DVD MEGA TEST
Someone at Bush must have a sense of humour, how else do you explain the
DVD-2004, a DVD player with built-in video games? Donít get too excited, itís
more Gameboy than Playstation 2 with versions of those old favourites Tetris
and Othello, but you can play them when a movie is running, or when listening
to audio CDs. Presentation is best described as lively, from the brightly
coloured Ė some might say garish Ė
opening screen, to the shiny silvery front panel with flush-fitting Power and
Eject buttons at each end.
with features, starting with the built-in Dolby Digital decoder, itís
configured for all-region replay, it can play MP3 tracks on CD-R discs, thereís
a 3-stage picture zoom, 4-mode picture search and a ridiculous six slomo
speeds. Volume can be set from the remote and thereís a 3-scene bookmark
facility. Hooking it up to the outside world shouldnít be a problem; it has a
single SCART socket that can be configured from the setup menu to output RGB,
but not S-Video. There is a separate S-Video connector along with no less than
three composite video output sockets. (No, we donít know why either, though it
might be a hang over from the US version, fitted with a set of 3 Component
video sockets. Wiring the sockets for composite video might be easier than
leaving them off and blocking the holes, well thatís our theoryÖ). Still on the
subject of sockets, it has a front mounted headphone jack, but no level
control; you have to use the volume control on the handset for that.
The setup menu
struggles to be seen over the dazzling blue and red logo screen but itís all
pretty straightforward, as are the on-screen displays, in fact the only
operational niggle concerns the remote handset. Too many tiny buttons, as
usual, and what on earth are the slomo keys doing down at the bottom, miles
away from the other transport keys, next to volume up/down?
on our sample was a bit hairy with some signs of audio interaction on the
picture and a fair amount of digital noise. This was mostly confined to the
composite video output on the SCART socket, S-Video and RGB were clean.
Admittedly our sample appeared to have been quite well used but itís something
weíll be keeping an eye on and weíll check another model as soon as possible.
Audio quality is fine, the Dolby Digital channels are deep and crisp and even
and the mixed stereo has a wide response with very low levels of background
noise. Audio CDs are okay too, well into budget/mid-price hi-fi territory.
Worth considering, but if you get the chance do check the picture for noise.
Bush 020 8594
playback, PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder, dts compatible, multi-speed
replay, 3-stage zoom, MP3 replay, 2 games (Tetris & Othello), volume
control, 3-scene bookmark,
Video games on
a DVD player are a brand new idea Ė whatever will they think of next? Our theory is that itís a dig at the
recently launched Sony Playstation 2, which is a video games console that plays
DVDsÖ The games on the Bush machine might be a good way to keep your brain
ticking over whilst listening to audio CDs or MP3 tracks, though weíre not
exactly sure why youíd want to play games when watching a movie, what else is the
fast forward button for?
The Cyber Home
AD-N212 may not be the prettiest looking DVD player weíve seen lately, or the
best equipped, but it sure as hell is the cheapest. Needless to say itís basic,
very basic in fact, but weíre almost talking pocket-money prices here, not only
is DVD no longer a luxury, with players like this around itís cheap enough to
have a second player for the bedroom.
It plays DVDs,
video CDs and audio CDs and thatís it, not even MP3 tracks, but when it comers
down to it thatís all you need. It has some trick play functions (fast search
up to 16x) and a 3-speed slomo, but this only works in the forward direction.
Thereís no zoom or spatial sound options, which you can also live without.
