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JVC XV-D723, Around £500

 

So far JVC DVD players have all been reasonably well specified with some useful extras but it has really gone to town with the XV-723; if there was room for a kitchen sink there’s little doubt it would have one of those too…

 

It’s a handsome mid-range machine, JVC has yet to follow Sony, Panasonic et al into trendy slim-line cabinets but the front panel design has been carefully thought out with what looks like an extra wide display that artfully swallows up a lot of the empty space. Inside the box there’s Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 channel surround sound decoders, and this is the first player we’ve seen with a DVD Audio decoder as well, though since the format has only recently been ratified there’s precious little to play on it. It could turn out to be a major development in hi-fi, but until there’s a worthwhile selection of software we’ll have to concentrate on it’s DVD Video capabilities. However, it’s the abundance of widgets and gizmos that grab your attention. There’s nothing particularly new but there’s lots to play with and some interesting variations on familiar themes.

 

It’s a long list so we’ll dive straight in with picture zoom. It’s not just any old picture zoom though, this one swings both ways as it were and reduces picture size as well as magnifies, with 1/16x, 1/8x, 1/4x and 1/2x sized picture; then it goes on to 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x, 32x, 64x, 126x, 256x, 512x and a quite absurd 1024x magnification; the image area is controlled with the cursor buttons on the remote handset. In fact the picture descends into a pixellated mush once you get past 32x and virtually all detail is lost from then on, but it’s quite amusing, for a few minutes.

 

The Digest feature is similar to the ones on previous JVC machines. This creates a multi-picture display (3 x 3 sub screens) that can be filled with a sequence of still shots or the lead-ins from chapters but it’s quite cranky and despite our best attempts we couldn’t always get it to work properly. It also did odd things as well, like superimpose a grid of still frames over a full-frame image; admittedly ours was a very early sample and there might be some bugs in the control software, which might explain its eccentric behaviour.

 

VFP or Video Fine Processor provides an unusually wide range of picture adjustments, the default settings are Normal and Cinema, but it’s the two User settings that are of most interest; the picture parameters covered are brightness, colour, contrast, tint, sharpness, Y-Delay and Gamma. The last two you may not have come across before: Y or luminance delay has the effect of shifting the picture side to side, whilst gamma alters the contrast balance, handy when the movie contains a lot of dark scenes, where detail can be lost in the shadows and gloom. 

 

3D Phonic virtual surround is a little more versatile than on previous models with 3 modes (action, drama, theatre), with the depth of the effect manually adjustable in each case, though why anyone would want such a thing after paying a premium for full-blown 5.1 surround on tap must remain a mystery. Trick play modes are plentiful and easy to use, via the jog dial on the remote handset. Picture search speeds are 2x, 5x, 20x and 60x in both directions, and in slomo there’s 1/32x, 1/16x, 1/4x and 1/2x normal speed, again in both directions.

 

One very useful feature carried over from other recent players is the excellent on-screen display system. When the button is pressed the picture shrinks to around one quarter normal size to be inset on a simple to use menu and status display page. The remote handset is a multi-brand type that can also control the fain functions on a number of TVs from other manufacturers.

  

On paper the multi-speed replay facility looks quite promising but the reality is somewhat different, even 2x normal speed, which should be fluid, is just a sequence of jerky jump frame images. Picture quality is satisfactory but it’s not as revealing as earlier machines, colours can look a bit heavy handed and the picture lacks the almost clinical attention to detail of some of its rivals, including one or two that sell for appreciably less. That’s offset to a certain extent by the manual picture adjustments, in particular the variable gamma connection setting, which does wonders for dark and moody movies. Processing is also very clean and it copes well with grubby discs moreover layer change happens reasonably quickly in less than a quarter of a second.

 

Both the 5.1 and dts decoders do a good job of extracting effects and locating them within the soundfield. The channels sound crisp and well balanced and there’s lower than average levels of background hiss on the analogue mixed stereo output, efficient but unremarkable just about sums it up. We’ll let you know about DVD Audio as and when we have something to play on it.

 

The price is unremarkable, especially when you look at what’s on offer for £50 to £100 less from other leading brands. Nevertheless there’s plenty to like about the D723, not least the array of manual picture adjustments but we have some doubts about all of the effects and tricks; we suspect that most users will tire of them fairly quickly and given a choice between a 14-mode zoom and a smooth picture search, say, would probably opt for the latter. We are glad that JVC dare to be different but this one is just a bit too gimmicky for our taste.

 

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

 

BOX COPY 1 – REMOTE VIEWING

Until now JVC has had a pretty good record with remote handsets but they’ve blown it with this one. It’s the old problem of too many small buttons and iffy labelling. The cursor controls and transport keys are lost in the confusion and you need a magnifying glass and tweezers to use the TV/DVD function switch…

 

BOX COPY 3 – AROUND THE BACK

Whilst the D723 is occasionally out of whack with the rest of the market the back panel is an oasis of conventionality. The single SCART connector can be configured for S-Video or RGB output via a pair of switches; a single three-way switch would have been easier but where’s the fun in that? Over on the left hand side there is a bank of six gold-plated phono sockets for the mixed stereo and 5.1 channel outputs, two more gold phonos are used for the coaxial bitstream and composite video outputs. The optical digital output is in the capable hands of a standard TOSlink socket and the S-Video output is on a 4-pin mini DIN. The two mini jack sockets marked ‘Compulink’, next to the composite video output phono are for JVC’s proprietary remote control system, so the player can be integrated with other JVC AV products. Rear panel labelling on DVD players is getting truly bizarre, and this JVC machine seems to have more than its fair share… What, for example are the ‘Confidential unpublished works’, and what does ‘licensed for limited viewing uses only’ infer, we should be told…

 

THE HARD FACTS

M/M                 

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 5.1 decoders, DVD Audio decoder multi-speed replay, 14-mode picture zoom/reduce, chapter viewer, strobe, 3-mode spatial sound, VFP picture control & user presets (sharpness, colour, brightness tint, gamma, Y-Shift), multi-brand TV/AV remote

 

 

GOOD POINTS

Useful picture adjustments, lots of toys to play with

 

BAD POINTS

A nasty case of buttonitis on the remote handset

 

Ease of use            4

Picture  4

Sound               4

Features            5

Overall  5

 

 

BUYERS GUIDE EXTRA INFO

Price                 £500

SCART 1

S-Video 1

Digital out            coaxial, optical

Decoder            Dolby Digital & dts

 

Good Points

Useful picture adjustments, lots of toys to play with

 

Bad points

A nasty case of buttonitis on the remote handset

 

Rating

4

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2000, 0506

 

 


 

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