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PLAYERS OF THE MONTH

 

TOSHIBA SD-110 £180

 

As one of the pioneers of DVD and with a well earned reputation for top-quality home cinema products Toshiba has tended to shy away from the cut-throat pricing at the budget end of the market and stick with mid-range and high-end players.  It would have been a good strategy, except that consumers have now got wise to the fact that you don’t have to pay top-dollar for great performance from DVD and Toshiba was in danger of missing out on a significant slice of the action, which is where the SD-110 comes in.

 

At £180 it’s about as close to a budget-price player as Toshiba gets but there’s been no compromise on design or performance. It looks like a quality product, the slimline case and smart cosmetics could easily belong to a much more expensive product. The features list has some genuinely useful items, like a good assortment of trick play functions and picture and sound controls with adjustments for setting brightness, contrast and 3D spatial sound. There’s also a multi-mode zoom with a ‘shrink’ setting, though we’re not exactly sure what that’s good for yet…

 

One other unusual feature is a set of component video outputs. This is the preferred video connection system for NTSC recordings. Sadly it is only of interest if you have a suitably equipped TV or projector, and watch ‘Region Free’ discs or have the player ‘chipped’ to play Region 1 movies. Like all Tosh players this machine is not handset hackable and chipping invalidates the warranty.

 

Don’t loose any sleep over component video, on Region 2 discs the best quality can be obtained using the player’s RGB and S-Video outputs, and it is superb! The wide contrast range reveals loads of rich detail in dark and gloomy scenes, colours are sharply defined and it has no trouble whatsoever rendering delicate shades likes skin tones. It really shows up in moody movies like Seven and Batman And Robin, the picture appears to have extra depth and it picks out textures in background and shadows that most other players will ignore.

 

It sounds every bit as good as it looks. The analogue mixed stereo output has very low levels of background hiss and big set-piece Dolby Surround effects have plenty of impact. The coaxial bitstream output is also very clean and CD audio replay is close to the standard of a mid-range hi-fi component.

 

A classy looking, high performance player that’s not going to break the bank, check it out!

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB/Component

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial bitstream

5.1 decoders                 none

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, 3-stage picture zoom/picture shrink, 4-mode picture control, 2-mode 3D/Dialogue sound control

 

Contact: Toshiba (01276) 62222, www.toshiba.co.uk

 

FOR

Outstanding performance at a budget price from a top-name brand

 

AGAINST

Region one replay only possible after chipping

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Definitely, a superb player from a name you know, at a price you can afford, shame about the region lock, though…

 

RATING

5/5

 

 

 

ALBA DVD-113 £100
Normally you’re excused for being a little wary of ultra-cheap AV products but we reckon the Alba DVD-112 is a real bargain. Available from your local Argos store for under £100 it may not be the handsomest player we’ve seen lately but you do get an interesting assortment of replay speeds, a 5-scene marker, picture zoom and a snazzy on-screen display. 

 

More good news, it will play Region one discs straight away, no need for hack codes or chipping. Control layout on the remote handset is not too bad though some of the buttons could have done with being a bit bigger.

 

Picture performance is mostly good, it makes heavy weather of subtle shades but it does a very fair job of extracting detail from darker scenes. Colours are bright and vivid and this really comes across in animated movies like Shrek and Toy Story 2. Analogue sound is fine with no more than average amounts of background hiss and digital soundtracks emerge in pristine condition from the bitstream outputs. Audio CD replay is on a par with budget and mid-range hi-fi equipment.

 

It’s not going to win any beauty contests but at that price, who cares…

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial & optical bitstream

5.1 decoders                 none

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, picture zoom, 5-scene marker, SCART cable supplied

 

Contact: Alba 020 8787 3111

 

FOR

Low price, decent performance and all region replay

 

AGAINST

A bit of a lump

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes, an honest to goodness bargain, no frills, but who needs them…

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

 

GOODMANS GDVD-125,  £160

On paper this looks like quite an attractive deal. The GDV-125 is housed in a smart-looking box with a trendy (but irritating) red-lit panel, there’s a passable set of trick-play modes, it has 3D spatial sound, a picture zoom and it can play MP3 files. All region replay can be easily enabled; for the record the trick is to press Setup on the handset, select Custom and press 3333 to reveal a service menu with region code settings.