Perversely it has two headphone sockets but no rear-panel SCART connector. It
comes with an AV cable and SCART adaptor, but itís a bit of fudge and we
suspect not a very cost-effective solution since an internal investigation
revealed that the main printed circuit board has a vacant spot for a ten pence
SCART connector. Our sample was factory set to Region 2 playback only but itís
a relatively simple matter to enable all region replay. For the record: with
power on and tray open press 7, 6, Select, choose 13 for multi-region then
press Setup, switch off then on again
The styling is
routine black box and thatís carried across to the remote which is a typical
off-the-shelf jobbie with the keys laid out in an apparently random manner and
important, frequently-used functions, like play, stop and pause lost somewhere
in the middle. The handset is unusual in one respect, however, itís only the
second time we can recall seeing a misspelled label at least thatís the
assumption. Despite repeatedly pressing the ĎAngelí button, divine messengers
and guardian spirits failed to materialiseÖ
Whilst it has
no significant picture or sound enhancements AV processing is capably handled
by the popular C-Cube chipset featured in a lot of other budget and mid-price
players. Picture quality is fine with no major flaws other than some very
slight texturing in areas of low contrast. Colours are bright but skin tones
and subtle shades can be a bit heavy-handed at times and it could do with a slightly
wider contrast range but itís only something you would notice in a side-by-side
comparison with other players. Background noise on the mixed stereo output is
no more than average and effects on Dolby Surround soundtracks emerge in good
condition. It passes muster as an audio CD player, itís nothing special but it
works as well as the decks fitted to most budget and mid-priced hi-fi systems.
possible player prices will drop even further but if youíre on a very tight
budget or maybe you fancy a second machine, why wait?
01243 5300009, branches WHSmiths and www.jungle.com
playback (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, dts compatible, multi-speed replay, SCART
The lack of a
SCART socket on this machine isnít critical but it does limit the connection
options and it means thereís no high-quality RGB video output. Mind you, SCART
have their fair share of problems; connectors can be intermittent and noisy,
moreover cheapo leads can actually degrade picture and sound quality. If youíre
using a SCART connection our advice is to invest in a good quality branded lead
Ė thereís no need to spend more than £10 to £15 -- rather than rely on one
youíve got kicking around.
So far Denon
has concentrated most of its efforts on the middle and high-end segments of the
DVD market. Japanís oldest hi-fi company has embraced the new technology with
gusto and launched a string of well specified and often exotically specified
players. At £1600 the DVD-5000 is still one of the dearest machines ever built
Ė however its newly arrived stablemate, the DVD-1000 is an altogether different
proposition. This is Denonís first Ďentry-levelí player and with a £300 price
tag, itís the closest the company is likely to get to the budget end of the
DVD-1000 is relatively cheap by Denonís standards, there has been no obvious
corner cutting when it comes to design and build quality and the emphasis is
firmly on AV performance. Audio facilities are bog standard format minima, you
wonít find any flashy gadgets or superfluous functions either and even the
front panel display and on-screen graphics have an air of austerity about them.
The only small luxury, though we suspect few owners will actually make use of
it, is a component video (YUV) output, which is the video signal format of
choice when playing NTSC discs on high-end monster-screen TVs and projectors.
Since this is a Region 2 only player (no known hacks yet), and the only R2 NTSC
discs are Japanese in origin, itís going to have a fairly narrow appeal.
the bonnet there are some rather splendid sounding enhancements, like the Super
Sub Alias Filter, designed to improve picture resolution, and extra
reinforcements on the chassis and front panel, to reduce resonance and
vibration and help heat dissipation.
respects Denon may have gone a bit too far and some quite useful features, like
multi-speed replay, has been trimmed to the bone with only 8x picture search.
The remote control supplied with this machine is no great shakes either though
to be fair the handsets supplied with Denon equipment has never been very
You have to
look quite hard to spot the picture tweaks but every now and again you notice
some small extra details, especially in darker scenes where the wider than
average contrast range helps lift the picture. Nevertheless on some scenes
there is a trace of processing noise and light texturing in the background,
which is the sort of thing you sometimes see on budget players. The mixed
stereo output is very clean and Dolby Surround effects are sharply defined.
Audio CDs also come alive and the DVD-1000 could easily double up as a top-end
A classy piece
of kit at an affordable price; not a player to get excited about, but put it on
your shortlist if you rank performance Ė particularly sound quality -- and the
Denon name above features and frills.
PAL/NTSC replay, dts compatible, multi-speed replay, component video out
ĎYUVí video is a similar concept to RGB video, where picture signals on their
way from the source device (i.e. the DVD player) to the display device (TV
etc.) go through fewer processing stages to minimise quality losses. RGB, where the red, green and blue
components are kept separate, works best on the European PAL colour TV system.
signals Ė used on NTSC video equipment -- works on a slightly different
principle. Colour signals are added and subtracted to the brightness
(luminance) signal, resulting in cleaner colours with more subtle graduations
in shade and hue.
