When Linksys, the consumer arm of networking giant Cisco, acquired KiSS Technology, it clearly had one thing in mind - taking over the space where consumer electronics, downloaded video content and wireless networking collide.
Trouble was, KiSS kit wasn't actually that reliable but was still hard to use. This box is two generations on from then and the last, we're told, to bear the KiSS name. From now on such models will be Linksys branded in the UK.
We were a little dismayed on removing the packaging to find the front of the DVD drive didn't line up flush with the face of the device. However, we were pleased to see 720p and 1080i DVD upscaling. DVDs will look better on a flat screen display connected to the integral HDMI 1.2 port (though something like the PS3 has HDMI 1.3).
The key streaming media features are solid. For once, a box seamlessly hooked up to our network, PC and Mac without issue.
PC-Link software is included (basic but functional) or you can use Windows Media Connect or Windows Media Player 11 running on Vista. SD content streams absolutely fine over an 802.11g wireless network, though there is a 10/100 Ethernet connection should you want to play HD.
If you want to wirelessly stream HD content, you'll have to wait until 802.11n decides to play nice - and then connect up an Ethernet wireless adapter compatible with the forthcoming standard.
The user experience on the box is basic, but the menu navigation works fine. It's removed from the ease of something like Sky , but it's still relatively simple.
However, the experience is sluggish and long-form content takes about 15-20 seconds to start playing. Fast-forwarding and rewinding streamed content is handled abysmally, usually forwarding you onto the next file. That said, unlike the Apple TV, the format support is commendable, though the player didn't play some downloaded content that it should have. Such inconsistency is annoying.
For the most part, the KiSS makes for a decent purchase, though we'd question if now really is the time to buy. The game needs to be upped - 802.11n will force everyone's hand, especially where wireless streaming
is involved, as will the increased competition for this kind of device. Oh, and Microsoft might have something to say about it, too...