What has this got to do with Home AUtomation? Well a bit actually as you will see when you take account of the features.
What is it?
The Kiss Coolview is a 15" wide format TFT screen which looks very attractive indeed and would fit into many a home or office and not look out of place at all. Nice silver screen surround with just five buttons, one small LED and one small IR receiver on the bottom section.
The other nice thing about this product is the installation options for it, you can stand it on a desk or tabletop as you would a normal monitor, wall mount it using the screw-head slots on the back of the unit or even "hang" it like a picture using the two hooks on the top corners.
The reason that this product has appeal for HA is that it accepts multiple inputs, as well as the normal VGA for a PC monitor it also accepts S-Video and composite for video. An additional nice feature is picture-in-picture (PIP) allowing you to view another source in a small window whilst watching or working on the main screen. This could be very useful to monitor your AV system or security cameras whilst working should you have the need to do so.
Is it any good? There is some bad news here, the TFT screen is not the best! It appears to be older TFT technology and is not too bright, nor is it very sharp either. The monitor can get the scaling (picture size/ratio) wrong, but not so much as to render it unwatchable even for the fickle among is, on the whole it does a reasonable job here. Used as a monitor running at 1024×768 the picture appears to be slightly "smeared", but again not to the point of being unusable at all, just that I could not recommend this monitor to be used solely as a PC monitor.
However, this was tested using an ATI Radeon 7000 Dual-Head AGP card and even on the other TFT the image is slightly soft, so I doubt that the monitor is helped at all by this fact and the 10m extension I have it running off either! Nor is the card capable of the native resolution for the panel so there are a few things working against it here and still it appears perfectly acceptable for light use.
On video, well S-Video anyway, I have no composite sources handy to test it on composite any more, it is actually pretty good using a DVD as a source, the picture is very clear, pretty sharp and works well. Sky through TiVo is a bit "soft" though and prone to bright points smearing although that seems to be a trait of LCD as far as I can see. Eventually after much messing around with the settings I got the unit to display an acceptable picture. It is worth bearing in mind that this is written from the point of view that this product would not be used as a main viewing source but used more for monitoring and cursory use.
It is also worth noting that the best setup for video sources is different to that for PC use and there is a compromise here as well.
I did let my partner watch a couple of hours of TV from Sky on it and she had no complaints whatsoever and actually liked the picture, she also likes the fact that the machine is very compact and looks very nice. Pity it does not come with speakers or it would be an ideal kitchen or dining room monitor, however if you do happen to have an alternative sound system in the room or even a set of PC speakers and can access a remote source then it could well be a winner here.
Having said that you have to bear in mind the price, mine came from Kustom PCs in Ayr as an ex-demo unit for £280, as far as I can see the retail price is only about the £300 mark, so for what it does I think that's very reasonable really.
So why did I buy it?
Well the plan was to use a small 7" TFT to monitor the AV system and allow me to use it without powering up the projector, however the Coolview altered that plan! I can use this to monitor the AV system, security cameras and, more importantly, control the server from a remote location without the need for terminal services or any other remote control software. What I did was take a VGA extension (about 10m) and two 5m USB active extensions into the AV room under the floor. In there I added a small four port USB hub and then added a Logitech RF keyboard and mouse combination! I can now use the server fully, as I would sitting at the actual box, from my AV room, very, very useful indeed and while I work on the server I can browse what's on TiVo or anything else that the AV system or HA server is hooked up to!
All in all I would say that, for me, given the application I have that the Coolview was well worth the money I paid for it and, whilst it's certainly not the best TFT out there by a long way, it does offer something a little different and very useful indeed. The other thing I really like is the nice looks of the Coolview as it does not look out of place at all sitting there given its nice clean modern looks and it certainly attracts attention from all who see it running a video source in particular.
I would, and probably will, buy another one or two of these for different applications.
This one was bought from Kustom PCs in Ayr, Scotland: Kustom PCs.
I am told that Let's Automate may well be stocking these in the very near future as well: Lets Automate.