Price erosion, whereby the cost of high-tech products like DVD players, just
keeps on falling is great for us, the consumer, but itís a nightmare for some
manufacturers. The better-known brands struggle to stay competitive, especially
on entry-level products. Some just give up, others donít bother getting
involved in the first place or concentrate on the steadier mid-market and
high-end sectors. Hitachi has wisely decided to stay clear of the cut-throat
pricing at the ultra budget end of the market but is keen to maintain a
presence. All this is a rather long-winded way of saying that the DV-P305 is
actually a badge-engineered Samsung machine, uncannily similar in fact to the
DVD-511, (also included in this group test).
origins are not obvious from the front panel, which has visual connections with
other Ďhome-madeí Hitachi players, like the holographic badge restrained
cosmetics and silver-grey livery. The line up of features is a dead give away,
though. They include multi-speed replay (5 picture search and 3 slomo speeds)
and the characteristic real time sound at 2x speed. Thereís a 2-step picture
zoom (2x and 4x magnification), 3D spatial sound mode and a 3-scene bookmark
facility. Playback is Region 2 only and our sample seemed to be firmly locked,
thereís a routine set of back panel connections with a single SCART carrying
composite and RGB video, plus separate S-Video and composite video outputs. The
handset is pretty good, itís quite small and some of the buttons are borderline
microscopic; itís not as neat as the one supplied with the Samsung original but
the layout makes sense and the well used keys are more or less where you expect
to find them.
The setup menu
asks the user to make a language selection the first time itís plugged and
apart from setting screen shape and any other preferences, like whether or not
you want sound on 2x play, and itís ready to run. On screen displays are clear
and simple to understand, in short itís a very well behaved machine with no
vices or bad habits that we could see.
is unlikely to offend, colours are natural looking and it manages skin tones
well, a touch more depth in dark and gloomy scenes wouldnít go amiss but this
can usually be offset by jiggling the TVsí brightness and contrast
controls. Thereís a normal amount of
background hiss on the mixed stereo output but thereís no loss of definition on
Dolby Surround soundtracks and most users will be satisfied with music CDs
badge on the front is a comforting and familiar point of reference but apart
from that thereís no other compelling reason to buy this machine in preference
to the Samsung original or any of itís badge-engineered relatives.
Hitachi 0345 581455, www.hitachitv.com
PAL/NTSC replay, dts compatible, multi-speed replay, 2-stage picture zoom, 3D
sound, sound on 2x speed replay, 3-scene bookmark
engineering has a long and honourable history in the AV industry and goes way
back to the early days of television and video recording. It was in part
responsible for the success of VHS during the format battles of the early
1980s. It makes a lot of sense for manufacturers and companies like Hitachi Ė
that are best known for mid-market equipment
Ė simply cannot build competitively priced entry-level products.
Everyone wins, the manufacturer covers the important market niches and we get
products with a name we know and trust at an affordable price.
another new DVD brand, though this time you may have actually heard the
Manhattan name before since it has been around for a while, on high-end
satellite TV receivers. The DVD-200 qualifies as a budget player on two counts
-- it sells for under £200 and it has no built-in digital surround decoders --
but the styling and cosmetics could easily belong to a mid-price model and
thereís no shortage of secondary features. They include 6-mode picture search
(up to 64x, in both directions) and three slomo speeds, a 3-stage zoom, 3D
sound, volume control, it can replay MP3 recordings on CD-R/RW discs and it has
a pretty set of on-screen displays. Itís shipped as a Region 2 model but it can
be easily jiggled into multi-region playback. Eurosat, the distributors coyly
say they wonít be publishing the details, so weíll do it for themÖ With the
player in Stop mode on the handset press the Setup then Title, Step and Next
buttons and the machine goes into service mode, displaying the Region ID and
Macrovision disable options.
