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I am currently considering buying a budget DVD player, either the Alba DVD-103 or the Mico DVD-A980. I missed the review for the latter and was wondering which was the better buy? My primary concerns are to get a player that has – apart from playing Region 1 discs – good picture and sound quality, I’m pretty skint, so I can’t afford to pay much at the minute, so it has to be a player in this price range. I’ve seen both machines reviewed in other magazines  (though only on newsagents shelves I might add) and both models receive equally praising and damming write-ups/off… I’m totally flummoxed so please can you help me with this most important of decisions?

Toby M., via email (monkbat@aol.com)


You made the right decision coming to us and not one of those Johnny-come-lately mags, we actually take players out of their boxes and test them… In fact our expertise in reviewing AV equipment goes back to long before DVD was even thought of, and we have seen just about every player there is, since day one. So, having established our impeccable credentials and deep insight into the technology, I have to say that the answer to your question, about which player to buy, is neither, probably.


We gave both players a guarded thumbs up, AV performance in both cases was satisfactory but they each had their fair share of foibles and limitations but not enough to put anyone on a budget buying one. However things have moved on since then and they no longer the cheapest players on the market. At the time of writing that honour goes to the Cyber Home AD-N212, which you can get from WHSmiths and online from www.jungle.com for only £130. It is quite basic but it fulfils your price, multi-region and performance criteria. If you were still keen on the other two models then I would probably plump for the Mico player on the basis that you get a few more bangs for your bucks, including a Dolby Digital decoder.





I have found an outlet selling the Toshiba SD100 for £165, which appears good value. Do you know how to convert it to play American discs? I have a Philips TV with basic surround sound, a Philips NICAM VCR and a Sky digi box. All of them have 2 SCART sockets and the TV also has an S-Video input. I’m really confused as to how to connect it all up and whether or not I would get the benefit of Dolby 5.1 or dts sound?

John Foot, via email


If Region 1 playback is important to you get a model with a ‘loose’ or disabled region lock; modding the Tosh player will void the maker’s warranty, and you’ve no comebacks if it goes belly-up!


Connect the DVD player directly to the TV using a SCART cable or S-Video and stereo audio leads. The sound you get depends on the type of decoder in the TV; it’s likely to be either analogue Dolby Surround or a pseudo spatial or 3D effect. The SD100 doesn’t have any built-in Dolby Digital or dts decoders, so you will need to buy a suitably equipped AV amp and speakers or package system. Connect the satellite receiver by SCART cable to the VCR, and the VCR by SCART to the TV.



I just purchased Three Kings on the day of its release, when I got it home I put it in my LG 2330 and found it would not play any special features, scene access or languages, it just freezes up. It will however play the film but it has spoilt what looks to be a packed DVD. I haven’t experienced any other problems with the machine, I have The Matrix, The Mummy and Austin Powers 2 and they all play without any problems at all. The DVD also plays well on my PC, I can access everything with no problems at all, Can you shed some light on the matter?

Alan Foster, via email


And, by coincidence…


Just bought Three Kings, great disc, however, during chapter 12 (the gas attack) the picture suddenly becomes juddery; I watched the movie to the end then skipped back to chapter 12 when it played okay. I then went to chapter 12 through Scene Select and found that it juddered again, but if I hit rewind and then play again it sometimes plays properly. My player is an LG 3200, it this a known fault with the LG deck or might it be a disc problem?

Ken Arber,via email


See, what great value DVD is, hours of fun, even when you’re not watching movies, there’s all the little quirks on the players and discs to play around with.  There does indeed seem to be some issues between Three Kings and LG players and we’ve seen several similar complaints on DVD newsgroups. A couple of respondents said the player doesn’t freeze; it just takes a long time to access the menus.


We spoke to LG about this and …


(Still waiting for reply/comment from LG, to come)




I have a PC located in the middle of the house and I use it to watch DVDs, I would like to be able to watch them on the TV, in an adjacent room, but without any wires. I have a Logitech cordless keyboard and mouse and I have seen ‘black boxes’ advertised, which transmit video from a VCR or satellite box to other TVs in the house, so the technology exists. It shouldn’t be a problem but nobody so far seems to be able to help.

Anton James, North London 


Technically there’s no reason why it cannot be done but the necessary hardware and software would cost significantly more than a top of the line DVD player, which would do the job better and be a lot more convenient when it comes to loading/changing discs. There’s no problem transmitting video and sound from an AV source over a distance of several metres. Video senders have been around for years, though most of them fall down on audio quality. I know of no commercial system that will preserve analogue sound, let alone transmit digital audio data.  However, the biggest problem is going to be remotely controlling the PC. It’s easy with a VCR or sat box and again there are plenty of ‘remote senders’ on the market that pick up infra red commands from a remote handset, convert them to radio signals and change them back to IR at the receiver, but a PC is a lot more complicated and you would need a second video path for the PC monitor, so you could see your mouse and DVD control screen.



