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JVC XV-523 DVD Player

 

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JVC XV-523, £280

Whilst some manufacturers seem to be churning out new DVD players like they’re going out of fashion JVC has adopted a relaxed, almost Zen like approach to the format. They were late starters to begin with and the XV-523 is only its fourth machine to date. Nevertheless, the gap between new model launches seems to getting shorter and this machine has a very similar specification to XV-515, which appeared as recently as February this year.

 

The price says it all, the 515 was priced at £300, which a few months ago was about right for an entry-level player from a big name manufacturer. Since then things have moved on apace, the 523 has been given a slightly better specification and the price is £280, possibly less if you shop around. The differences between the two models are relatively minor in nature but we’re heartened to see that they include items like a coaxial digital output, which the 515 lacked, the 523 can also play region 2 and region free NTSC discs -- which its predecessor couldn’t -- and it comes with a multi-brand TV remote. We’re also pleased to see that features such as Scene Digest has been retained (it creates a visual menu of thumbnail stills, from the start of each chapter), also carried over from the 515 are multi speed replay (2x, 5x, 10x, 20x & 60x, plus five slomo speeds, in both directions), there’s also 3-mode spatial sound, 3-mode picture control, zoom and strobe.

 

JVC has stayed with the distinctive champagne-gold coloured livery but compared with the 515 the case is slimmer and the front panel layout has been rearranged. The display has been simplified and is now beneath the disc-loading tray, it still has a jog control knob though, for fast speed and direction change. Around the back there’s a single SCART socket with switchable composite or S-Video output. There’s also separate composite and S-Video output sockets, plus a pair of phonos carrying the mixed stereo output, another phono for coaxial digital bitstream and a TOSlink optical digital socket.

 

Only the initial set-up relies on an on-screen display; time, language and mode information (now with a bit-rate indicator) flashes up on the screen from time to time but otherwise pretty well all control operations rely on buttons on the remote handset. It’s very similar to the ones supplied with JVC video recorders, but with one major difference, it’s a real swine to use! In an obvious attempt to make use of an existing button layout it has a ‘shift’ key, to access various secondary functions, but you also have to press shift and track skip to get to the fast picture search speeds (5x search only is available by pressing and holding the track skip buttons). Slomo has been assigned to a rocker switch, that in a previous incarnation was one of a number of buttons used to set the VCR timer, and next to that there’s a mystery button marked ‘amp vol’, which we still haven’t figured out.

 

Resolution and colour accuracy are in line with JVC's previous players, which is to say basic picture quality is very good and with the Theatre Position picture control switched off the contrast range is satisfactory. (At all other settings Theatre Position seems to make the picture look worse…). Trick play is very jerky, even 2x normal speed, slomo is better, but the bottom line is that moving around a recording or analysing a scenes is hard work, even when using the jog dial. Layer change is fairly average too, taking a little over half a second on our worst-case test discs.

 

We experienced some problems with the audio on our sample when using the SCART connection, there was a lot of interference, which sounded very much as though it was coming from the video circuitry, given the way the noise changed with what was happening on the screen. Fortunately the mixed stereo line output was clean as a whistle, which leads us to suppose it was a one-off on our very early production sample, however it’s something we’ll be keeping an eye on. Analogue Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Digital soundtracks both came through the processing mill with a clean bill of health with crisp dialogue and sharply defined effects in both instances.

 

We can’t really say the 523 is a change for the better. True the lowish price and additional features that were lacking on the 515 are welcome but the clumsy remote is a step backwards and really takes the gloss off what could have been a competent and agreeable player

 

Contact: JVC 020 8450 3282, www.jvc-europe.com

 

BOX COPY 1 – REMOTE VIEWING

Not that the remote supplied with the VX-515 was anything to write home about, but this one is plain horrible. We suspect it’s a cheapskate effort to make use of old VCR handset moulds. The problem is DVD players are not VCRs the control configuration is quite different and a half-assed adaptation like this actually makes the machine more difficult to use than it need be.

 

THE HARD FACTS

JVC XV-523                  

OUTPUTS

SCART             1

S-Video             1 (also on SCART)

RGB out                        no

Optical digital            yes

Coaxial digital            yes

5.1 decoder                   no

 

EXTRA FEATURES 20/30

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, dts compatible, multi-speed replay, chapter digest, picture zoom, strobe, 3-mode spatial sound, 3-mode ‘theatre position’ picture control, multi-brand TV remote

 

GOOD POINTS

AV quality, new slimmer shape, extra features like NTSC replay and coaxial digital

 

BAD POINTS

horrible remote and convoluted control functions, jerky trick play

 

Ease of use            3

Picture  4

Sound               4

Features            4

Overall  4

 

 

BUYERS GUIDE EXTRA INFO

Price                 £280

SCART 1

S-Video 1 (also on SCART)

Digital out            coaxial, optical

Decoder            none

 

Good Points

AV quality, new slimmer shape, extra features like NTSC replay and coaxial digital

 

Bad points

horrible remote and convoluted control functions, jerky trick play

 

Rating

4

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Ó R. Maybury 2000, 1905

 

 


 

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