Around the back
thereís single SCART socket that can be set for high quality RGB video output
plus it has the usual composite and S-Video alternatives. The digital audio
outputs Ė for connection to an external decoder -- are handled by a set of
standard coaxial and optical TOSlink connectors. The remote control handset suffers from the all too common titchy
button syndrome with important functions like Play and Stop lost in the middle
of a forest of similarly sized keys. The vertical layout of the picture search
and track skip buttons is also a bit odd, itís almost as if the handset was
originally designed for some other purposeÖ
Video and audio
processing is in the very capable hands of an ESS chipset, which is a familiar
sight in numerous other players, including several high-end models, so itís off
to quite a good start. Picture quality is actually very acceptable, a little
more detail in shadows and moody scenes wouldnít go amiss but overall the
picture is well inside the budget/mid-range ballpark. Much the same goes for
the sound quality, though a lot will depend on what itís hooked up to. Dolby
Surround effects on the mixed stereo output are reasonably well defined;
background noise levels are about average. Audio CDs and MP3 replay quality is
DVD-2000 is an agreeable enough machine and it does the business as far as AV
performance is concerned but the brutal truth is that it lacks any real killer
features, quirky widgets or indeed anything to make it stand out from the
growing crowd of sub-£200 players.
Eurosat, 0208 452 6699,
All Region (see
text), PAL/NTSC replay, dts compatible, MP3 replay, multi-speed replay, 3-stage
picture zoom, SCART cable included
mention the processing chipsets used in DVD players, they do all of the hard
work, decoding the digital data on the disc and turning it into high quality
pictures and sound. In the early days of DVD this was done by lot of chips, in
the past year weíve noticed a big reduction in the chip count, especially in
budget and mid-market models where the bulk of the decoding is often done by
just one or two chips, most of them made by just a couple of companies.
something you donít see very often these days, a DVD player with a £600 price
tag; the Marantz DV7010 has to be something special, right? Sadly itís not, at
least not six hundred quidís worth of special. It has a built-in Dolby Digital
decoder, but so too do a lot of other DVD players, some of them costing less
than a third as much as this one. Maybe it has lots of secondary features? If
it has theyíre well hidden, in fact the only thing we could find that was even
slightly out of the ordinary is Condition Memory. This stores user preferences for up to 15 discs. However, since
these preferences include such mundane things as TV shape, the position of the
on-screen displays, multi-angle, language and parental lock settings itís
really not something we can get very excited about.
The lack of
trick play facilities on such an expensive player is very disappointing; it has
just one rather jerky picture search mode and one slomo speed. To make matters
worse search mode is dodgy on some discs and it dropped back to normal speed
replay at chapter change points on our copy of Godzilla. Setup is easy, at first we thought our
sample was faulty because we couldnít get a response from the remote handset.
After several changes of batteries and much head Ėscratching we found a switch
on the back panel that selects internal or external remote control. Whilst on the subject of the remote, itís
not a pretty sight and whatís the point of glow in the dark menu buttons?
Surely it would have made more sense to dab luminous paint on the transport
denying it is a smart-looking machine and the layout is unusual, with the deck
mechanism on the left side Ė a spot or retro styling maybe? A lot of early
players had off-centre decks. At least one Philips model still does, which is
probably not a coincidence since Philips and Marantz have very close ties.
griping over, the DV7010 makes up for some lost ground with its AV performance.
In fact picture quality is very good indeed, detail is pin sharp, it has a wide
contrast range, colours are clean and we didnít see any processing noise or
artefacts, though layer change is bit sluggish, taking around a quarter of a
second. The Dolby Surround channels generate a big open sound and effects are
sharply focused. Audio CDs have a rich smooth sound and it could easily double
up as a quality hi-fi component.
A couple of
years ago the DV7010 might have made sense but right now it just looks under
specified and over priced.
Marantz (01753) 680868
PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder, dts compatible, front-mounted headphone
socket and level control, condition memory
The initial setup
is semi automatic, when used for the first time the setup menu asks the user to
choose TV screen shape, audio and subtitle languages. We had trouble getting it
to work; the Ďdeadí remote threw us for a while. In order for the machine to
work with the remote handset a switch on the back panel has to be set to the
ĎInternalí position. The External setting is used when the player is connected
to other compatible Marantz AV components. Confused? We were!
