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BUSH DVD2002, £180

Contact, Bush, 020 8594 5533

 

Having set the benchmark for budget players with the DVD2000 Bush seeks to up the ante once again with another low-cost model, though this time itís a case of one step forwards, and two steps back... Like its stablemate the headline feature on the 2002 is a built-in Dolby Digital decoder and the cost of owning this once high-end feature has fallen to £180, £20 less than its predecessor, but the new machine has lost a number of worthwhile features, and gained one that few people will want or can use.

 

The losses include relatively minor things like a 3-scene memory but the most obvious omission is an on-screen control system. Thereís a initial setup menu for setting picture shape, language, sound and video outputs but during replay all you get is a time and chapter display, everything else has been shunted over to buttons on the remote control, which frankly is a mess.

 

Also missing is the 2000ís unadvertised ability to play back Region 1 discs straight out of the box (no hack codes or mod chips); pop an R1 disc into the 2002 and you get a stern ĎCode Violationí message on the screen. (We are fairly sure it can be unlocked but at the time of writing details were unavailable). The new feature we alluded to a moment ago is component (YUV or Cr/Cb/Y) video output. No, thatís not a misprint; this machine has a feature previously only found on exotic high-end machines. And a fat lot of good it is, unless you happen to have one of a tiny handful of high-end home cinema TVs or a specialised video projector. It makes even less sense to output the YUV signals on the SCART socket since none of the compatible display devices we know about have YUV input on SCART so it would require a custom made lead. To add insult to injury the 2002 doesnít have a dts compatible output Ė the people who would appreciate a YUV output are also the most likely to want dts -- is that daft or what?

 

Enough griping, letís look at a few good points, apart from the price and the 5.1 decoder, it has a headphone socket and level control on the front panel, the styling is definitely a notch up on its rivals and the assortment of trick play modes isnít too bad at all. One other welcome change is the power supply, we noted that 2000 ran unusually hot and we would be a bit uncomfortable about putting it close to other AV components, the 2002 never gets more than warm to the touch, and the Ďcookingí smells have gone.

 

More good news, on screen performance is virtually unchanged from the 2000, that is to say it works as well as most other budget to mid-range machines on the market, producing a clean, sharp picture with no processing artefacts to speak of. The dynamic range is fairly average and some detail is lost in shadows but itís by no means the worst offender. Layer change is quick, itís all over in a couple of frames, and in fact itís unlikely most people will even be aware that it happened. The 5.1 decoder and mixed stereo output both sound very good, the digital channels are clean with no detectable colouration and thereís minimal background hiss on demodulated Dolby Surround soundtracks.

 

Talk about a mixed bag! Hats off to Bush for bringing down the price of Dolby Digital once again, but thereís a price to be paid and the downgrading of the control system and consequent increase in complexity of the remote is a retrograde step. And whatís that component video output all about? Who needs it, a simple RGB output would have been much more useful for the European market. The re-imposed region lock is a blow too, even if it can be disabled. For our money the 2000, even at £200 was a much better deal, get it while you still can!

 

BOX COPY 1 Ė REMOTE VIEWING

For such a basic player the 2002 has a remarkably busy remote. Itís far too complicated in fact, littered with titchy, badly labelled buttons. This is mostly due to the fact that the 2002 has no on-screen control system (apart from the initial setup menu), consequently every function has to have its own button on the handset, making it a real pain to use!

 

THE HARD FACTS

Bush DVD-2002

                       

OUTPUTS

SCART             1

S-Video             1

RGB out                        no

Optical digital            yes

Coaxial digital            yes

5.1 decoder                   yes

 

EXTRA FEATURES 20/30

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, headphone socket, component video output

 

GOOD POINTS

Outstanding value, good looks and component video output too, should you need such a thingÖ

 

BAD POINTS

A generally basic spec, lack of on-screen controls and over complicated handset

 

Ease of use            3

Picture  4

Sound               4

Features            3

Overall  4

 

 

BUYERS GUIDE EXTRA INFO

Price                 £180

SCART 1

S-Video 1

Digital out            coaxial, optical

Decoder            Dolby Digital

Good Points

Outstanding value, good looks and component video too..

