Linksys KiSS 1600 review
In contrast to the starkly minimalist Apple TV, the Linksys 1600 is going for a more-is-more approach. It caters for a far wider spectrum of files, including DivX/XviD, and even crams in a DVD player.
You can choose from UPnP software server, such as Windows Media Connect (built into Windows Media Player 11) or the open-source SlimServer (www.slimdevices.com). Linksys also bundles its own PC-Link server software, which we found light on system resources, plus Nero Recode to convert between different formats at source.
We can’t fault the wealth of output options either – component, composite and S-Video-out join scart and HDMI 1.2. The latter can handle 5.1 audio, and there’s analogue stereo-out via RCA, plus both optical and coaxial S/PDIF. There’s 10/100 Ethernet at the back too, plus terminals for twin wireless antenna, supporting 802.11b/g with WEP and WPA encryption. The USB port also lets you view media on removable storage.
Where Linksys does go back to basics is its interface. A stormy sky background is accompanied by basic graphics and blocky text, with not a sniff of album art or thumbnails, even for photos or video. Wading through your collection to find a particular file can be a test of patience.
Once found, photos are reasonably swift to skip through, but video can take up to 45 seconds to start playing. When it does, however, the only issue was some skipping when streaming 720p HD wirelessly. While the majority of non-DRM music formats are supported, most methods of browsing ignore the running order of albums, which is unacceptable.
Streaming isn’t the limit of its abilities, as you also get access to KiSS Online, news, weather, games and web radio. We found it painfully slow at times and, while it could be useful, we’d rather see the core media features get some attention.
So, the Linksys KiSS 1600 is a mixed bag. The inclusion of a decent DVD is a great touch, and the wealth of connectors makes it flexible. We also like the wide format support. But bear in mind the price: it isn’t far off an Xbox 360, which also acts as a superb media extender. In that light, we can’t overlook the primitive interface and can only hope that the upgradable firmware provides some future improvements.