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PANASONIC DVD-RV60, £450

VERDICT ****

 

Why’s it here: On the surface the RV60’s specification and list of features looks quite similar to that of the recently launched RV40 though since this machine is selling for around £100 more (the typical street price is around £450) it is clearly being pitched at the top end of the market. Indeed there are a number of differences between the two machines, even so this is going to be tough concept for Panasonic to sell since the RV40 at £350 looks quite expensive and you’ll need no reminding that these days there are some pretty amazing deals to be had, including players with built-in Dolby Digital decoders costing from as little as £150! 

 

Any unique features: Yes, one in particular and that’s 54MHz/4 times oversampling video processing, which sounds very impressive and it is to do with the way digital data is converted into picture information. According to Panasonic the gist of it is that more fine detail is reproduced, which makes this machine better suited to larger screen displays, we shall see... Panasonic has obviously put a lot of effort into the video processing side of things and there’s a set of user adjustments for contrast, sharpness, colour, brightness, digital noise reduction and gamma correction, as well as 3 preset picture equaliser modes (cinema, fine & soft). Another extra, over and above what the RV40 has is an RGB output and there’s an option of raw NTSC or PAL 60 output on NTSC coded discs.

 

Whilst not exactly unique it good to see such a wide range of trick play modes with 5 forward and reverse picture search and slomo speeds and there’s real time sound in 2x normal forward search. Another useful extra – though again not that unusual -- is a monitor output selector with presets configured for a standard TV, CRT or LCD projectors and projection TVs. 

 

In common with the RV40 it has an on-board Dolby Digital decoder and 2-mode ‘virtual’ surround sound, additionally the RV60 has dts decoding (the RV40 only had a dts bitstream output). Other audio facilities include a user volume control and a comprehensive set of 5.1 channel surround controls plus a test-tone generator. This features some eye-catching graphics showing the speaker and seating positions, which makes it very easy to use. Regional coding is as tight as a drum as far as user-accessible firmware hacks are concerned but it obviously can be done as there are plenty of multi-region models being advertised for £30 to £40 more than the standard R2 machine, though bear in mind the manufacturer’s warranty is almost certainly void.

 

The cosmetics are little changed from the RV40, the front panel has sprouted a jog dial on the far right and a headphone jack with level control in the bottom right hand corner otherwise they look pretty much alike, and the remote handsets are identical. For the record it’s not half bad with fair sized buttons, adequate labelling and the layout is okay, though the search and track skip buttons could have been better thought out.

 

On the back panel there’s the usual array of phonos for the 5.1 channel, composite video and coaxial bitstream outputs. An S-Video signal is available on a 4-pin mini DIN socket and one of the two SCART sockets, (AV1) which can also be configured for RGB output. A standard TOSlink socket carries the optical bitstream output.

 

How does it perform: 54MHz/4x oversampling is obviously doing its job because the RV60 produces one of the sharpest pictures we’ve seen in quite a while, colours are crisp and natural looking with good graduation in shade. Using the manual picture controls it’s possible to fine tune the image to suit almost any type of material, gamma correction in particular comes in very handy on movies with a lot of dull or dark scenes. Processing is fast and clean and our reference tests sequences containing a lot of movement, reflective surfaces and rapid changes in brightness and colour passed through without a hitch. Layer change is moderately quick taking a little under a quarter of a second.

 

The Dolby Digital decoder generates pleasingly rich and spacious soundfield, extracting lots of little sounds that are completely lost on the analogue soundtracks, and frequently missed by the 5.1 decoders on budget players. DTS decoding is equally efficient and there’s the customary increase in the depth of the bass response. The virtual surround modes are there if you need them, puffing up basic stereo soundtracks. Audio CDs sound great revealing the sort of texture, warmth and clarity that you usually only get on the better hi-fi decks.

 

Our Verdict: To return to our earlier comment about the similarities between this player and the RV40, we would find it very hard to justify spending £100 more on this machine just for the dts decoder and odds end ends like a front mounted speed control knob and RGB output, particularly as the AV performance on the RV40 was so good. However, Panasonic has managed to squeeze a little more out of the picture processing. For the most part the improvements are small and subtle and we doubt whether they would be visible on most run of the mill TVs, but if your screen is larger than 32 inches or so, or it’s a top end model, the RV60 may help you get your money’s worth.

 

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

 

UP CLOSE

 

Features          

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital & dts decoders, multi-speed replay, 2-mode spatial sound, monitor output selector, manual & preset picture modes, 5-scene marker, volume control

           

Sockets           

2 x SCART AV (RGB/S-Video), 5.1 channel surround & mixed stereo, coaxial bitstream, composite video (phono), S-Video (mini DIN), optical bitstream (TOSlink), front: headphones (jack)   

 

Dimensions                  

430 x 271 x 82 mm

 

Rival Buys

Philips DVD-750, £450

Pioneer DV-717, £450

Sony DVP-S725, £450

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2000, 1707

 

 

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