WHAT DVD 2002

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PLAYERS OF THE MONTH

 

TOSHIBA SD-220E, £180

Toshiba has been making top-grade DVD players since day one but until fairly recently the one thing it couldn’t, or wouldn’t do was ‘budget’ models. That starting to change now and with players costing less than £100 selling by the bucket-load it’s a market Toshiba could not afford to ignore for much longer. At around £180 (or less, shop around) the Toshiba SD-220 is not exactly a candidate for the bargain basement but it does come from a highly respected A-brand manufacturer with a long and honourable pedigree in AV, it is very well featured and best of all it performs like a dream.

 

The SD-220’s spec is quite similar to the SD-110, launched a few months ago but Toshiba has shown a keen marketing sense and given the new player a few extra bits and bobs, including MP3 replay and a very stylish cabinet and it look as though it should cost quite a bit more.

 

On the feature front there’s a set of picture enhancements that jiggle brightness, contrast, colour and sharpness for different kinds of movie, it has 2-mode spatial sound, zoom and a snazzy (but pointless) picture shrink facility and component video output. The latter will only be of interest if you buy a chipped version of this machine – it works best with NTSC movies -- and have a TV or projector with component inputs.

 

The only signs that this is a budget model is the very modest set of trick play options – forward slomo only – and the cheapo remote handset which can be a pig to use in subdued light. On the other hand picture quality would put some mid range and a few top-end models to shame. It shows up in gloomy sequences, revealing lots of fine details and textures in the background and shadows that most other players miss. Colours are vibrant and it does a great job with movement and rapid changes in brightness, like explosions. The analogue stereo output is rich and lively and even audio CD’s sound good. The Dolby Digital and dts soundtracks really come alive when heard through a 5.1 surround amp and even MP3 tracks sound okay, though the facility appears to be a fairly late addition and it’s not that easy to use.

 

The SD-220 proves that you don’t have to pay a fortune for a player with top-notch performance and a decent set of features, and it’s made by a company you’ve heard of, with a name you can pronounce…

 

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

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB/Component

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed trick play, MP3 replay, 4-mode picture zoom/shrink, EAM 3D sound, EPM picture control

 

FOR

Picture quality and some genuinely useful features

 

AGAINST

Awkward remote handset

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Definitely!

 

RATING

5/5

 

 

 

BUSH DVD-2008, £200

The facility to replay Region 1 discs without any faffing around with hack codes or warranty-voiding mods is a definite bonus but that’s the only thing about the Bush DVD-2008 that counts as vaguely unusual. It’s a fairly basic design, the casework and cosmetics are unremarkable and the most exciting items on the feature list are a 2-stage zoom and a volume control on the handset; it can also play MP3 tracks but for some reason this isn’t mentioned.

 

Picture quality is a bit variable and the S-Video output on our test sample appeared to have problems. On a composite video connection the contrast balance favours brightly lit scenes, backgrounds are often lost in a mush of digital block noise in dark or gloomy shots. It handles movement quite well, though, colours are natural looking and it makes a fair fist of skin tones and delicate shades. Background noise on the stereo output is quite well suppressed and audio CD and MP3 performance is not too bad at all.

 

Whilst there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the DVD-2008 the best we can say is that it’s a fairly average performer at a rather ordinary price.

 

Bush 020 8787 3111

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/headphones

5.1 decoders                 n/a

 

EXTRA FEATURES

All Region (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed trick play, MP3 replay, picture zoom, volume control

 

FOR

All region replay out of the box

 

AGAINST

Lacklustre performance and facilities

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Not really

 

RATING

3/5

 

 

 

SCAN SC-2500,  £160

This is the second Scan player to date and a worthy successor to the SC-2000. Like it’s predecessor it’s good value and packed with the kind of features that are normally only found on mid-range machines. Heading up the list is a Dolby Digital/dts decoder, though it’s really only of concern to those with older, decoderless, 5.1 channel surround amps. Of more immediate interest is an easily hackable region lock (open tray, press 0106 on handset and enter region code: 1 to 6 or 0 for all regions), MP3 replay, picture controls, 3-stage zoom, volume control, off timer and Karaoke facility with echo.