The dts surround sound system may have been a bit slow to take off in the UK
but all credit to Pioneer for sticking with it and its latest mid-market
player, the DV-636D is one of the very few models around with an on-board dts
decoder. Mind you, thereís still precious little Region 2 dts software
available, so hopefully this model will be as Ďflexibleí as its predecessors
when it comes to region mods.
The 636D is a
replacement for the 626D; notable extras include a second SCART socket (fully
wired for RGB pass-through). Trick play facilities have been uprated Ė though
not by very much Ė and it comes with a Ďnewí remote handset. The price is
definitely an improvement, down from £450 for the 626 to just under £400.
Trick play remains
a sore point, when Pioneer says it has upgraded the facilities on the 636D,
basically that means it still has the one paltry picture search mode but it now
has forward and reverse slomo. Big deal! The current norm, even on budget
players, is for at least three search speeds, and itís a genuinely useful thing
to have. Itís not as if the search on this machine is up to much anyway, it
only works when you hold the button down, or for at least 5 seconds for it to
lock into scan mode. The new remote should also be taken with a pinch of salt,
unless you count changing the shape of the four cursor buttons as significant.
Good things, carried over from the 626, are the dual laser pickup, which can
read homemade CD-R/RW discs and the impressive array of back-panel socketry,
which basically means two of everything.
there havenít been many changes; it remains a purposeful-looking black box with
a nifty/annoying blue light in the middle of the fascia. On screen displays are
clear and easy to understand, moreover most of the setup functions can be
accessed whilst a disc is playing. Picture quality is up there with the best of
them, images are finely detailed, skin tones and shades look entirely natural.
The only minor gripe concerns layer change, which on some discs takes a quarter
of a second or more, and thatís an age these days.
is very pleasing; the Dolby Digital decoder creates a silky smooth soundfield
that switches effortless from subtle little sounds to belly churning
explosions. dts recordings produce a slightly fuller sound Ė compared with
Dolby Digital Ė certainly thereís a bigger bass effect, itís just a shame
thereís such a limited supply of material. Audio CD quality is comparable with
mid to top end hi-fi components.
worth considering if youíre a big dts fan and know your way around the region
coding business. Itís very flexible and AV performance is excellent but let
down by a poor assortment of secondary features.
Region 2, PAL/NTSC
replay, Dolby Digital & dts decoders, ĎTruSound & virtual Dolby sound,
twin SCART sockets with RGB bypass, condition memory, twin-laser pickup
(digital theatre sound) system is operationally similar to Dolby Digital in
that it has five full-bandwidth surround channels (front stereo, centre front
dialogue and stereo rear surround), plus one low-frequency bass channel.
However, aficionados claim that differences in the ways sounds are coded and
compressed produce a sharper and more natural Ďcinematicí sound. Low frequency
bass effects definitely have a bigger impact but a lot depends on the
capabilities of the amplifier and speakers, consequently the system tends to
work best with meaty high-end kit.
In addition to
its own range of players Samsung also finds time to build machines for other
brands (see Hitachi P305 and Thomson DTH-4500). The DVD-511 is one of a pair of
new decks for the 2000/2001 season; itís the entry-level model, which basically
means it doesnít have any built-in digital surround sound decoders and a fairly
routine selection of features. Not that itís sparsely equipped, far from it
with things like 3D sound, a 2-stage (2x & 4x) picture zoom, 3-scene
bookmark and 5-mode multi-speed replay with real time sound on 2x fast play.
It looks like
it could cost quite a bit more too, the slim-line casework and silver-grey
cosmetics are all very trendy and for once it seems as though someone has taken
a bit of trouble designing the remote control handset. The layout is a bit
cramped but the buttons youíre going to use most often are grouped together
with big and easy to find keys for important functions like play/pause and
setup and the on-screen displays also show distinct signs of someone using
their brains. The system kicks in the first time the player is plugged in,
asking the user to make a language selection. The menus are well presented and
very easy to use, though we do have one little gripe. The setup menu is slow to
appear. Press the button and nothing happens for what seems like ages and your
first instinct is to press it again, which makes the main page flash up
briefly, then disappear; its most irritating.... Since thatís the worst thing
we can find to say about the DVD-5111 you can take it as read that this player
is generally very well behaved and easy to live with.
locked to Region 2 and at the time of going to press we have no details of how
to unlock it, though we wouldnít be at all surprised if there was a software
hack. Connections to the outside world are via a standard set of back panel
connections in the shape of a single SCART carrying composite, S-Video or RGB
video, thereís additional composite and S-Video outputs and the usual analogue
mixed stereo (phono), coaxial and optical digital outputs, for connection to an
external Dolby Digital/dts decoder.
