WHAT DVD 2002

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PLAYERS OF THE MONTH

 

MAKE/MODEL

SAMSUNG DVD-H40,  £TBA (between £550 and £650?)

 

By rights DVD recorders should now be taking over the VCR market but things havenít exactly gone according to plan. A lengthy format tussle, the prospect of an even better optical disc format Ė BluRay Ė a few years down the line has slowed progress and a new breed of video recorders, using hard disc drive (HDD) technology has muddied the already murky waters.

 

HDD Recording makes a lot of sense for basic timeshifting but devices like TiVo and SkyPlus make it look complicated and expensive, but the new Samsung DVD-H40 should liven things up a bit.

 

Itís a combination DVD player and HDD recorder but the latter is designed to work just like a regular VCR, with the addition of a couple of interesting extras. More about those in a moment but first, the DVD bit. It has the usual assortment of trick play functions, it can play MP3 music files on CD-R and thereís a very useful extra in the shape of JPEG replay, so you can view pictures shot on a digital camera by downloading them onto a CD-R -- all DVD players should have this feature! A ĎJukeboxí facility lets you compile playlists and slideshows of tunes and pictures on disc or copied to the hard drive. Our very early sample was region 2 only but donít give up hope as Samsung players have good track record of being hackable.

 

The HDD recorder does just about everything a normal VCR can do, it has NICAM stereo sound, a Video Plus+ timer and excellent DVD-like trick play facilities. The extras are near instant access to any part of a recording, and pause live TV. Thatís exactly what it does, if the phone rings just press the pause button and the TV programme youíre watching freezes; the programme is still being recorded though, so when you come back press play to resume where you left off, or press fast forward/picture search to catch up. The disc holds around 5 hours worth of recording at the lowest quality setting, the medium setting is probably best though and pictures and sound look noticeably sharper than the best VCRs.

 

DVD performance is fine, not the best weíve seen but its on a par with the better budget machines, however, itís the sheer convenience of having everything you need in one box that makes it special. Itís got a few rough edges Ė the displays could be better, the controls take some getting used to and you still need a VCR to archive recordings  -- but until affordable recordable DVD comes along this is definitely worth investigating.

 

Samsung 0800 521652, www.samsung.com

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        2

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

DVD player: Region 2 PAL & NTSC replay, JPEG & MP3 replay, picture zoom, Hard disc recorder: up to 5 hours HDD recording, pause live TV, NICAM, Video Plus+, stereo hi-fi sound, multi brand TV remote

 

FOR

Very convenient all-in one solution for DVD replay and TV timeshifting

 

AGAINST

Some works still needs to be done on the controls and displays

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes, just about and it looks like a very promising combination of technologies so look out for slicker and probably cheaper rivals soon

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

 

MAKE/MODEL            JVC XV-S302, £150

 

A year ago a DVD player from an A-brand manufacturer costing less than £150 would have seemed unlikely but the days when companies like JVC could afford to stay out of the budget player market are over. JVC could have easily badged up a cheap machine or stripped features from a model higher up the range but the XV-305 appears to be neither of these things. Itís a generally well-specified entry-level model with good trick play, picture zoom and 3D sound and features like Scene Digest are definitely not something you see every day on budget players but like most JVC players the region lock is fixed. A couple of corners have been cut, thereís no MP3 replay, for example and it has only coaxial digital audio output, but the only really obvious sign of cost-cutting is the very plain, borderline ugly, cosmetics.

 

As far as picture and sound quality are concerned it could easily be one of JVCís mid-range players. Contrast balance might have been a shade wider but colour and fine detail are crisply rendered. The mixed stereo output is clean and noise levels are low. Maybe not a player to arouse great excitement or debate but a solid performer, from a name you know, at a price you can afford. 

 

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

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 PAL & NTSC replay, Scene Digest, Strobe, multi-speed trick play, picture zoom, 3D sound

 

FOR

A good all-rounder, a familiar name and a very fair price

 

AGAINST

Itíll win no beauty contests and leaving out MP3 replay looks like corner cutting

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes, not the prettiest machine weíve seen lately but overall performance is fine

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

 

PANASONIC DVD-XV10,  £250

There have been a few attempts to liven up the look of DVD players but now Panasonic raises the stakes with the DVD-XV10, which Ė depending on your sensibilities Ė either looks stunning, or gaudy, either way you canít ignore it!

