WHAT DVD 2002

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PLAYERS OF THE MONTH

 

SONY PICOT DVP-PQ1, £150

 

Who said DVD players were only for grown-ups and had to be boring black and silver boxes? Mercifully the designers of the Picot DVP-PQ1 DVD player stopped short of turning it into a kiddies ‘My First Sony’, but add a splash of colour and some bigger buttons and it’s almost there… In fact Sony is aiming it a slightly older age group, teenagers and upwards, though just about everyone who sees it wants one, even when they learn the price, which at £150 or so (shop around) is a fair whack for such a basic player. More bad news, being a Sony, the region lock is almost certainly unhackable.

 

It’s all about style and the shape and layout have relatively little to do with utility but there’s no getting away from it, the sloping wedge-shaped case and ribbed back panel are really eye-catching. You can even customise its appearance, there’s a transparent flap on the top of the hinged disc cover into which you can slide coloured inserts or ‘Internal Design Sheets’, either those supplied with the unit or one of your own creation.

 

The small size (it measures just 23 x 18 x 13cm) precludes the inclusion of potentially handy things like front panel displays and SCART sockets but it does come with a remote control and the AV processing circuitry is similar to that in Sony’s more conventional looking players. Incidentally, Sony missed a trick with the remote; it’s a surprisingly conventional design, why on earth didn’t they go for something a bit more radical?

 

Playback features are confined to a standard set of trick play options; it can also play Video CDs, MP3 files, home-recorded audio CDs (CD-R/RW) and recordable DVDs (DVD-R/RW). There’s also a 3D surround facility called TV Virtual Sound but few if any of the widgets commonly found on budget players these days.  

 

AV performance is fine, but the lack of an RGB output may disappoint owners of high-end home cinema setups, but that’s not what the Picot is about. The picture is crisp and clean; contrast balance is okay though some detail is lost in darker scenes and shadows. Background hiss on the analogue stereo output is well suppressed, it has a digital audio output (coaxial) so it is possible to connect it up to a 5.1 surround decoder but given the target audience it probably won’t get a lot of use.

 

Picot makes a refreshing change from standard-issue DVD players. It’s a novelty and a real conversation piece but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s meant for the younger end of the market. In that context it really works and it’ll go down a storm with teenies and twenty-somethings but we suspect that serious home cinema enthusiasts will give it a miss, or buy one just for fun, and keep it the bedroom…

 

Sony 08705 111999, www.sony.co.uk

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video

SCARTs                        n/a (via cable)

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 PAL & NTSC replay, multi-speed trick play, 3D sound,

 

FOR

Original design, a real eyeful for kids of all ages

 

AGAINST

Definitely one for the yoof market, old codgers and AV enthusiasts control yourselves!

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Well, maybe, depends on how old you are, or feel…

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

 

BUSH DVHS1, £199

Two into one does go and there’s a growing number of combi VCR/DVD players coming on to the market, including this bargain basement model from Bush but apart from the one-box convenience, what else can it do? The VCR section on the DVHS1 does have a NICAM decoder but otherwise it’s rather basic, lacking even standard budget VCR features like auto installation and a Video Plus+ timer. The DVD player is similarly sparse the only extra of note is a 2-stage zoom and thus far the region lock appears to be rock solid.

 

Without S-Video or RGB outputs DVD picture quality only rates as average and it could have done with a slightly wider contrast range, to bring out a bit more detail in darker scenes. The picture from the VCR is on the soft side and colours are a touch flat but it shouldn’t look too bad on sub 22-inch TVs. The DVD and tape analogue soundtracks have average amounts of background hiss.

 

Whilst there’s no denying the appeal of having two video technologies in one VCR-sized box this particular incarnation fails to shine on either count and unless space is critical or it’s going to be used with a smaller bedroom TV you’re probably better off buying separate units. 

 

Contact Bush 020 8787 3111

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite

SCARTs                        2

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

DVD: Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, 2-stage zoom & shrink, SCART cable included

VCR:    VHS LP/SP, NICAM, stereo hi-fi sound, 8-event/31-day timer, NTSC replay, simultaneous record & DVD playback

 

FOR

One box convenience

 

AGAINST

No S-Video or RGB outputs, indifferent VCR performance

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Borderline, just about okay as a bedroom space-saver

 

RATING

3/5

 

 

 

PIONEER DV-545, £250

Although in DVD terms it’s getting a little long in the tooth recent price reductions make the Pioneer DV-545 well worth seeking out, especially if you’re interested in top-notch audio CD and DVD sound quality. This high-end player really looks the part in its sleek and stylish ultra-slim case. It’s packed with fancy sounding audio enhancements, like Legato Pro and Hi-Bit filtering and processing, which enlivens high frequencies and beefs up low-level sounds. There’s a set of picture controls plus TruSound spatial effect. It can also play MP3 recordings and home-made DVD-RW discs plus all the analogue and digital connections you’re likely to need but alas and alack, no way of changing the region lock without recourse to chipping.