A small amount
of detail is lost in shadows and murky scenes and colour shades and graduations
can be a bit coarse but overall picture quality is fine. Sound quality is okay
too, audio CDs are clean and Dolby Surround information on the mixed stereo
output has plenty of room to create a big wide soundstage and noise levels are
low. A smart little player, maybe a bit lacking in personality but you know the
name, it works well and the price is fair.
PAL/NTSC replay, dts compatible, multi-speed replay, 2-stage picture zoom, 3D
sound, sound on 2x speed replay, 3-scene bookmark
The sign of a
well-designed setup menu is that you donít have to read the instruction manual
to find out how to use it. Itís a fundamental point that many DVD system
designers seem to overlook or ignore in preference to flashy graphics or convoluted
controls. It also helps if the remote handset has been designed in conjunction
with the displays, thereís nothing worse than continually having to continually
look down from the screen to find a tiny ambiguously labelled button, or
translate an obscure symbol.
Sharp has maintained a relatively low profile with its DVD players. By our
reckoning the DV-720 is only itís fourth player to date, which is quite modest
by the standard of other A-brand manufacturer. As entry-level machines go it is
reasonably well equipped and fairly priced, the cosmetics are in line with
current trends and it is a very compact shape. There are no headline grabbing
features as such, it doesnít even have gamma correction, which has been a
feature on Sharp AV products for the past few years. Thereís a pseudo surround
facility called ĎQsurroundí and a 3-stage picture zoom, it has three picture
search and slomo speeds, a display dimmer and twin SCARTs but that is as
exciting as it gets.
not strictly true, it does have one interesting extra and thatís Function
Control. It works in a similar way to the on-screen displays used on some JVC
players. Press the Function Control button during replay and the picture
shrinks into a roughly quarter-sized sub-screen, surrounded by a set of
displays and menus that show you what the machine is up to and let you do
various things, like go to a selected scene by entering a time reference, view
and change language, audio and subtitle options and watch a bit rate indicator.
The front panel is quite busy, as is the remote handset which sports almost 50
buttons Ė possibly a record --
fortunately itís quite well laid out with all of the transport keys grouped together
at the bottom and colour coded blue; the important buttons are also a good
start is spoilt by one of the slowest control systems weíve seen in a long
while. We have become used to commands being quickly and crisply executed on
most current players. Everything on this machine seems to take ages, though in
reality its probably doing things only a fraction of a second slower than most
of its contemporaries. Nevertheless, even simple things, like skipping chapters
seem unusually slow; it took well over half a minute to decide not to play a
Region 1 disc Ė when it didnít spit it our straight away we were getting quite
hopeful Ė and layer change on one test disc took almost a full second, which is
almost unheard of these days.
You can learn
to live with its sluggish nature since picture quality is at least as good as
most of its rivals. Images look clean and detailed with good colour graduation
and even though it doesnít have switchable gamma correction, contrast balance
is on the button and it avoids mushing in darker areas of the picture. Audio
quality is about average, not too much noise on the mixed stereo output and
music CDs sound good. Aside from the unhurried control system the 720 is a
pleasant enough machine, it does the job, Sharpís a name you know and trust and
the price is liveable.
PAL/NTSC replay, dts compatible, multi-speed replay, 3D sound, picture zoom
one of a number of systems designed to mimic the effect of a multi-speaker
surround sound system, on a normal TVís stereo speakers. Techniques vary but in
most cases audio effects and information on Dolby Surround and Dolby Digital
soundtracks are extracted and lightly processed, usually by adding a short time
delay or introducing a phase change and then fed back onto the normal stereo
output. Hearing these sounds a fraction of a second behind the main soundtrack
can give the impression that theyíre coming from speakers some distance form
Not so long ago you could spot a Thomson AV product at twenty paces, one or two
you still can but its current range of DVD players are not that distinctive.