 

The XV-10 is thin and shiny and a real departure from the traditional black and silver boxes weíve become accustomed to but apart from the hard to read LCD display on the front, under the skin itís business as usual. Itís a fairly straightforward entry-level player with no special features to speak of, unless you count a very strange sound on 2x picture search. Itís strange because the sound is almost unintelligible and therefore of very limited use. The remote control also leaves a lot to be desired, the buttons are small and closely packed, thereís no picture zoom or coaxial digital output. Plus points include the near idiot-proof setup and extra picture and sound controls.

 

AV performance is outstanding revealing all sorts of details and textures in darker scenes and shadows, colours look natural and it sounds as good as it looks with the mixed stereo output generating a big, dynamic soundfield with lots of gut-rumbling bass. Youíre paying for the flashy styling, but picture and sound will not disappoint.

 

Panasonic (08705) 357357, www.panasonic.co.uk

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/optical

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 PAL & NTSC replay, multi-speed trick play, 2-mode 3D sound, picture control, bass output

 

FOR

Very snazzy eye-catching design, top-notch AV quality

 

AGAINST

A touch pricey for what it is, hard to read display and horrible remote

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Could be, particularly if youíre looking for something really different

 

RATING

3/5

 

 

 

LG DVD 5095, £250

Step back, squish up your eyes and the LG 5095 could pass for one of those shiny Ďlifestyleí AV components. The company has certainly put a lot of effort into the design. There are some neat touches, like the minute buttons on the front panel, though you may feel form comes a poor second place to function if you ever have to use themÖ

 

The highish price -- for LG -- is mostly down to the fancy case and a built-in 5.1 channel surround decoder. These days most AV amps come with the Dolby Digital and dts decoders built in, so itís of limited value to many users. The rest of the spec is fairly ordinary, thereís 3D sound, a picture zoom and MP3 replay; the region locks on LG players are usually hackable but we have no details on this one yet. Incidentally chapter skip and search share the same buttons on the remote, which can make life difficult.

 

Darker scenes suffer from the relatively narrow contrast range, otherwise it does reasonably well, colours are bright and lifelike and thereís plenty of detail. Movie sound is okay and audio CDs are all right, which contributes to a general impression of mediocrity. All things considered itís a wee bit expensive but thereís no doubt the flashy cosmetics help it stand out from the crowd.

 

LG Electronics 01753 50047, www.lginternetfamily.co.uk

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 Dolby Digital

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 PAL & NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder, MP3 replay, multi-speed trick play, 3D sound, picture zoom, 9-scene bookmark

 

FOR

Flashy cosmetics and good all round specification

 

AGAINST

Average performance and value for money

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Possibly, if you like the design and have a need for a player with built-in Dolby Digital decoder

 

RATING

3/5

 

 

 

SONY DVP-NS405, £200

The smooth styling and panel layout tells you itís a Sony well before you spot the badge. The DVP-NS405 looks like it should cost quite a bit more than the £200 currently being asked for it but study the feature list and itís quickly apparent that it is really little more than an entry-level player. Apart from a picture zoom all of the usual replay utilities are present and accounted for; needless to say the region lock is unhackable. MP3 replay is a new addition on Sony players and it comes with a multi-brand TV remote but thatís about it.

 

No matter, you quickly forget about the toys and gadgets when itís playing a movie, picture quality is exceptional with colour and texture leaping off the screen, even in tricky low light shots and shadows. It gets better, graduated shades and skin tones look perfectly natural and it has no problems dealing with sudden changes in brightness or rapid movement. Sound quality is also above average, the analogue mixed stereo output has very low levels of background noise and it stacks up well alongside some serious hi-fi components when it comes to audio CD replay.

 

A characteristically stylish and well put together player with the added bonus of the sort of picture and sound quality that would normally cost a fair bit more.

 

Sony 08705 111999, www.sony.co.uk

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 PAL & NTSC replay, MP3 replay, multi-speed trick play, 3D sound, 4-mode picture control, 3-mode 3D sound, picture enhancer, multi-brand TV remote

 

FOR

Classy good looks and superb AV performance

 

AGAINST

An ordinary spec

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Definitely, outstanding picture and sound and it looks like you paid a whole lot more for it

 

RATING

5/5

 

---end---

 

R. Maybury 2002, 1406

 

 

 

 

 


 

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