DVD GROUP TEST
Panasonic DVD-RV20, £300
The recently launched DVD-RV20 is in all
respects a very decent entry-level player but in the face of such compelling
competition we might have expected a more interesting specification on a
machine costing £300.
The brief feature list wouldn’t look out of
place on a sub-£200 player, the only extras worth mentioning are a super fast
100x picture search, 2-mode virtual surround sound (VSS) and sub-woofer output.
In fact it lacks several quite basic facilities that we’ve come to take for
granted on budget machines, like an RGB output on the SCART socket and a
coaxial bitstream output.
Setup menus and on-screen displays are
standard-issue Panasonic, and none the worse for that as they are mostly
clearly presented and easy to use though some bright spark has split the
picture format settings across two menu pages, so on the first display you can
choose between 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratio, then you have to return to the main menu
and select ‘Other Settings’, to get to the Pan & Scan/Letterbox switch. The
handset buttons are reasonably well laid out and easy to find though some of
the labelling could be clearer and we’re not terribly keen on close proximity
of the chapter skip and picture search buttons.
Images are sharp and fluid; it manages to
resolve the smallest details, even in busy scenes containing lots of movement
or rapid changes in brightness. Colour rendition is excellent and that includes
skin tones, which look perfectly natural. Little or nothing is lost in shadows
and dark scenes and it’s one of the few players we’ve tested recently that
doesn’t need any additional picture controls. Slomo is smooth and we’re most
impressed by the picture search facilities; 2x normal speed is just that, no
skipped frames or jerkiness though we can’t see the point of not suppressing
the soundtrack since it is virtually unintelligible. Layer change takes around
a quarter of a second.
Background noise levels on the mixed stereo
output is very low and they have a flat and open response that carries Dolby
Surround soundtracks without any problems. The sub output is a welcome bonus
and the bitstream output is clean and open. Audio CDs performance is comparable
with upper mid-range hi-fi players with a bright, punchy sound.
Fortunately the RV20 acquits itself with
above average AV performance otherwise we would have had to say that it is a
rather mediocre design, dull even, short on features and not especially good
value for money. Even so, we can’t ignore the fact that it is up against some
very well appointed players, with comparable picture and sound. Our guess is
that without any killer features we suspect only dedicated Panasonic fans will
notice it in the crowd.
Contact Panasonic (08705) 357357, www.panasonic.co.uk
Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed
replay, dts compatible bitstream output, 2-mode Virtual Surround sound,
sub-woofer output, 5-scene marker
AV out (SCART), S-Video out (mini DIN), mixed
stereo & composite video out (phono), optical digital bitstream out
Movie sound 4
Music sound 4
Harman Kardon DVD-1, £450
Harman Kardon are in the middle echelon of
serious hi-fi brands so it should come as no surprise to learn that the DVD-1
sports a £450 price tag; what you may not have expected is the fact that it’s
made in China, and that it is so basic.
Most DVD players have one or two unusual
features we can latch on to, praise or deride, but the DVD-1 almost completely
devoid of extras. If we dig really deep – and this is scraping the bottom of
the barrel – the light-up buttons on the remote handset and a 9-scene bookmark
just about qualify as vaguely interesting.
The region lock can be readily changed by
tapping a few numbers into the remote handset, (with the player in standby mode
and no disc in the tray, enter the code 3141592, followed by the region
number). There’s no all-region (Region 0) setting and the video output from an
R1 disc is raw NTSC, so on a single standard TVs you’ll end up with a black and
There’s a headphone socket and level control
on the front, around back there’s two SCART sockets, carrying both composite
and RGB video outputs. It has an S-Video output and both optical and coaxial
bitstream sockets in addition to the usual mixed stereo line output. The remote
handset is an odd shape but the buttons are a good size, neatly laid out
according to function and shaped like arrows, in the case of the play and
The absence of any picture controls or video
‘equaliser’ facilities concerned us at first but after running a few discs
through the DVD-1 it became apparent that it doesn’t need any help. It produces
a clean and very well balanced image, packed with information and accurately
rendered colours. Layer change takes place in less than a quarter of a second.
