When Tam asked me to do a review on the wireless component of the new Kinoma Player 4 EX, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Earlier versions of Kinoma Player were less than exceptional, and to be honest, were very limited in their capabilities. Not this one. While I’m only reviewing the wireless features of the new player, the wireless changes in this version are so significant that they would seem to deserve a review of their own. So, I’ll get to it.
There are really two ways I would like to look at the wireless capabilities of this player. I will divide the review into a focus of the Kinoma Media Guide features and wireless features outside of the Kinoma Media Guide. The Kinoma Media Guide is a new and innovative way to take a media player to another level. It takes Kinoma Player from being simply a player to a media gateway for your entertainment.
As I have said, Kinoma Media Guide is a new concept. It is not a static playlist of files that can be streamed, in fact, it is a dynamic guide to all types of media that can be experienced with the Kinoma Player. The main page of the media guide (seen below)
offers a long list of types of media to choose from. The choices are seemingly endless. This leads to one criticism that I can make regarding the media guide. It is a little cluttered and confusing to use. There are 20 channels on the main page, and some seem a little redundant. For example, there is a news channel, but also business, weather, and sports:
It might take some time for a new user to become acquainted with what they can find in each channel. If that is not confusing enough, the channels have sub channels, and the hierarchical structure is never immediately evident. I would suggest in future versions that they organize it like a file viewer, and allow us to expand different channels to see what is in them without going back and forth between screens. Complaints aside, there is a whole lot of content in the media guide. If you are into radio, I would suggest the Radio Stations >> World Radio by TUNED.mobi >> and then you can chose one of the sets of streams for your locale. I was able to find many of my local stations here in North Carolina, and once I knew where to look, they were very easy to get to. Of course there are so many other radio choices, this is just a little direction to help you along.
Those of you who are not interested in internet radio might be more interested in internet video. Now, there are many types of streaming video in the current era. Some videos use Windows Media format, some MPEG, but there is one format which Kinoma includes which puts these all to shame, as far as I am concerned. The new Kinoma player includes flash video playback (flv). This means, simply, that Kinoma Player 4 EX can play Google Videos, YouTube videos, and a couple other formats. The media guide gives you quick access to some of the best videos from both of these sites, but unfortunately, you are limited to the ones on the media guide. A search feature, or a better portal would be nice – maybe the next version. There are Blazer accessible portals that you can use to search for videos, at http://www.mgvids.com/videosearch.php and http://www.mobetube.com/home.php. Nevertheless, there are enough videos to hold me off until these features come. One thing you need to know is that you need to have a good connection to your access point or network. Two bars will probably cut it, but anything less is shaky, and Kinoma acts like it doesn’t know how to pre-load video (it gives an error message but buffers it anyways).
There is one last feature somewhat related to streaming that I would like to cover. Kinoma has the ability to allow external programs to plugin to it to play streaming videos. Included with the review version of the program were copies of Smartvideo and The Weather Channel plugins. Smartvideo is a subscription service that allows you to watch different types of content, and the TWC plugin gives many types of weather information, updating over the network. When you click on a video in the plugin, Kinoma opens, and the video is played, and if you hit the “back” key in Kinoma, you go back to the previous program, be it Smartvideo or TWC.
All in all, the streaming capabilities are first rate in this program. It can handle playlists if they are downloaded into a recognized folder, and I believe it registers as the default player for some of these types, but it may be conflicting with other media players on my device. Regardless, I don’t think downloaded playlists are necessary for something like Shoutcast, since you can access most radio stations from the media guide. Sure, you can play asx streams, and many other types, but I am having the most fun with Youtube and Google Video, as well as the streaming radio. So, if you have a device with any type of wireless connection, and you want to get the most out of it, Kinoma is definitely a great choice to fill that void.
Tune in soon for Jonas Sell’s review of Kinoma as a classic media player!