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PLAYERS OF THE MONTH

 

SAMSUNG DVD-N505, £229

 

Samsung is really getting into its stride now and lately it has turned out a succession of bold and innovative players. The DVD-N505 is pitched at the top end of the budget market, combining bold cosmetics with a long list of secondary features. Working on the premise that if you throw enough mud at a wall some will stick, some of the extra are a bit of a waste of time, but a couple of them hit the mark, like VLM or virtual light machine, which is a sort of special effects generator that makes fancy patterns on the screen when you’re listening to audio CDs or MP3 tracks. In contrast NUON, (we’re not sure if it stands for anything…) is supposed to perk up the interactive features on specially ‘enhanced’ discs. Since there’s only three of them at the moment, and the company behind NUON has been in financial difficulties, it’s probably not something we need to worry too much about.

 

Features that deserve a mention include the bold cosmetics and handy jog/shuttle dials on the front panel and remote handset, which makes the wide range of trick play functions a pleasure to use (3 slomo and 6 search speeds, up to 128x). It has an elaborate variable picture zoom/macro, which shrinks the picture to half normal size and zooms to 15x. There’s also a scene digest function, picture strobe, 3D sound, MP3 replay, a 3-scene bookmark, the remote can control the main functions on 20 or more brands of TV and the region lock is hackable. (With disc tray empty press 38767, display shows R2, enter new region number or 9 for all regions).

 

Picture quality is outstanding with bold bright colours that retain all of their vibrancy, even in gloomy shots like interiors in Se7en and the ‘Can-Can’ in Moulin Rouge where it faithfully captures all of the rich details and background texture. It’s equally at home with well-lit material and it handles rapid action scenes, explosions and sudden changes in brightness without a murmur. Audio quality is good too with lower than average levels of background noise on the analogue stereo channels and a crisp, clean digital output.

 

Not everyone is going to like the angular cosmetics but it’s what’s inside the box that counts and aside from a couple of dubious gadgets everything else, including the top-notch AV performance, is definitely worth having.

 

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

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical/headphones

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Multi-speed trick play, PAL/NTSC replay, MP3 replay, 3D sound, picture zoom & macro, scene digest, 3-scene bookmark, VLM graphic display, ‘NUON’ compatible, strobe, screen fit, multi-brand TV remote

 

FOR

Dramatic looks, excellent AV, plenty of toys and easily hackable region lock

 

AGAINST

Cosmetics not to everyone’s taste and a tad pricey

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Definitely worth paying a bit extra for top grade picture and sound

 

RATING

5/5

 

 

 

ALBA DVD-513 £140

DVD players with all-region replay -- straight out of the box -- remove all of the fuss and bother over hacking or chipping, so from that perspective the Alba DVD-513 is certainly worth a look. Mind you, there’s not a lot else to get excited about, it is a very basic design, even by current standards. The only remotely unusual feature – and we’re barrel-scraping here – is the forward-only slomo with has no less than 11 speeds…

 

The big remote handset’s not bad and picture quality is quite good for a budget model, revealing lots of detail in shadows and under-lit scenes, like the Absinthe fairy sequence in Moulin Rouge. Sound effects on the analogue stereo and digital outputs are lively and well focused and it makes a fair attempt at playing audio CDs as well, in the same league as the better budget hi-fi equipment systems.

 

Whilst there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with it the DVD-513 it doesn’t exactly set the pulse racing but if all you want is a basic player with decent AV performance it might be worth considering.

 

Contact: Alba 020 8787 3111

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Multi-speed trick play, PAL/NTSC replay, picture zoom, SCART cable included

 

FOR

Good picture and sound quality, effortless all region playback

 

AGAINST

Fairly basic and it’ll win no beauty contests

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

A rather lightweight design, the even cheaper Alba DVD-113 might be a better bet…

 

RATING

3/5

 

 

 

GOODMANS GDVD131 £150

First impressions count but don’t let that put you off the GDVD-131, which has an extremely irritating illuminated Goodmans logo set into a display panel on the left side of the machine. Fortunately the small cute and very curvy cabinet helps to distract attention from the light-up logo, that and the very fair price.