 

Unfortunately picture quality is not that hot, colours look a bit muddy and gloomy scenes are poorly handled with dark backgrounds breaking down into pixellated mush. It shows up clearly in the perennially dark Seven and interiors in space flicks such as Phantom Menace. The sound output is not too bad though. Background hiss on the analogue output is quite low and the bitstream channels are pin-sharp. Audio CD and MP3 replay are both satisfactory.

 

Disappointing video performance takes the edge off an otherwise quite well equipped and respectable looking player,

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial bitstream

5.1 decoders                 none

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, 3D sound, MP3 playback, 3-stage picture zoom, glow-in-the dark handset buttons, SCART cable supplied.

 

Contact: Goodmans 023 9239 1100

 

FOR

It’s region hackable with some potentially handy features like MP3 replay

 

AGAINST

Indifferent picture and sound performance

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Not really, you can get better performance for less

 

RATING

3/5

 

 

 

JVC XV-S57SL, £250
The highish price on this rather elegant mid-range model is justified to some extent by the on-board Dolby Digital decoder and a fair crop of convenience features. These include plenty of trick-play options, Chapter Digest, which generates a set of thumbnail sized preview images of what’s on a disc, picture Strobe and some useful extras such as  ‘3D Phonic’ spatial sound and ‘Theatre Position’ picture adjustments.

 

Picture quality is well up to the kind of standard we expect from JVC with a clean, well-balanced image, good colour fidelity and the ability to capture fine detail and textures, even in poorly lit scenes and shadows. The built-in Dolby Digital decoder earns its keep and delivers a rich and dynamic soundfield. The analogue soundtracks are only marginally less dramatic with tolerable amounts of background noise and it makes a fair fist of replaying audio CDs.

 

Maybe not the most exciting DVD player in captivity but it performs well, looks good and you know the name 

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial & optical bitstream

5.1 decoders                 Dolby Digital

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder, dts output, multi-speed replay, scene digest, strobe, 3D Phonic pseudo surround, 3-stage Theatre Position picture control, picture zoom, multi-brand TV remote

 

Contact: JVC 020 8450 3282, www.jvc-europe.com

 

FOR

Good picture and sound some worthwhile extras and it looks the part

 

AGAINST

A touch pricey for what it is

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Just about, the JVC name inspires confidence and AV quality is good

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

 

REOC A5 £140

The Reoc A5 is exclusive to Safeway Stores and is the ‘step up’ model to the very agreeable budget-priced Reoc A3, (currently selling for just under £100). The extra £40 for the A5 buys a built-in Dolby Digital decoder, otherwise the core features are pretty much the same with MP3 replay, 3D sound and picture zoom etc., though strangely this machine has fewer trick play options and enabling all region replay (a doddle on the A3) is a bit of a palaver. In fact you will need a PC with a CD burner, to create a special hack disc, if you’re interested details can be found at http://reoc.keyservice.co.uk/a5/home

 

Picture quality on the S-Video output was quite poor on our sample, the other video outputs managed only mediocre picture that did gloomy scenes no favours whatsoever. The analogue stereo and 5.1 channel audio outputs were all satisfactory, audio CDs and MP3 tracks were also okay with no more than average amounts of background hiss.

 

Sadly the moderately interesting feature list doesn’t make up for lacklustre performance and complicated region code unlock hack. 

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial bitstream

5.1 decoders                 Dolby Digital

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder, multi-speed replay, MP3 replay, 2-stage picture zoom, 4-stage 3D sound, volume control, SCART lead included

 

Contact: your local Safeway store

FOR

You can pick one up while you’re doing the Saturday shopping…

 

AGAINST

Very ordinary performance

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

No, try the A3 instead

 

RATING

3/5

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2002, 0103

 

 

 

 

 


 

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