 

Bad points

A generally basic spec, graphics and over complicated handset

 

Rating   4

 

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FLAT MAT

 

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MATSUI DVD110, £190

Contact Dixons 08000 682868

 

Presumably the DVD-110ís introductory screen, which displays Dixonís help line number, is supposed to inspire confidence but if you look at it another way itís almost as if they expect something to go wrongÖThe little Y2K compliant sticker on the front also seems a bit odd since DVD never was vulnerable to the millennium Ďbugí.

 

Not so long ago a DVD player for less than £200 would have seemed like a pretty good deal but events have caught up with and overtaken this Dixons/Currys exclusive. To begin with the spec is fairly basic, certainly some way behind whatís available from other machines in the sub-£200 price bracket, and even some of the core facilities have been short-changed. For example, thereís only one coaxial digital bitstream output, and no S-Video socket, though it does have a second composite video output but we suspect itís only there to make up the numbers.

 

On a more positive note it does have an unusually comprehensive set of trick-play speeds (4 forward and reverse search and slomo speeds), thereís also a shuttle dial on the front, though it has to be said that itís one of those features that sound quite useful on paper, but get little use, unless you sit very close to the screen or have long arms. Picture zoom is also questionable, more so on this machine as itís buried deep in the menu, taking no less than ten button presses to get at it. The front panel display is quite colourful and the casework is fairly unobtrusive, though a bank of blanked off buttons and socket holes looks decidedly odd, but thatís about it.

 

The on-screen display takes a bit of getting used to, several of the icons which appear at the top of the screen are a bit obscure, not to say confusing, what do you suppose a close book might mean? Nevertheless, the control system is fairly easy to get to grips with and the remote is not too bad at all, though the position of the fast forward and reverse picture search buttons could have been better thought out.

 

Fears that owners might be mystified by the operation of this machine and need quick reference to a helpline number seem largely unfounded, though some aspects of its operation might appear puzzling. The picture breaking up into squares, freezing and random coloured blocks is one of them. Digital artefacts are a fairly rare sight these days but not if you own one of these machines, the processor and error correction circuitry is unusually intolerant of coding errors and dirty or scratched discs, more so than any other player weíve tested lately. Of course you should treat DVDs with care but itís hard to avoid the odd smudge or smear and you have no control over the condition of rental discs. The problem is particularly acute on the outer edges of the disc, where the layer change occurs and the place most likely to get grubby finger marks. Replay on a clean disc is usually okay but the picture isnít as crisp or detailed as we would have liked; the dynamic range isnít especially wide, the picture can appear quite murky at times and bright colours are a touch muted. The mixed stereo output is satisfactory, thereís some background hiss but not much more than average.

 

The bottom line is that the DVD110 is a generally lacklustre machine with a rather ordinary specification, so-so picture and sound quality, few interesting features and an uninspiring price.

 

BOX COPY 1 Ė REMOTE VIEWING

One of the DVD110ís few redeeming features is the small and mostly easy to use remote control handset and operating system. The only small quibble concerns the positioning of the picture search buttons, which should be either side of the play button, rather than above or below it, and the chapter change keys, which look like volume up/down buttons.

 

THE HARD FACTS

Matsui DVD 110                       

 

OUTPUTS

SCART             1

S-Video             none

RGB out                        no

Optical digital            no

Coaxial digital            yes

5.1 decoder                   no

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, picture zoom

 

GOOD POINTS

Well, itís Y2K compatibleÖ

 

BAD POINTS

Basic spec, intolerance of scratched dirty or poorly coded discs

 

Ease of use            4

Picture  2

Sound               3

Features            3

Overall  3

 

BUYERS GUIDE EXTRA INFO

Price                 £190

SCART 1

S-Video none

Digital out            coaxial

Decoder            none

 

Good Points

Well, itís Y2K compatibleÖ

 

Bad points

Intolerance of scratched dirty or poorly coded discs

 

Rating   3

 

 

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DVD TO GO

 

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SONY DVP-F11, £450

Contact Sony (0990) 111999

 

