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PHILIPS DVD-960, £520


Philips Matchline has to be one of the longest-running branding exercises in the business. A quick trawl through the archives threw up Matchline monitors, TV tuners and VCRs going back to early 1986. The basic philosophy has changed little over the years and one glance at the DVD-960 shows that the high-end marketing pitch and distinctive styling are still major priorities. The silvery-white front panel is a clear reminder of a Matchline classic, the VR-969 Super VHS video recorder Ė the one with an analogue clock set into the middle of the front panel Ė the question is, will this machine also earn itself a place in the home cinema hall of fame?


Probably not, the 960 is a good player and all that but we have to say thereís a lot of window dressing involved and if you whip off the lid inside youíll find the guts of one of Philips less glamorous (and significantly cheaper) DVD players. There are one or two extras that some may consider worth paying for, along with the fact that it is actually a very pretty looking machine. The two most prominent ones are a set of component video outputs on the back panel and it comes with the worldís biggest DVD remote control handset, a full 23.7cm long, 2mm longer than the previous record holder, supplied with the Hitachi DV-W1E!


The remote is one of this playerís most interesting features, which tells you a lot about the rest of them. Itís a multi-brand model able to control the main functions on a selection of TVs and AV amplifiers and the big round thing in the middle is a jog/shuttle dial, that lets you whiz back and forth, or step through a recording a frame at a time. Thatís all very useful, but in order to use it you have to press a button, and itís very sensitive, which makes it incredibly difficult to use. If you so much as breathe on the jog dial it shifts from slomo to fast picture search, moreover thereís only two slomo (x1/8 & x1/2) and two search speeds (4x & 30x), so itís really nothing to get excited about. And donít whatever you do loose the remote because the front panel controls are confined to play, stop, pause and open/close!


Back to the features, thereís a 3D sound option, the coaxial and optical bitstream outputs are dts compatible and in the setup menu thereís a shift option that slides the picture left or right. It has the same (or very similar) on screen display and operating system as most other Philips players weíve seen, and that includes the facility to change the region lock from the remote handset, but thereís a sting in the tail. This method apparently only works 25 times. Nevertheless, itís worth knowing how to do it and itís the same method as the DVD 930/935. With the machine in Stop mode press Play 274, the front panel display shows a line of dashes, now press 0050001 281 56 and then Play, the screen turns red and itís ready to play Region 1 discs. Be warned the output is Raw NTSC, so youíll need a suitable TV. To get it back to Region 2 press Play 274 again and the code 0020001 281 56 and the screen turns blue. By the way, it worked on our sample but it also changed the logo on the intro screen to Grundig, whoopsÖ


We had hoped that the highish price would show up in some way on the screen, at least compared with other recent Philips models with which it seems to have quite a lot in common. Hand on heart we couldnít say there was a great deal of difference in picture quality, at least nothing that couldnít be attributed to batch differences, but the upside is that the picture performance of this and most other Philips machines is generally very good. Colour fidelity is excellent; the image is sharp with lots of fine detail and no processing artefacts. The brightness level on our sample was a bit down but the dynamic range was wide enough to handle gloomy scenes. Layer change is comparatively slow at just under half a second.


Of course itís possible that more significant improvements are visible on the component video output Ė it is the connection system of choice on NTSC material -- however at the time of writing we didnít have any TVs with a component video input, (not that there are that many to begin with, and none in the Philips rangeÖ) so we havenít been able to check that particular facility out yet.


The 960 does quite well as an audio CD player and it compares well with mid-range hi-fi components. The mixed stereo and bitstream outputs are also clean and free of any noticeable defects but again there was nothing that we could detect that sets it apart from most other major brand players with a similar specification.


It looks great and AV performance is up there with the best of them but in the end, much as we admire the cosmetics, we have to say the spec is rather ordinary for such an expensive player.


Contact Philips 020 8689 2166



Itís huge, a recording breaking 23.7cm in length! The layout isnít too bad and the multi-brand TV/AV amp functions are useful but the jog/shuttle is a bit strange. The jog dial is much too sensitive and in the end thereís only two search and slomo speeds.




Now hereís something you donít see every day, up in the top left hand corner of the back panel is a discrete on/off mains switch. Presumably this is to make up for the lack of a power switch on the front; the trouble is it is going to be a swine to get to when the player is under the TV or fitted into a unit. The only other unusual feature is that set of component video outputs, itís just a shame there are no Philips TVs Ė Matchline or otherwise -- to use them with. The SCART socket is wired for an RGB output but thereís no option to switch it to S-Video, fortunately there is a separate S-Video socket and composite video output (CVBS) next to the component video outputs. Both coaxial (phono) and optical (TOSlink) bitstream outputs are included and the mixed stereo outputs are right next door, on a pair of phono sockets. 






SCART             Y

S-Video             Y

RGB out                        Y

Component                    Y

Optical digital            Y

Coaxial digital            Y

5.1 decoder                   N



Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, dts compatible bitstream output, trick play, multi-brand TV/amplifier remote handset




Stylish good looks, AV performance



Few features and rather expensive


Ease of use            3

Picture  5

Sound               4

Features            3

Overall  3




Price                 £520


S-Video 1

Digital out            optical coaxial

Decoder            none


Good Points

Stylish good looks, AV performance


Bad points

Few features and rather expensive






R. Maybury 2000, 1407




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