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PHILIPS DVD957, £350

To date most Philips DVD players have been a tad dull. They worked well enough but somehow looked and felt old-fashioned, which is quite a feat on a technology that’s less than five years old… Nevertheless, Philips managed to do it and the DVD957 appears to be a determined effort to catch up with the rest of the market. Unfortunately Philips is chasing a fast moving target; tarting up the on-screen displays, shifting the deck mechanism to the middle of the front panel and putting things like ‘Perfect Still Frame’ and picture zoom on the list of key features, shows it still has some catching up to do.


There are a couple of points worth mentioning, like on-board Dolby Digital and dts decoders, and it has a set of Component video outputs though curiously Philips has not yet fitted this feature to any of its TVs. Half decent audio performance could be a selling point, it has a dual laser drive for improved playback of audio CDs, there’s a headphone output on the front panel and all of the output sockets on the back are gold plated. Picture facilities are on the thin side, though. The 957 has a three speed picture search and slomo, but you have to get up out of your chair to work the jog/shuttle dial on the front or mess around with complicated on-screen displays to get to them. The remote handset buttons only give access to two search speeds – difficult to control -- and forward only slomo. The picture zoom is cranky too and it only works in still mode.


Picture quality is pretty good however with lots of detail and there are some useful tweaks buried in the awful on-screen displays, and that includes a black level control which improves contrast balance no end in dark scenes and shadows. Noise levels are below average on the mixed stereo outputs, the Dolby Digital and dts decoders both do a very fair job, dts soundtracks in particular sound smooth and rich with a lot of information coming from the sub channel. Audio CDs also sound very good, comparable with the better mid-range players with a warm involving sound.


AV performance is fine, the price is okay and the dts decoder might appeal to a few users but the control system lacks finesse and the feature list is unfocused.


Verdict 3


Philips 020 8689 2166



Performance – especially audio CDs, fair price, dts – if you can use it



Unfriendly controls and on-screen displays, lacklustre features


Rival Buys

Pioneer DV-636D £400, Nakamichi DV-10 £600


Quote 20

‘Half decent audio performance could be a selling point, it has a dual laser drive for improved playback of audio CDs’






£                                  £350

VERDICT                      3


COMMENTS            Good AV performance but quirky design and features

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        Y

OUTPUT                       DD/dts

COMP’NT VID            Y

SCARTS                       2





Available exclusively from Asda and selling for just £106 the Schneider SVC-615 is the cheapest NICAM VCR that we are aware of. The old adage about only getting what you pay for generally holds true for most home entertainment products, so what’s this machine’s story? Well, picture quality is very average, the control system is fairly relaxed and still frame is jittery, but apart from that it’s not half bad. Whilst this is not the sort of VCR you would necessarily want to use with a mega-screen home cinema TV the picture deficiencies hardly show up on smaller screens -- 21-inches and below -- so it would make a good bedroom VCR. The controls you can learn to live with and how often do you need stable still frame?


When you consider the 615’s plus points and bearing in mind the very low price, it actually looks like a pretty good deal. To begin with it has a full set of convenience features, including fully automatic setup (station tuning and clock set), a VideoPlus+ timer withy PDC, multi-speed replay and slomo and even NTSC replay. It has twin SCART sockets, which is very rare on budget VCRs and it even comes with a SCART cable, which has to be worth a fiver on its own. There’s lots of little extras too, like a repeat play function, Follow TV, which sets the VCR channels in accordance with those on the TV, Direct Record, which records whatever station you’re watching on TV there’s a monitor function on the remote, which switches between the TV and off-tape pictures, it has index and blank search modes, and automatic satellite recording (on receivers with a built-in timer). 


Resolution is in the order of 220-lines, which means the picture looks a shade whiskery but noise levels are low and colour fidelity is not too bad. The stereo hi-fi tracks are a bit hissy but again, on a smallish TV in the confines of a bedroom or small living room it is liveable. Maybe it’s not home cinema material but it’s fine as a second VCR, look at it this way, it’s a well-equipped stereo machine for not much more than the cost of a basic mono video recorder.


Verdict 4


Schneider, telephone 0500 100 55



It’s cheap and not bad looking



Indifferent picture performance, sluggish controls


Rival Buys

Bush VCR-870 £130, LG AF999 £130


Quote 20

‘When you consider the 615’s plus points and bearing in mind the very low price, it actually looks like a pretty good deal’





£                                  £106

VERDICT                      4


COMMENTS            So-so picture but well featured and excellent value

NTSC                            Y

SAT CONT                    Y*

SCARTS                       2

COMP OUT                   N

AUD IN             N



*auto record on receivers with timer




Ó R. Maybury 2000, 0812



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