 

Picture quality is outstanding, colours are vibrant and it has no trouble rendering delicate shades like skin tones, fine textures show through in gloomy and underlit scenes and it handles rapid changes in brightness without a murmur. It gets better, the digital audio output is squeaky clean and really deserves to be heard though a decent 5.1 sound system; even the analogue outputs are livelier than usual with minimal background hiss and revealing hidden depths and low-level sounds in audio CDs.

 

This is a player for the video and audio connoisseur seeking to bring out the best in their AV system.

 

Contact Pioneer, (01753) 789789, www.pioneer.co.uk

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        2

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, MP3 replay, TrueSound 3D sound, Legato PRO digital filter, picture controls, condition memory, shortcut menu, illuminated remote handset, audio cables supplied

 

FOR

Superb picture and sound, classy design

 

AGAINST

Getting on a bit now

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes but do shop around 

 

RATING

5/5

 

 

SANYO HV-DX1, £299

To date the AV performances of most of the combination VCR/DVD players we’ve seen have been rather underwhelming but the recently launched Sanyo HV-DX1 proves that it can be a worthwhile exercise. The NICAM VCR has everything you expect from a budget machine including auto setup and a Video Plus+ timer with programme delivery control. The DVD part is also in line with current entry-level models having MP3 replay, a picture zoom and 3D sound. We’re not too hopeful for a region hack but if one should emerge we’ll let you know.

 

VCR performance on this machine is well up to the kind of standard we’ve come to expect from Sanyo, it sets no new records but it’s good middle of the road stuff with accurately rendered colours and below average amounts of picture noise. Likewise DVD playback is uncontroversial, colours are natural looking and there’s plenty of fine detail in both brightly lit and dull sequences. The analogue soundtracks – DVD and VCR – have acceptable amounts of background hiss leaving plenty of room for low level effects and despite all bits and bobs crammed into the box it is surprisingly easy to drive.

 

Dearer than a budget VCR and DVD player but if you’re short on space and don’t want to compromise on performance it’s worth considering.

 

Contact Sanyo, (01923) 246363 www.sanyo.co.uk

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite

SCARTs                        2

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/optical

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

DVD: Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, zoom, MP3 replay, 3D sound, last function memory

VCR:    VHS LP/SP, NICAM, stereo hi-fi sound, Auto setup, VideoPlus+ timer with PDC, NTSC replay, simultaneous record & DVD playback

 

FOR

Decent AV performance

 

AGAINST

A tad pricey

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes, if you need to save space and don’t mind paying a small premium

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

SAMSUNG HT-DL100, £400
It’s surprising there aren’t more products like the Samsung HT-DL100, setting up a DVD surround sound system from scratch can be a real headache so having the player, Dolby Digital and dts 5.1decoders and amplifier all in one box makes a lot of sense. Throw in a AM/FM tuner (with RDS) and you’ve got the makings of a complete home entertainment setup. The supplied speakers are on the small side but Samsung has included a meaty looking sub to take care of the bass effects. The player specs are unremarkable but it makes up for the lack of gadgetry with extra audio features, like a multi-mode spatial sound processor. Good news, there is a region hack for this system, with no disc loaded press Enter 84269 Enter.

 

The DVD player works well and picture quality wouldn’t disgrace a mid-market player, unfortunately there’s no RGB output but S-Video looks fine with strong colours and a broad dynamic range that copes well with darker scenes. The speakers are a bit of a disappointment, the soundfield lacks drama and even with the wick turned up and the sub on full song it fails to get the pulse racing. Replacing the speakers would probably make a world of difference.

 

Contact Samsung 0800 521652, www.samsungelectronics.co.uk

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  spring terminal speaker connections

5.1 decoders                 Dolby Digital & dts

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 PAL & NTSC replay, multi-speed trick play, Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 decoders, multi-mode 3D/spatial sound, picture zoom, built-in amplifier (5 x 40 watts + 1 x 70 watts to sub-woofer), AM/FM tuner with RDS

 

FOR

Good picture, useful facilities

 

AGAINST

Movie sound spoilt by cheapie speakers

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes-ish but you may end up shelling out on better speakers

 

RATING

4/5

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2002, 0509

 

 

 

 

 


 

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