 

The remote handset layout could be better but it makes up for any relatively minor ergonomic quibbles with quite decent picture performance, lots of detail and crisp, lifelike colours. The contrast range could have done with being a smidge wider – darker scenes look a bit murky – but action sequences and explosions are deftly handled. The 5.1 decoder works well and there’s negligible background hiss on the stereo channels, audio CD quality is pretty good and the Karaoke facility could be a selling point for some users.

 

Good performance and very fair value, worth considering.

 

Scan Computers, 0870 755 4747, www.scan.co.uk

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        2

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 Dolby Digital/dts

 

EXTRA FEATURES

Region 2 (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed trick play, MP3 replay, 3-stage picture zoom, picture controls, off timer, volume control, karaoke & echo

 

FOR

Great value and easily hackable region lock

 

AGAINST

Horrible handset

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes, especially if you enjoy a singalong

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

TEAC DV-H550 £399

To get the full flavour of the DV-H550 you should also consider buying the companion AG-H550 Dolby Digital/dts surround amp, which is housed in a matching ‘mini’ sized case. There’s nothing to stop you using it on its own of course but the feature list is quite sparse. It’s has all the basics though, including multi-mode trick play and it can play MP3 files, there’s also a picture zoom, gold-plated sockets and rumour has it the region lock can be hacked, though the secret is apparently only known to Teac dealers.

 

Contrast balance is on the button and the player copes equally well with extremes, extracting plenty of detail and colour in gloomy scenes and shadows and not flinching when showing sudden changes in brightness, like flashes and explosions. Colours are vibrant and tricky shades, like skin tones are faithfully rendered. Digital surround soundtracks sound great through the H550 or any decent surround setup, noise is well suppressed, which helps with audio CDs and even MP3 tracks sound quite lively.

 

The H550 is at its best when teamed with the amplifier as part of an AV system; on it’s own it looks just a tad basic, for the price.

 

Teac, (01923) 819630, www.teac.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, multi-speed trick play, MP3 replay, picture zoom

 

FOR

Smart compact shape, good AV performance

 

AGAINST

A touch pricey

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Just about…

 

RATING

4/5

 

 

 

ZENIX Z-615L-S, £150
There are lots of unfamiliar names on DVD players these days so we won’t hold that against the Zenix Z-6115, and it earns extra Brownie points for looking quite smart and having built-in Dolby Digital and dts decoders -- not bad on a machine costing only £150 or so. More good news, it has MP3 replay, a five scene bookmark, zoom and volume controls and the region lock on our sample was disabled, but it’s all downhill from now on…

 

Trick play options are a bit thin on the ground with forward only slomo and search speeds of 2x, 4x and 8x. That we can live with but picture quality was frankly disappointing. Every so often our test machine would lock up, for no obvious reason, and there was a processing error with a picture ‘twitch’ every few seconds. It’s slight but it becomes noticeable on steady movement and slow pans and once you’re aware of it, it becomes annoying.  Overall picture quality is rather average with some detail lost in darker scenes. The audio outputs are not too bad though and background noise is no worse than most rival budget players.

 

Of course it may be that we’ve just been unlucky but if you’re considering one of these machine check the picture for jitter.

 

Zenix, 01494 730380

 

SPECS

Video output                  composite/S-Video/RGB

SCARTs                        1

Audio output                  analogue mixed stereo/coaxial/optical

5.1 decoders                 Dolby Digital/dts

 

EXTRA FEATURES

All Region (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed trick play, MP3 replay, picture zoom, five-scene bookmark, picture zoom, volume control

 

FOR

Low price and it looks quite smart

 

AGAINST

Worrying picture glitch and average sound

 

IS IT WORTH IT?

Depends, check the picture before you buy

 

RATING

3/5

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2002, 1904

 

 

 

 


 

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