The Kenwood is one of a new breed of networkable dvd players, but does it work, and will it cut the mustard on replaying dvd movies?

There are competing schools of thought on how an entertainment network should operate, and each one has its own advantages. One is the centralized server, or master computer, with a series of ‘dumb’ terminals, and the other is a simple network, which includes the dreaded loungeroom computer.
The Kenwood DVF-N7080-S belongs to the former school of thought, and it is designed to enable users to stream content from their PC. And with the sales of Media Centre Edition below expectations, this method could be a fairly safe standpoint to take.
Yes, this is a networked DVD player, which means it has an Ethernet port, and will stream media including DiVX and MP3 files. It also has a memory card reader to extend your media watching options.
But for the amount of features crammed into the box, the casing itself is quite small. Build quality is very good, and despite its size it still manages to fit SCART, component, and optical/electrical digital outputs on the back. No room for 5.1 outs though, so make sure your amp can handle a digital connection – otherwise it’s stereo only. It’s a video player, and not an audio player, so there is no support for SACD or DVD-A. But this isn’t too much of a problem as its video capabilities are fine.
Playback quality of DVDs is very high, with good colour definition and no noticeable pixilation, even on the murkier scenes of our Planet Of The Apes test disc. Although the player handled the DiVX files we burnt to CD, it couldn’t reproduce the new DiVX HD specification – this however, is not surprising considering it is only an SD player.
Surround sound audio is also handled effectively, but play a CD and it doesn’t fare as well. While it’s better than a budget DVD player, it still suffers from some mid-band hollowness, and a lack of stereo image. Still, it’s got a beat, and you can dance to it!
The networking feature isn’t quite up to the level of Plug’N’Play simplicity yet. The PC software is mildly annoying – for example, unless you want all your MP3’s to be ‘Rock’ you need to drag files across into its library individually and assign each one a genre.
This device does harbor well for future generations of IP-based machines, and although the acceptance of this type of technology is still in its infancy, it does show great promise.
Most of the problems with this player are software and not hardware-related. Which means that once they iron the kinks out of the PC server software this will be a very useful device. And having one less device – ie. a media server – in your hi-fi rack leads to less clutter overall.
As a DVD player it’s good, as a media server it’s not bad, and as a CD player it’s serviceable. For someone looking to leap into streaming media, and also looking for a DVD player, this is a good place to start. Of course, there is a lot of competition from KISS and Buffalo, but Kenwood have it on pure aesthetic value.
Personally, we feel that ‘lifestyle’ computing has a way to go yet, but it is still preferable to a single computer, because if someone’s playing a game on the single household computer you can’t stream a video from it. But for smaller households, a device such as the DVF-N7080-S may be the answer.

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