One glance at the diminutive and discretely styled box tells you what this one is all about! The DVP-F11 is a mobile DVD player; thatís mobile, not portable because it doesnít have its own internal battery power supply or indeed a viewing screen. It is designed to be used in cars, caravans, boats or anything else that moves for that matter, not that it canít be used in the home because it comes with an external mains adaptor (a car adaptor lead is an optional extra). Two other features single it out for a life on the road, it is supplied with a quick-fit mounting bracket, and it can be used horizontally or vertically. The deck mechanism is also very stable and despite out best attempts to unsettle it, it didnít miss a beat when subjected to quite violent knocks and bumps.

 

The loading mechanism is similar to in-car CD players; discs are posted in through a thin slot above the display. Thereís a bare minimum of controls on the front panel, and not much to see on the back panel either, just two sets of AV outputs (composite video and mixed stereo), two S-Video sockets, optical and digital bitstream outputs and a separate sub-woofer output. It runs off a 10.5-volt DC supply and thereís a headphone socket and level control on the front. Everything is controlled from the rather busy-looking remote control handset, but around a third of the buttons are for Sony TVs and other AV devices. The graphical on-screen displays for setup and disc replay are similar to the ones used on Sonyís home deck DVDs. The audio spec is fairly routine, there are no on-board 5.1 surround decoders but it has both optical and coaxial bitstream outputs, and it is dts compliant.

 

Not surprisingly the feature list is quite sparse, thereís a 2-stage 3D sound option, all of the usual sound and language options and a bit rate/layer change display. It can play code-free NTSC discs but regional coding appears to be pretty solid and we have no details of any hacks or mods, which seems like an oversight considering this player is going to be bought by people who by definition move around a lot, possibly transporting the player between DVD regions.  

 

In addition to our rather drastic physical shock test we also tried the player in a variety of configurations and it does indeed work in any position or angle, including standing on its end, and pointing downwards. On screen performance is comparable with Sonyís home decks, the picture is very clean, colours are bright and natural looking and it manages to pick out lots of detail in dark scenes and shadows. We didnít see any processing artefacts, even on our wonky test recordings and layer change occurs in less than half a second, with minimal on-screen disturbance. The trick play options are limited to two-speed picture search and slomo but theyíre all very steady. The mixed stereo output has a flat response with negligible background hiss, Dolby Surround soundtracks are very lively and effects channels are well separated; bass effects can be quite dramatic and deserve to be heard through an active sub.

 

Whilst thereís nothing to stop you using the DVP-F11 as a home player its singular talents would be sorely wasted. This is the player to have if youíve got a caravan or boat, or even a flash car with a screen in the back. We can also see a healthy demand from coach operators and if any Lear jet owners would like to get in touch, weíll happily let them test our sample en-route to some exotic locationÖ

 

BOX COPY 1 Ė REMOTE VIEWING

It looks a lot worse than it is; around a third of the buttons are for controlling Sony TVs and other AV components. The layout is okay and the important buttons are easy to identify. The on-screen displays are up to Sonyís usual high standard, menus and the initial set up are easy to navigate using the four way cursor control.

 

THE HARD FACTS

SONY DVP-F11

           

OUTPUTS

SCART             none

S-Video             2

RGB out                        no

Optical digital            yes

Coaxial digital            yes

5.1 decoder                   no

 

EXTRA FEATURES 20/30

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, dts bitstream out, multi-speed replay, 3D sound, headphone socket, mounting bracket supplied, TV remote

 

GOOD POINTS

Small size, potential for mobile/in-car use, great picture and sound

 

BAD POINTS

None really but a bit specialised

 

Ease of use            4

Picture  5

Sound               4

Features            4

Overall  4

 

 

BUYERS GUIDE EXTRA INFO

Price                 £450

SCART none

S-Video 2

Digital out            coaxial, optical

Decoder            none

 

Good Points

Small size, potential for mobile/in-car use, great picture and sound

 

 

Bad points

None really, but a bit specialised

 

Rating 4

 

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R. Maybury 2000, 2303

 

 

 

 


 

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