However, those filenames are not recognized by the player. Since many users use different ways to name their subtitle files which are accepted by most PC Media players, KISS needs to improve its subtitle engine. Unfortunately, Greek characters were not recognized in .SRT files, as you will notice below, but were displayed perfectly when playing back a DVD-Video disc...

Picture Formats

Format Resolution Playback
Jpeg
(.JPG)
2272x1704 Yes
2048x1532
1600x1200
Png
(.PNG)
2048x1532 No
Gif
(.GIF)
2048x1532 No
Bmp
(.BMP)
2048x1532 No

Only JPG files are playable with the KISS DP-558.


20. Conclusion

The DP-558 is the first DVR recorder from KISS. It includes an 80GB HDD along with a very good DVD loader (Toshiba SD-M1802). We were impressed by the player's GUI and the very good Online services (EPG) and scheduling system. The recorder offers various recording qualities and with the HDD empty, you can record up to 120 hours of MPEG2 video.

Looking at the playback capabilities, KISS claims that the DP-558 is DivX certified, however we had playback problems, especially with the 4, 6 and 8Mbit encoded DivX files. We are not so sure if the problem lies with the onboard chipset's abilities to encode such demanding files or whether it is a firmware bug. The player also doesn't support Quarter Pixel, an encoding option that gives higher quality and is due to chipset limitations. When playing back Audio files, there are fewer problems with the most noticeable problem being the jerky playback of OGG files. Lastly, a rather negative point is that the device doesn't offer direct VOB files editing (manually remove commercials), so any such tasks have to be done on your PC/MAC system.

Many users in the past have complained about KISS products, since some of the supported features didn't work as expected. We hope that KISS will continue improving the DP-558 with continuous firmware upgrades and fix the various problems we encountered in order to deliver a perfect working product to the market. The retail price for the DP-558 is around €385 and can be found at a local store near you :-)

 

Update: After our review had been finished, KISS Technology released a newer firmware, 1.1.3, that fixed some of our problems, mostly pertaining to the FF/RW with XVid files. For more information, please visit the KISS web site.

- The Good

- The Bad

- Like To Be Fixed

Retail Package
Design/Build Quality
GUI
Performance
Value For Money


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