Not that thereís anything wrong with the styling of the DTH-4500, itís a tidy
machine that doesnít look out of place alongside players from the likes of Sony
and Panasonic, which is quite a tribute since itís actually built by Samsung.
Again thatís not meant to be a criticism, Samsung is a respected brand though
it is more usually associated with modestly priced AV equipment.
The price and
feature list puts the DTH-4500 firmly into the mid-market sector, it has
on-board Dolby Digital decoding, multi-speed replay with a nifty jog dial on
the front panel. Thereís a good selection of gadgets, like a 2-stage picture
zoom, 3D sound, it can play MP3 tracks on CD-R/RW discs, it plays real-time
sound during 2x fast play, the remote handset can control a wide range of other
makers TVs and audio systems and the buttons light up. The 4500 is billed as a
Region 2 only model though weíre fairly sure a software hack will be appearing
on the web before long.
include twin SCART sockets (configurable for RGB and S-Video) for easy integration
with existing AV systems, plus a front-mounted headphone socket. Installation
is effortless and the first time itís powered up the user is asked to select
language. The rest of the setup menu is easy to navigate with a section for
setting up surround speakers. Control layout on both the front panel and remote
handset is a mite cluttered. The remote is a reminder of the old days,
interesting to look at Ė French minimalist Philippe Starck designed it Ė but a
bit of a swine to actually use with huge volume and chapter skip buttons and
fussy little menu keys. Still, at least they all light upÖ
There are no
surprises when it comes to what happens on the screen, the 4500 is a solid
middle of the road performer with a crisp, cleanly rendered picture, lots of
detail and it has a fair stab at resolving gloomy scenes. It has no bad habits,
layer change takes under a quarter of a second and the range of trick play
functions is just about right (2x, 4x, 8x, 16x, 32x search and 1/8x, 1/4x and
1/2x slomo). Dolby Digital sound is fast and punchy, audio CD performance is
comparable with mid-price component hi-fi and MP3 is okay if you just want some
background sounds. Itís quite pricey; the Thomson name carries a bit of extra
kudos, but be aware that you can get similar performance and features for
considerably less nowadays.
PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder, dts compatible, MP3 replay, multi-speed
replay, 2-stage picture zoom, 3D sound, front-mounted headphone socket and
level control, sound on 2x speed replay, multi-brand TV remote, SCART cable
Being able to
listen to the soundtrack when the player is running at twice normal speed is a
rather neat trick involving a technique called buffering. Soundtrack data is
read off the disc and fed into a memory, itís then read out of the memory in
real time, in brief snatches, so it keeps time with whatís happening on the
screen. Itís certainly good enough for you to be able to follow a movie, but in
half the time. Could be handy next time you rent a duff movie, and feel obliged
to watch itÖ
puzzle. A few months ago we looked at he Yamaha DVD-S795, a very decent mid
market player with on-board Dolby Digital decoding and lots of useful features,
selling for around £350. Now we have the DVD-S796, which we understood was to
be its replacement and the promo literature suggested it would also have
built-in Dolby Digital and was expected to sell for £350. When it arrived the
S796 turned out to be something completely different. Itís a very basic
entry-level machine, no 5.1 decoding and a sparse feature list. Now we learn
the price is down to £300, which is a step in the right direction.
Never mind, it
comes from a good family, all the important bits are made by Panasonic, the
telltale signs are the very distinctive on-screen displays features like the
five-scene bookmark, the lack of RGB and coaxial digital outputs (we keep
telling them off about that) and the Panasonic name plastered over all of the
main processing microchipsÖ In fact, letís go mad and say outright that this is
almost certainly a badge-engineered version of the Panasonic DVD-R20, which
also sells for around £300.
It has a few
noteworthy features, like the super fast (100x) picture search, 2-mode virtual
surround, real-time sound during 2x speed replay and sub-woofer output. Itís
fairly easy on the eye too, a neatly sculptured black box, and not too big
either. Weíll have to dock a couple of points for the occasionally cumbersome
setup. Selecting TV format, for example, is heavy going. Sad people that we
are, we worked out that changing aspect ratio and display format on his machine
can take up to 20 button presses, compared with two or three on most other
From now on
itís almost all good news. Picture and sound quality are excellent, colours and
shades are accurately rendered, it picks out the smallest picture details, even
in gloomy scenes, and thereís not a trace of processing noise or artefacts.