I have a Pioneer multi-region player. When I play Region 1 discs the picture rolls on my 7-year old JVC TV. However, on a 3-year old portable TV the same discs play fine. I’ve tried numerous things, such as adjusting the V-hold (I think), but to no avail. Can certain televisions be incompatible with Region 1 discs, and if so what TVs are not and is there any way I can rectify the situation?

Chris Dawson, via email


The age of your television is almost certainly the problem. A TV of that vintage is unlikely to be able to display NTSC signals and I assume the Pioneer player is putting out a ‘PAL 60’ video signal. That basically means the player converts colour information on the disc from the American NTSC standard to PAL – the system we use in the UK – but relies on the TV to cope with the difference in the picture’s line and frame structure. (NTSC pictures have 525-line and a 60Hz frame rate, compared with  625-line/50Hz for PAL). Most recent TVs can do this due to the fact that a lot of televisions are made for a world market and it makes sense for manufacturers to use video processing and display microchips that will operate on both systems. I’m afraid that the only simple solution is to buy a new TV, preferably a biggish widescreen model, to get the full benefit from DVD.



I’m a Bollywood fanatic and while VHS releases rarely feature subtitles, almost all DVD movies so. It’s for this reason that I’m on the cusp of investing in DVD. One thing is holding me back though and shop assistants don’t appear to know the answer. I would like to be able to record a video compilation of the musical segments to save swapping discs all the time. Given that most Bollywood movies are region-free and NTSC, will I be able to record video clips to form my own compilation? Is the picture converted to PAL by the DVD player for displaying on a PAL TV? I realise this doesn’t take full advantage of DVD quality but the convenience of not having to swap discs all the time is my main concern.

Pino Agnello, London N13


Short answer no, long answer… As you know it is illegal to make copies of copyright material without permission, and the DVD industry is very keen to stop piracy since the picture quality of DVD makes them ideal for ‘mastering’. Judging by the fact that you say the discs are NTSC I’m guessing they are produced in the US (the Indian subcontinent is a Region 5 locale and uses the PAL TV system), in which case there’s a fair chance they be encoded with the Macrovision spoiler signals, that make VCR copying almost impossible. In any case, when playing an NTSC disc most DVDs output a raw NTSC signal, which can only be recorded on a NTSC or multi-standard VCR, or a PAL 60 signal, which cannot be recorded on PAL VCRs, even ones with ‘NTSC playback’ facility. Since you seem to be mostly troubled by the notion of disc-swapping, why not invest in a DVD multichanger? There are several to choose from, from 2 and 3-disc models up to the Sony DVP-CX850 with a 100-disc (expandable) capacity.




I bought a Hitachi 505 DVD player and it plays Region 1 and 2 discs, but how do I know if at some point in the future it is going to lock to one region only? It all seems a bit hit and miss, I’ve heard of models that will let you change the code only 20 or 30 times.

Anthony Gates, via email


There are basically three varieties of multi-region playback. Players made by top name manufacturers who are members of the DVD Forum generally have fixed or ‘hard’ coded processors that have to be physically modified by replacing chips or making changes to printed circuit boards. A couple of Forum members, like Philips, make Players that allow the region coding to be switched a limited number of times in ‘software’ by tapping a code into the handset. This is for the benefit of people who move from one country to another, to a different DVD Region or ‘Locale’. The third group include players either have multi-region playback with no restrictions or limitations straight out of the box, or can be easily disable with a simple code; in general these models are made by companies that are not members of the DVD Forum…



Every now and again the question of how long DVDs will last pops up and scare stories circulate about laser ‘rot’ and ‘burn’, one such tale was doing the rounds on the Internet a few months ago. The fact is nothing lasts forever, DVDs and CDs are not indestructible, nevertheless, stored properly – i.e. in the same type of ‘living room conditions of temperature and humidity – that we prefer, upright in their protective cases, away from direct sunlight, a DVD or CD should last at least 50 or more years. However, the real point is that even if they did last forever what would you play them on? Home entertainment technologies have an average lifespan of around 25 years. The chances are that in less than a generation there will be no hardware around – outside of a museum -- on which to play your treasured discs. How many people still have turntables, let alone record players capable of playing 78rpm records or cylinder recordings?


Laser rot is an old story. It concerned a faulty manufacturing process that allowed the reflective layer inside CDs to oxidise, it was a brief problem affecting only couple of specialist manufacturers about ten years ago, that was quickly put right, and has no relevance to DVD. Laser ‘burn’ is another non-story as far as DVD is concerned and it is to do with potential problems with some makes and type of disc used in CD recorders and CD-R/RW recorders in PCs. Look at it this way, you probably will be able to pass on your collection of DVD to your grandchildren, they probably won’t be able to watch them but they won’t be too worried since they’ll be able to download anything they like, in high definition quality, through a SKY TV neural implant for 19.99 Euros a month…




Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2310




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