Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Easy to use, network functionality a refreshing sight
- No wireless options, software is pretty basic
If you don't know how to plug your PC into your TV, but still want to, then this is the product for you!
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
The Kenwood DVF-N7080 combines a simple DVD player with an Ethernet port, allowing it interface with your PC at home, and let you play your media collection on your big screen TV. Unfortunately, the Kenwood seems to be aimed at a bit of a dead zone in terms of target audience, as it fails to provide enough simplicity for beginners, but lacks the power to really satisfy advanced users. A relatively dear asking price will further alienate potential consumers.
Regardless, the Kenwood does have a couple of tricks up its sleeve. It's a slim unit, and generally looks pretty good. A minimal number of buttons flank the DVD tray and LED screen. The back panel's an equally simple affair, with composite, component, SCART and S-Video out. Optical and coaxial are available for audio output. Sitting amongst these plugs is a single Ethernet port - the Kenwood's big selling point.
Setting up the network was pretty easy. We grabbed a PC, plugged in an Ethernet cable, plugged the other end into the Kenwood, and installed the software. After a few minutes setting up the software, importing media files etc, we had our digital home video collection playing on a massive forty-two inch plasma display, our mp3 collection thumping out of our 5.1 surround sound speakers, and our collection of high-resolution digital photos blown up on the wall, courtesy of a projector. The applications for this kind of technology in a standard living room are quite extensive, and coupled with the right products, the Kenwood proves to be an excellent bridge between computers and audio visual entertainment.
The other aspects of the device are quite secondary to its media server functionality, but are well implemented and easy to use without impinging on the networked portion of the unit. DVD playback is simple and effective. Throw a disc in the tray, flick to DVD mode and you're set. Support is also provided for memory cards and image/music CDs, although we generally found that the media server functionality of the device was better suited to these tasks than the card reader and CD playback features. A basic and easily navigable interface ties these features together and rounds off operation of the Kenwood's non-networked functionality nicely.
However, we aren't totally full of praise and good words for the DVF-N7080. The lack of wireless options was the first thing that irked us, and unless your PC's positioning in relation to your home entertainment setup is perfect, then you're going to have an unsightly network cable running across your floor (you'll have to buy this yourself, by the way, and lengthy cables can cost a pretty penny). The included software was irritatingly basic, and we quickly found ourselves counting omissions and ways that it could be improved. Finally, the price tag really is quite high. The inclusion of a DVD player seems slightly unnecessary, and while it may satisfy those looking for a more complete entertainment package, the trade off is that users who already have a DVD player in their entertainment setup (and let's face it, that's a lot of people) are essentially paying for a component that they won't use.
At the end of the day though, here at the GoodGearGiude, we love our technology. We know a lot about it, and our exposure to it means that we have access to more specific, powerful, and tech-oriented products from companies like Zensonic. Still, to see a device like this from a mainstream brand like Kenwood is a very refreshing change. We aren't the average consumer, and we can generally find a lot to nitpick about. So yes, there are better units out there, but they also require a lot more knowledge and setting up. As a basic, bottom level media server, the Kenwood N7080 is a rousing success, and a great way to bring your PC into your living room, without actually, you know ... bringing it in.
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