Kenwood VRS-N8100

With computer vendors targeting the lounge room, it wasn't going to be too long until home theatre vendors hit back with their own products addressing the digital lifestyle trend.

Kenwood's flagship VRS-N8100 control centre is one such product, combining top-notch streaming media receiver, amplifier and radio tuner capabilities in one solidly constructed, stylish and well-specified set-top unit. A built-in 10/100Mbps Ethernet interface allows for networking to multiple PCs running Kenwood's PC Server software either directly using a cross over Ethernet cable or using your own wired or 802.11g wireless network hub.

Although the firmware upgradeable Sigma EM8550 processor handles a vast amount of formats, WMV (Windows Media Video) isn't amongst them. Out of the box, there is support for MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DivX (version 3-5) and XviD video files; MPEG 1 audio (including MP3), WMA, WAV and OGG (Vorbis) music files plus JPEG, BMP, GIF and PNG image files for slideshows.

An integrated PC Card slot means that JPEG images can also be read from a third-party PC Card media reader - great for digital camera buffs. A "Dual Source" function allows one person to listen to music through the main speakers, while someone else watches/listens to a second source though head­phones (complete with Dolby headphone 5.1 processing). The "Supreme" function (enabled by a 32-bit ADI SHARC DSP processor) also stands-out as effectively, it re-creates high-end fre­quencies lost through MP3, WMA and OGG audio compression . The VRS-N8100 has a huge provision of inputs and outputs catering for pretty much every setup imaginable - see Kenwood's Web site for a full listing. Put simply, S-Video, component and composite video plus S/PDIF, optical and RCA stereo audio-ins and outs are all included - more than once in most cases. Two assignable high definition-compatible component inputs will be a blessing for those with quite a few component-out devices.

Features for console gamers include a front panel composite input, automatic "game mode" surround sound/EQ switching and the remote control is pre-programmed for your PlayStation2 and Xbox, but can also be programmed to operate other gear like a DVD player or VCR. As a 600 Watt (100W per channel) digital amplifier, the VRS-N8100 can turn standard stereo signals into 6.1-channel surround and support a range of high-end Dolby, DTS and "Active EQ" modes. Speaker configurations up to 6.1 can be attached and you can also choose to use a dedicated, amplified sub-woofer.

In use, both the informative built-in four-line display and on-TV graphical interface are easy to use, once you get your head around the remote. The server software connection was straightforward (once we discovered Windows' firewall was misbehaving) and sorting our media into the software's relevant folders was a snap. We noticed small limitations like no support for second level sub directories or file sizes over 2GB and the fact that all images are converted to JPEGs when imported into the library. These small niggles aside, we were suitably impressed.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Danny Allen

PC World

Comments

Comments are now closed.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?