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SONY DVP-CX850, £600

 

Contact Sony (0990) 111999

 

Letís say, for argumentís sake, that the average movie lasts for one and a half hours. Multiply that by 200 and you get 300 hours or twelve and a half days. Thatís roughly how long you could sit in front of your telly, without having to move a muscle or to get up to change a disc, if you were lucky enough to own a Sony DVP-CX850 200 disc DVD autochanger. And you would indeed be lucky because this is one very special machine, not only because of the autochanger, but picture and sound are both very good, it looks really funky Ė especially when fully loaded Ė and itís got a bucket load of neat tricks, that makes basic operation as easy, if not a little easier, than quite a few single disc players we could mention.

 

Weíd better start with the autochanger, itís a carousel type with all of the discs standing upright, access is via a hatch behind the drop-down front panel, itís a shame they didnít make the hatch and window a little bigger and the internal light a bit brighter because itís quite a sight to see them all chuntering around when changing discs. It goes without saying that keeping track of 200 discs could be a real nightmare, but Sony has that one covered with its Disc Explorer Ďmanagement systemí. Basically this allows you to load discs into the machine willy-nilly, and use on-screen menus to sort them into categorised folders, by genre and disc type (donít forget, it plays audio CDs and Video CDs as well).

 

You can give discs a name or title of your own choosing using the Disc Memo facility, and if you find entering text from the remote hard going thereís the option to plug in a PC keyboard on the front panel. A facility called Jacket Cover Display uses a graphic of the disc cover recorded on some discs, to show a thumbnail image on the Explorer menus or you can use a set of ready made icons. Loading and unloading discs is pretty straightforward, as soon as the front panel is opened the machine stops playing; the carousel turns using a knob on the front panel. It is all very impressive and it works well but be warned a fair amount of dedication and study of the extra thick manual is required to make sense of it all. This is not the kind of thing you would want to give to your old granny!

 

Before we get too carried away with the autochanger and Disc Explorer itís worth mentioning that the CX850 also has a built-in Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder some useful picture and sound enhancements, including 3-mode digital noise reduction and 3D virtual surround, plus it comers with a multi-brand TV remote that has glow in the dark buttons. A feature called Picture Memory grabs a still from whatever you are watching and this can be used as a background for the set-up menu display (it can also use Jacket Displays). The CX850 has the familiar Sony graphical on-screen displays, which overlay a set of menus and a winky bit-rate indicator on the picture during playback. Incidentally, if youíre thinking of buying one of these things make sure you have the room, itís a monster, measuring 430 x 480 x 190mm. 480mm is the depth, and you can add another 50mm or so for plugs and cables, which makes it almost twice the size of most other players, so youíre going to need a vast shelf or unit to put it on!

 

Itís all worth it though; picture quality is excellent, comparable with the Sony DVP-S7700, which we suspect it shares a number of key components. The first thing you notice is how crisp and detailed the picture looks, colours are bright and natural looking, subtle shades are faithfully rendered. The contrast range is spot on, gloomy scenes never look mushy or flat and the processors manage to avoid any artefacts or texturing. Layer change on the worst of our test discs took around half a second. The mixed stereo soundtracks have lower than average levels of background hiss, the response is flat and wide which helps locating Dolby Surround effects and sharpen up the centre dialogue channel. Dolby Digital processing is very precise revealing all kinds of little details on the soundtrack and big bass effects appear to have extra weight behind them. Audio CDs sound is okay but it lacks the sparkle of the S7700, which was an accomplished hi-fi component. It could be something to do with the deck mechanism, or its orientation, rock and metal sounds fine but detailed classical pieces are not as involving as they might be.

 

True, a 200 disc autochanger is not to everyoneís taste and the CX850 is a bit of a niche product but taking into account the deck mechanism, Dolby Digital decoder and general performance, £600 is actually a very reasonable price for this machine. Even if you canít fill those 200 slots with DVDs you are bound to be have a few audio CDs, to make it worthwhile, but make sure youíve got somewhere to put it first!

 

BOX COPY 1 Ė REMOTE VIEWING

Considering what it has to do the handset isnít too bad Ė at least as far as the routine playback and TV control are concerned Ė but the Disc Explorer functions are bit convoluted and the small four way cursor button (in the middle of the shuttle dial) isnít very precise and itís a little too easy to get into a tangle, or do something you didnít mean to.

 

THE HARD FACTS

SONY DVP-CX850              

 

OUTPUTS

SCART             2

S-Video             1

RGB out                        yes

Optical digital            yes

Coaxial digital            yes

5.1 decoder                   yes

 

EXTRA FEATURES 20/30

Region 2 PAL/NTSC, Dolby Digital decoder, DTS compatible, 200-disc autochanger, Disc Explorer disc navigation system, multi-changer control, disc memo/titling, 3-mode Digital Noise Reduction, 3D virtual surround, multi speed replay, multi-brand TV remote with glow in the dark buttons, jacket cover display

 

GOOD POINTS

AV performance, 200-disc changer, Disc Explorer management system

 

BAD POINTS

Getting to grips with Disc Explorer, fiddly cursor button

 

Ease of use            4

Picture  5

Sound               5

Features            5

Overall  5

 

 

BUYERS GUIDE EXTRA INFO

Price                 £600

SCART 2

S-Video 1

Digital out            coaxial, optical

Decoder            Dolby Digital

 

Good Points

AV performance, 200-disc changer, Disc Explorer management system

 

Bad points

Getting to grips with Disc Explorer, fiddly cursor button

 

Rating

4

 

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R. Maybury 2000, 2903

 

 


 

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