 

For your one hundred and fifty smackeroons you get a player with built-in Dolby Digital decoder, MP3 replay, a 2-step picture zoom, volume and mute controls on the remote, it comes with a SCART cable and the region lock is very easily hacked. For the record all you have to do is put the player in Stop mode, press Setup then Vol+, Vol-, Vol+, Vol- and ‘Ver2’ appears on the screen, user the cursor keys to switch regions Ver 1 to 6 or Ver 255 for all regions) and press Setup twice to exit.

 

Picture quality is fine, no real problems though subtle shades and skin tones can sometimes look a little on the thick and heavy side and Region 1 playback can be a bit jerky on some titles. The audio outputs are all as clean as a whistle and overall it performs well. Worth thinking about.

 

Contact: Goodmans 023 9239 1100

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/headphones

5.1 decoders                 Dolby Digital

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Multi-speed trick play, PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder MP3 replay, picture zoom, volume control, SCART cable included

 

FOR

Curvy compact shape, decent AV quality

 

AGAINST

That annoying illuminated logo

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes, particularly if you can make use of the Dolby Digital decoder

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

 

HAUS H-615L, £129

You usually get a fair idea of the price of a DVD player just by looking at it and the Haus H-615 could easily pass for a classy up market player but it only costs £130. Nevertheless, the spec is far from basic with built-in Dolby Digial and dts decoders, it also has a 5-scene bookmark, it will play MP3 recordings, there’s a picture zoom, volume and mute on the remote and the region lock is easily disabled. (Press Stop twice then enter 2317 and the region number – 1 to 6 or 0 for all regions. Switch off, count five, switch on and it’s done).

 

The casework is sleek, even the remote handset looks the part with its large glow in the dark buttons. Sadly picture quality is rather average. In dark scenes and shadows it struggles to bring out fine detail and colours look muted and flat. Otherwise it’s fine and the picture comes alive in brighter scenes. Dolby Digital soundtracks and effects are lively and well focused but the analogue stereo channels can be a little noisy.

 

A very sleek design, some useful features and good value but AV performance is borderline ordinary.

 

Contact: www.jungle.com

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/

5.1 decoders                 Dolby Digital/dts

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Multi-speed trick play, PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital & dts decoders, 5-scene bookmark, MP3 replay, picture zoom, volume control

 

FOR

Smart good looks, easy to use remote, very fair value

 

AGAINST

Lacklustre AV performance

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Maybe, it certainly looks like it should cost a lot more

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

TRUVOX DVD-600, £100

The Truvox brand is a real blast from the past though it’s unlikely many people under 40 will remember it so the DVD-600 needs to trade on more than just nostalgia. The price should attract your attention though, and features like multi-speed replay, picture zoom, 3D sound, a volume control on the remote and hackable region lock are not to be sniffed at. (Press Open/Close, enter 8421 and use Enter to step through region 1 to 6 and All for all-region, press Open/Close to store). 

 

Component video outputs are quite unusual on a budget player and replay of Region1/NTSC material– which is what they’re meant for – is a bit jerky. Region 2 material fares a lot better and it even does quite a good job of extracting detail from murky scenes and shadows. Colours are crisp and lifelike and it’s unfazed by rapid changes in brightness or fast movement. Noise levels on the analogue soundtracks are well down and the digital output is in near pristine condition.

 

Decent AV performance for £100, you can’t argue with that, throw in some useful extras and you’ve got yourself a very attractive looking deal!

 

Contact: Debenhams Stores, 0845 6005003

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB/Component

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Multi-speed trick play, PAL/NTSC replay, picture zoom, volume control, SCART cable included

 

FOR

Above average picture and sound, great value

 

AGAINST

Jerky NTSC replay and awkward remote handset

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

At that price you can hardly go wrong!

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2002, 2203

 

 


 
 
 

 

 


 

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