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SONY DVP-S735, £430

 

Some trends in AV technology occur so slowly that you barely notice them, others seem to happen almost overnight, like the sudden influx of compact and slim line DVD players, of which the Sony DVP-S735 is the latest and dare we say, the prettiest looking example to date. In fact if you ever get around to having a look inside a typical DVD player you’ll see that most of the boxes are about twice as big as they need to be, presumably manufacturers are using up stocks of old VCR boxes… However, apart from the saving in space the most obvious benefit of this new case style are tidier looking front panels, which the S735 ably demonstrates.

 

In spite of the mid-market price tag the S735 is currently the best specified player in the Sony range with on-board Dolby Digital and dts decoders, it has a useful assortment of convenience features – some new to Sony -- like the Chapter Viewer, which creates a visual index from stills grabbed from the beginning of each chapter. There’s no shortage of picture and sound adjustments/enhancements for those who enjoy a fiddle. They include a 5-mode ‘picture equaliser’ which imposes a selection of preset contrast, colour and black level settings on the image, or you can set contrast, brightness colour and hue manually. There’s also a 3-mode Digital Video Enhancer, which is supposed to increase picture sharpness, but it didn’t seem to make that much difference on our sample. The effects these tweaks have on the picture is actually quite hard to judge since the on-screen display is quite intrusive and blocks out a large chunk of the screen when you open up sub-menus from the icon bar on the side of the picture.

 

If you were daft enough to buy a S735 and not make full use of the built-in surround sound decoders there’s a set of  ‘virtual’ surround modes to play around with. These attempt to simulate the presence of a set of rear surround speakers from the normal stereo pair built into the TV, and there’s also a mode for headphone listening. Needless to say it fails dismally to recreate the effect of true multi-channel surround sound, but the wide spatial effects can be quite interesting on some types of audio CDs and video material with mono or basic stereo soundtracks. 

 

Connectivity to the outside world is excellent. It has a pair of SCART sockets, one of which can be switched S-Video or RGB output, there are also separate composite and S-Video outputs, and component video (Cr, CB, Y) outputs. These might come in handy if you’ve got access to a fancy video projector or one of the small handful of top-end tellies with the appropriate input socketry. It also helps if you’ve a penchant for NTSC movies as it works a bit better than RGB, though since this is a Region 2 only player (in the absence of any information on unlocking this machine) you might find the choice of viewing material that will benefit from such a connection somewhat limited.

 

The handset is a multi-brand model, able to control a selection of TVs and AV amps, and most of the buttons glow in the dark, which is a nice touch. Driving the S735 is generally quite easy, once you’ve got used to the fiddly little joystick set into the middle of the jog dial. This is used to move around the menu displays but it’s very sensitive and easy to overshoot icons and options if you’re not careful.

 

The picture is excellent, nary a pixel out of place, even when fed on a diet of the difficult discs (dirty, scratched and clumsily coded) we have in our collection. Images are packed with crisply rendered details, colours are really clean and natural looking, especially skin tones and shades. The contrast balance is about right though it’s handy to have all those presets and manual picture controls to mess around with. The only small let downs are the comparatively coarse trick play options (2x 10x & 30x fast picture search and 2 slomo speeds), which are made worse by the handset’s touchy jog dial control, and comparatively leisurely layer change, which takes a little over half a second.

 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the sound system either, Dolby Digital soundtrack are rich and full-bodied with big and small sounds precisely located in lively soundfield. We could do with a few more dts recordings to make comparisons, but on our small selection of recordings there’s a sharpening up on treble frequencies and a noticeable increase in the depth of bass effects. The mixed stereo output is clean and lively, weighed against the digital surround options its presence is largely superfluous, but it is there if you need it.

 

AV quality is well above average it’s undoubtedly one of the top five performers we’ve seen so far this year even though Sony has stinted on the trick play features. We reckon this is one of, if not the best-looking DVD players on the market, and that’s before it’s switched on…

 

Contact Sony (0990) 111999, www.sony.co.uk

 

BOX COPY 1 – REMOTE VIEWING

It’s a bit of a lump but luminous buttons and multi-brand TV/AV functions are definitely worth having. Transport buttons are cluttered and the menu and display buttons are hard to find in a picture or sound parameter adjustment emergency. The jog dial is too sensitive and the joystick is too small and fiddly, but apart from that…

 

BOX COPY 2 – AROUND THE BACK

Sony has managed to cover just about every eventuality with the S735 very comprehensive assortment of rear panel socketry; it’s hard to imagine anyone having problems connecting this one up, no matter how sophisticated or complicated the system might be. The two SCART sockets (one is configurable for RGB or S-Video, in addition to a standard composite video out) means that there should be no difficulty integrating this player with existing AV systems already connected to a VCR and satellite receiver or digibox. But even if the SCART route is impractical or the SCARTs on the TV or other external AV components are already accounted for it has separate S-Video and composite video outputs, and that rather exotic component video option for those with a suitably equipped TV or video projector. The line-level audio output connections are standard fare with the mixed stereo, 5.1 surround sound and coaxial bitstream outputs using phono sockets. A TOSlink connector is used for the optical digital bitstream output and for good measure there’s a headphone jack socket on the front (with variable level control).

 

THE HARD FACTS

Sony DVP-S735                       

OUTPUTS

SCART             Y

S-Video             Y

RGB out                        Y

Component                    Y

Optical digital            Y

Coaxial digital            Y

5.1 decoder                   Y

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital & dts 5.1 decoders, multi-speed replay, chapter viewer, strobe, 5-mode spatial sound, 3-mode noise reduction, 5-mode picture control & user presets (sharpness, colour, brightness hue), disc labelling, picture memory, multi-brand TV/AV remote with glow in the dark buttons

 

GOOD POINTS

Excellent AV performance, small size and styling

 

BAD POINTS

Limited replay options, fiddly menu controls, intrusive OSD

 

Ease of use            4

Picture  5

Sound               5

Features            5

Overall  5

 

BUYERS GUIDE EXTRA INFO

Price                 £390

SCART 2

S-Video 1

Digital out            coaxial, optical

Decoder            Digital & dts

Good Points

 

Bad points

Excellent AV performance, small size and styling

 

Rating

Limited replay options, fiddly menu controls, intrusive OSD

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2000, 0106

 

dim43074250/3.1k

 


 

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