Layer change is a bit sluggish at around a quarter of a second. The mixed
stereo output has very low levels of background noise and the extra sub output
is a bonus Ė well worth putting to use if you have a sub-woofer! Audio CDs
sparkle and this machine could be used as a hi-fi source component. Much as we
admire this playerís AV abilities itís still rather expensive; committed Yamaha
fans with top-notch AV gear probably wonít mind too much but if all you want is
a basic no-frills DVD player to connect to an ordinary TV, then there are
plenty of cheaper alternatives.
PAL/NTSC replay, dts compatible, multi-speed replay, 3D sound, 5-scene
bookmark, sub-woofer output, sound on 2x speed replay
bitstream output is a standard fitment on DVD players. Itís raw, unprocessed
audio data, straight from the disc, containing all of the Dolby Digital and/or
dts sound information for onward connection to an external decoder, usually
built into a AV amplifier or TV. Most players have two types of bitstream
connection, RF or coaxial, which uses a simple phono-type lead connection, and
optical digital. Itís not essential to have both, but not having one, or the
other could limit flexibility as not all AV amps and TV have both types of
YELO 800 DVD,
outside it seems innocuous enough but the Yelo 800DVD shows signs of being put
together in a bit of a hurry. For example, the mains cable is bonded to the
inside of the case by a blob of mastic, the instruction book is peppered with
mistakes and several buttons on the remote handset donít seem to do anything.
The specification is quite good for the money and it doesnít look too bad
either. Itís reasonably simple to use, thereís multi-region playback, it has a
built-in Dolby Digital decoder, 3-stage picture zoom, it can play MP3 music
track on recordable CDs and it comes with a full set of connecting leads.
The downside is
a meagre selection of trick play features. Fast picture search only goes up to
8x normal speed and thereís no slomo. Itís supposed to have RGB and Component
(YUV) video output but we couldnít work it out, nor get an alleged picture in
picture function to do anything, and the button layout on the remote is a mess.
It has its fair
share of foibles too; our sample jumped out of picture search mode at chapter
change points, it froze solid on a couple of occasions and made a loud buzzing
noise, it took a real dislike to our copy of Godzilla and once or twice the
sound drifted out of sync with the picture.
performance -- when it behaves -- wasnít too bad, the fact that it uses the
same processing chipsets as several more expensive models clearly helps. The
picture is clean and lively with accurate colours. It does a pretty good job on
dark and dimly lit scenes and indeed whole movies, like Angelaís Ashes, lifting
out details from the shadows, which a lot of budget and mid-market players
manage to ignore. Layer change on most discs is fast and a lot of the time you
donít even notice it.
More good news,
Dolby Digital processing works well and it moves effortlessly from small subtle
background sounds to big, loud explosions. Dolby Surround material is also
crisply resolved and itís capable of generating a big wide soundstage. Audio CD
replay is okay; itís the sort of sound you get from a mid-priced mini system,
nothing too controversial but not as involving or revealing as high-end hi-fi
gear. MP3 tracks sound about as good as they can, which is to say a bit thin
shows promise but there are a few too many glitches and signs of careless
design for our liking. It really wouldnít take much effort to sort it out and
we look forward to seeing the Mark II, until then we have to say that as it
stands itís B-List material.
Yelo 020 8366
PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder, dts compatible, MP3 replay, multi-speed
replay, 3-stage picture zoom, front-mounted headphone socket and level control
The range of
back-panel connections on this machine looks very impressive and the front
mounted headphone socket is a welcome bonus but itís let down by ambiguous
labelling. The 5.1 outputs are a case in point, and it is not helped by the
diagrams in the instruction book. The SCART socket is supposed to carry RGB and
Component video; it supposed to be switchable from the setup menu, but it
eluded us and all we managed to get out of it was an S-Video type black and
white luminance signal.
” R. Maybury 2000, xx
Hitachi 0345 581455, www.hitachitv.com
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