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HITACHI DV-P505, £300

 

The P505 is only Hitachiís second or third DVD player to date, depending whether or not you count the quirky DV-W1E twin-deck DVD/CD-R machine; its first model, the DV-P2E, was in fact a re-badged Pioneer deck. In the scheme of things thatís a fairly modest record of achievement from a big name consumer electronics manufacturer but we have to say that the first all-Hitachi player (DV-P250) was a real stonker and the multi-talented DV-W1E was definitely one for the history books, so we had quite high hopes for the DV-P505.

 

The basic spec and price seem quite reasonable, around £300 buys a tidy looking machine with on-board Dolby Digital and dts decoding, virtual surround, 2-stage picture zoom (x2 and x4) plus multi-speed trick play, but unlike previous models there are no headline grabbing features or indeed anything we can really get our teeth into. We were mildly excited to see a ĎDigestí button on the remote. As you may recall this was the Ďkillerí feature on the P250, it generated a visual index of stills from each chapter on a disc. However, for some strange reason it has been dropped on the P505, or rather it only works with Video CDs, which is a fat lot of good!

 

Since thereís not much to talk about on the inside weíll move swiftly on the exterior, starting with the front panel. Itís quite busy and thatís because it has a full set of menu access controls in the shape of three buttons and a little joystick. This is actually very unusual, and it means this is one of the very few DVD players on the market that we can recommend to amnesiacs and owners of large dogs or destructive kids because you can still access all of itís vital functions even it if the remote handset is lost or destroyed. Incidentally, the joystick on our sample was way too sensitive and very difficult to use, but weíll be charitable and put that down to it being an early sample.

 

On screen displays during replay are confined to basic time and chapter information, all disc transport, audio and subtitle operations are controlled from buttons on the remote handset. It is possible to call up the setup menu during playback, which is handy.  In addition to all of the usual language and picture format options there a decent set of surround controls including adjustments for centre and rear delay and a white noise test tone, which we donít see very often these days.

 

Whilst weíre on the subject of remote control boxers, this is not one of Hitachiís finest. The cursor controls are big and easy to find, though since this machine has so few on-screen displays it seems a bit over the top. On the other hand, frequently used controls like the transport keys are all quite small and bunched together in the bottom right hand corner. One other slightly unusual feature is a recessed button that changes the video output standard, thereís four options PAL, PAL60, NTSC and multi/auto.

 

Mystery surrounds the choice of trick play speeds, 2x, 5x and 10x normal speed (in both directions) is fair enough, but then it jumps to 100x normal speed, which is much too fast to be any use. Slomo is awkward, there are three speeds (1/2x, 1/4x, 1/8x), but one button and to get to reverse slomo you have to step through the forward speeds first Ė no doubt it seemed like a good idea at the timeÖ

 

Regional coding on our sample was firmly locked, there are rumours of a software hack but it proved elusive and we had no further details at the time of going to press. Picture quality is at least as good as the P250, possibly a little better with a smidge more detail revealed in shadows and murky scenes. Colours are very cleanly resolved, skin tones are faithfully rendered, itís very good at close-ups capturing every little blemish and subtle graduation in shade. Trick play and slomo are both smooth and layer change is quick, lasting only a couple of frames on most of our test discs, blink and youíll miss it.

 

Dolby Digital decoding is squeaky clean with all channels clearly presented, the response is wide and flat, noise levels are negligible. Background hiss creeps in on the analogue mixed stereo outputs but itís certainly no more that average; Dolby Surround channels come across as lively with plenty of headroom for big bass effects.

 

The P505 is a difficult machine to sum up. AV performance is very good indeed, itís moderately well behaved and easy to use, the price is fair and it looks okay, but we had expected something a bit more interesting from Hitachi. The disappearing Digest feature is a disappointment and the range of trick play options could have been better thought out. None of this is particularly serious nor would it put us off buying one, but given the choice weíd rather spend another few pounds on itís predecessor, the P250, which to be fair was always going to be a hard act to follow.

 

Contact Hitachi 0345 581455, www.hitachitv.com

 

BOX COPY 1 Ė REMOTE VIEWING

On a scale of one to ten this gets a five, thereís too much emphasis on the cursor controls and not enough given to the disc transport keys, which are too small and too close together, and whatís that recessed PAL/NTSC button all about?

 

BOX COPY 3 Ė AROUND THE BACK

The rear panel socket layout is neat and tidy and for the most part itís fairly obvious where the cables go though we did notice one odd and potentially confusing feature on our sample. The labelling of the mixed stereo output, appears to indicate that you should use a particular pair of phono sockets; one of them is the 5.1 decoderís right front channel output, the other, next to it, is also coloured red. Hopefully most people will spot the mistake; otherwise theyíll end up with a very uninvolving Pro Logic soundstageÖ Itís always good to see the glint of gold on back panel; the phono sockets used for the 5.1 channel outputs, composite video out and coaxial bitstream output are all plated. It has an optical bitstream output and a S-Video socket (mini DIN), and a fully wired SCART socket with switchable RGB or S-Video output (selectable from the setup menu).

 

THE HARD FACTS

Hitachi DV-P505

OUTPUTS

SCART             Y

S-Video             Y

RGB out                        Y

Component                    N

Optical digital            Y

Coaxial digital            Y

5.1 decoder                   Y

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital & dts decoder, multi-speed replay, picture zoom, spatial sound

 

GOOD POINTS

AV performance, sensible features and itís reasonably easy to use

 

BAD POINTS

Digest feature only for Video CDs, indifferent remote layout, strange trick play speeds

 

Ease of use            4

Picture  5

Sound               5

Features            4

Overall  4

 

 

BUYERS GUIDE EXTRA INFO

Price                 £300

SCART 1

S-Video 1

Digital out            optical coaxial

Decoder            Dolby Digital dts

 

Good Points

AV performance, sensible features and itís reasonably easy to use

 

Bad points

Digest feature only for Video CDs, indifferent remote layout, strange trick play speeds

 

Rating

4

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R. Maybury 2000, 1307

 

 


 

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