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The first thing that strikes you about the Panasonic DVD-RV40 is how small it is. Possibly small is the wrong word, but it’s noticeably slimmer, and shorter than most of its rivals. Normally we wouldn’t bother to mention such an apparently trivial matter so early on but in his case we’ll make an exception. Reducing the size of the front panel makes it look much neater; most DVD players end up in standard VCR sized boxes, which look pretty dreadful with a few tiny buttons scattered around, a narrow display panel and thin disc loading hatch and acres of emptiness. Secondly, a shorter case means plenty of room around the back for plugs and cables, which is just as well as the RV40 has quite a lot of sockets. The main reason for that is the built-in Dolby Digital decoder, but Panasonic has also blessed it with a second SCART, which can prove useful on busy systems coping with two or more AV source components and a shortage of sockets.  


But we digress. The RV40 is more than just a pretty face though the feature list is actually quite brief by current standards. In fact once you get past more or less standard items like multi-speed replay, spatial sound and graphical on-screen display there’s not a lot to talk about. The only extras of note are a switchable NTSC/PAL 60 output, a very easy to use speaker set-up display and a strangely pointless and hard to work Chapter Review function. (It lets you see the first few seconds from each chapter, but only up to the point where you stopped playback…).


A couple of things are notable by their absence, it has no RGB output for instance – though clearly it’s not for the want of SCART sockets – and as if to rub salt into the would the instruction manual informs us that Aussies and Kiwis get component video outputs on their versions. It’s a solidly-locked Region 2 machine, at least if there is a way to enable R1 playback it’s very well hidden, or involves an as yet unpublicised modification, watch the usual web sites for details.


The on-screen display or ‘graphical user interface’ as Panasonic insist on calling it is a very old friend, similar to the ones used on Panny DVDs since day one. The main display menu is an icon bar that appears at the top of the screen, the set-up menu is a full screen affair, providing a fairly easy route to the machine’s main operational settings. It’s all very straightforward and well behaved, as you would expect.


Good things do come in small packages and the RV40’s on-screen performance is excellent, not an artefact or processing error in sight, even on iffy recordings. The picture fair leaps off the screen, fine detail is crisply resolved, colours are bright and vibrant and the contrast range is just right. Dark and moody flicks like Batman & Robin, which can look dreadful on some players, come alive again, just like they did when you saw them from the five and nines.


Trick play is excellent, slomo in particular is very smooth with four forward and four reverse speeds. There’s a similar arrangement of fast picture search speeds and layer change is all over in a under a quarter of a second.


It sounds as good as it looks too, the Dolby Digital decoder works overtime extracting extra little morsels of sound that some other players or AV amps either overlook or fail to bring into focus. Analogue Dolby Surround soundtracks are crisply rendered, effects are clearly located and background noise levels are a smidge lower than average.


Asking three hundred and fifty pounds for a DVD player these days, even one with an on-board Dolby Digital decoder could be seen as quite brave, particularly in this instance, with so few extras on offer to tempt the gadget hungry. Nevertheless, we’ll go out on a limb with the RV40 and say it’s worth it – just -- because it delivers where it counts, with outstanding picture and sound. It looks smart too; the compact case really helps to bring it back into proportion. True, a few frills wouldn’t have gone amiss, but in the end what you’re getting is a highly competent machine that brings out the best in your movies, and we reckon that’s worth sacrificing a few bells and whistles for.


Contact Panasonic (0990) 357357



Panasonic has produced some really horrible remote handsets in the past -- especially on early 90’s VCRs -- but the one supplied with the RV40 is quite civilised. The buttons are a fair size, and well spaced, though the transport keys could have been better placed, and differentiated. As it is in a dark room you have to feel for a little raised ‘pip’ on the play button to find your way around 







SCART             2

S-Video             1

RGB out                        no

Optical digital            yes

Coaxial digital            yes

5.1 decoder                   yes



Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder, DTS compatible bitstream output, multi-speed replay, 3-mode spatial sound



Excellent AV performance, small size



A bit thin on features and they’re not exactly giving it away but it is a class act…


Ease of use            4

Picture  5

Sound               5

Features            3

Overall  4



Price                 £350


S-Video 1

Digital out            coaxial, optical

Decoder            Dolby Digital


Good Points

Excellent AV performance, small size


Bad points

A bit thin on features and they’re not exactly giving it away but it is a class act…







Ó R. Maybury 2000, 1105





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