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MICO DVD-A980, £179.98



Whyís it here:  DVD has turned traditional consumer electronics marketing on its head. Stores like Woolworthís and Tescos, normally associated with baking dishes and bananas has been forcing prices down with a range of ultra-cheap players, and from dayĖone the Internet has provided a means for eager early adopters to get their hands on the latest players, often at rock-bottom prices, but hereís a new twist, or rather, several twists in one. Itís the Mico DVD-A930 a new budget player that is only available from the Unbeatable.com web site, and the price is less than £180, which is pretty good going for a machine with on-board Dolby Digital decoder, but thatís not the half of itÖ


Any unique features:  Yes, how about a built-in MP3 player? This replays highly compressed MP3 music files downloaded from the Internet on a PC and recorded on CR-R/RW disc, which basically means a standard CD-ROM disc can hold something like 12-hours of music. It plays discs from any region without any tinkering and thereís a 2-channel Karaoke facility, with variable echo. The front panel layout is a bit odd too, thereís no standby button, just an on/off switch, thereís a row of numbered buttons for CD track selection and the control system is just plain weird. Itís one of only a tiny handful of players that lets you skip through opening logos and copyright notices, which is good, but mode change is slow or cranky (it wonít let you switch from picture search to reverse slow play, for example), and then thereís the quirky button layout and labelling on the remote handset. On a more conventional note it has a 2-stage picture zoom, multi-speed replay, a 6-mode equaliser (with user settings), a 7-mode digital signal processor and the digital bitstream output is dts compatible.


How does it perform: In spite of its funny little ways picture performance is quite reasonable. Itís based around a Hitachi deck mechanism, which bodes well, though our sample was quite touchy when playing grubby or scratched discs and once or twice it froze completely. We felt that the contrast was on the low side and bright colours lacked vibrancy but it was nothing the TVís own picture controls couldnít handle. The deck manages to pick out plenty of fine detail, though edges and sharp transitions are not as crisply rendered as some mid-market machines. Nevertheless, it turned in a creditable set of results, and layer change was fairly brisk at just under a quarter of a second.  


Dolby Digital soundtracks are clean and well-defined, treble-heavy effects lack the pinpoint focus of some of the 980ís dearer rivals but the differences are small indeed and only become apparent in side-by-side comparisons. MP3 quality is sort of okay, itís in the same ballpark as compact cassette, but without the background hiss, treble can be a bit hairy at times and bass is very thin, but as a fuss-free noisemaker for parties it is hard to fault.


Our Verdict:

MP3 playback is of questionable value and the control system takes a bit of getting used to but forget all that and look at the price, features and yes even the picture and sound performance. Itís a very good deal indeed and you wonít find much Ė if anything Ė to rival it at the moment; anyone on a tight budget looking for a route into Dolby Digital, should definitely include the 980 on their shortlist.


Available on-line only from www.unbeatable.co.uk




Features            All Region, PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder, dts compatible bitstream output, multi-speed replay, 2-stage picture zoom, 7-mode DSP, 6-mode equaliser with user preset, MP3 playback, karaoke facility with echo, repeat and A/B repeat play


Sockets             AV out (SCART), composite video, line level audio & coaxial digital out (phono), S-Video (mini DIN), optical digital out (TOSlink)


Dimensions            435 x 85 x 318mm     


Rival Buys

BUSH DVD2002,  £180

MATSUI DVD-110, £180




An unusually busy front panel; those little black buttons replicate the numerical keypad on the handset


A complete set of inputs and outputs, and yes that is a pair of standard jack sockets on the front, theyíre for microphones, so you and a friend can croon along with your favourite tunes


Wot, no standby button? Apart from that itís not too bad though the labelling and layout takes some getting used to




R. Maybury 2000, 0505



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