Trick play is steady, though the fastest search speed is a fairly sedate 16x
Audio CD response swings effortlessly from
one end of the frequency spectrum to the other revealing plenty of low level
sounds but without sounding cluttered or confused. The mixed stereo output has
a similarly assured response, Dolby Surround effects are precisely located
within the soundfield and background hiss is almost negligible. Dolby Digital
and dts soundtracks pass through on to the bitstream output in pristine
What the DVD-1 lacks in glitz and frills it
makes up for with picture and sound quality to compliment any high-end home
cinema system. The price is a touch intimidating, it can’t have escaped your
notice that you can buy a fully-loaded DVD player for less then £200 these
days, but it wouldn’t look as classy, perform as well or carry the same kudos.
Contact Harman Kardon/Gamepath, 01908 317707
Region 2 (see text), PAL/NTSC replay,
multi-speed replay, dts compatible bitstream output, 9-scene marker,
illuminated remote handset buttons
AV out (2 x SCART), S-Video out (mini DIN),
mixed stereo, composite video & coaxial bitstream out (phono), optical
bitstream out (TOSlink) Front: headphone (jack)
Movie sound 4
Music sound 5
LG DVD-3200, £200
The DVD-3200 is the successor to the
DVD-2330, which we first looked at earlier this year. LG has always been a bit
of a pacesetter when it comes to budget AV products, so we were expecting great
things of the DVD-3200, particularly as it’s £10 dearer than its predecessor.
However, it appears that little has changed internally. The audio system is
basic and it lacks an optical bitstream output, but it does have a 3D spatial
We grumbled about the lack of NTSC playback
on the 2330 so we’re please to see it has been incorporated on the 3200. Trick
play options have been uprated with a useful range of slomo speeds (1/16x, 1/8x
1/4x and 1/2x normal speed, both directions. Picture search has four forward
and reverse speeds of 2x, 4x, 16x and 100x, but the latter is almost too fast.
It also has a 2-stage (x4 & x16) picture zoom and 5-scene bookmark but
that’s yer lot.
The wacky remote handset warrants a quick
mention, it’s a little on the large side but the large clearly labelled and
strategically positioned disc transport buttons make it very easy to use.
Pressing the ‘GUI’ button brings up a rather nondescript menu bar on the left
side of the screen from where you can move trough tracks and chapters, change
language settings and select 3D sound. The setup menu can also be invoked when
a disc is playing, the picture disappears but you can return to the point in
the movie where you left off.
Colour fidelity is quite good though small
graduations in flesh tones are glossed over. Overall resolution is about
average for a budget player, most fine detail is captured but some is left
behind especially when there’s a lot of movement on the screen. Contrast
balance is not too bad at all and comparatively little picture information is
lost in murky scenes and shadows.
Audio CD performance is typical of most
budget DVD players, on a par with the decks in mid-range hi-fi systems, in
other words acceptable to most users but with enough minor flaws in the
presentation to irritate picky audiophiles. There’s little or nothing to be
concerned with on the mixed stereo output, it’s all routine stuff with a wide
and largely uncoloured response and no more than average amounts of background
The improvements to the control system,
remote handset and the addition of NTSC playback are all very welcome, as is
the new casework and the 3200, but the basic specification and price remains
unexciting. We can only reiterate what we said about the 2330, it’s okay, but
we suspect it will be overshadowed by its similarly priced rivals.
Contact LG Electronics 01753 500470
Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, dts compatible
bitstream out, multi-speed replay, 2-stage picture zoom, 3D sound, 5-scene
AV out (SCART), S-Video out (mini DIN),
coaxial bitstream, mixed stereo & composite video out (phono)
Movie sound 8
Music sound 8
ã R. Maybury 2000 2106