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REVIEWS

 

HITACHI DV-P515, £250

 

Hitachi DVD players are always a pleasure to review, more so when like the DV-P515 the regional coding lock is so easily hackable from the remote (we'll tell you how in a minute). Hitachi is one of the very few big name brands to permit this sort of jiggery-pokery. It is a welcome sight for those want to be able to play American discs but are not comfortable with the ultra cheapie machines, unfamiliar brands or voiding a player's warranty by having it chipped.

 

The 515 is quite a smart looking machine and the wealth of knobs and buttons on the front panel suggests that it more sophisticated than it actually is. In fact it's a fairly routine 'step-up' model; there's no on-board digital surround decoders but it does have a few handy extras, like Disc Navigation, which generates a chapter menu of thumbnail sized stills, there's an impressive selection of replay speeds (forward and reverse slomo and up to 128x picture search), a 2-stage zoom, 3D spatial sound, multi-brand TV remote, 3-scene bookmark and it has a headphone socket on the front panel. Talking of which, the reason it looks so busy is partly due to a shuttle dial and a little joystick, that's used for menu navigation (useful if the dog eats the handset). Our sample also played CD-R/RW discs with MP3 files, albeit with a wonky picture. This doesn't appear to be an advertised feature, at least it we couldn't find it mentioned in the instruction book.

 

Connectivity is good, there's two SCART sockets (switchable S-Video and RGB output) plus a full set of audio and video outputs. The on-screen menu displays are all very easy to understand though they are a wee bit sluggish and you can find yourself getting impatient with the Menu and Setup buttons  

 

Now. As promised, to change the Region code cold start the player (switch on and press Stop & Play) select the language (1 for English) and press Return 3, 8, 7, 6, 7. Select the Region number (1, 2 etc. or 9 for All Region), press Open on the player then Standby on the Remote and the deed is done. (NB, if you change to R1 playback substitute the code 2, 9, 3, 3, 4 to return to Region set mode).

 

Picture performance is very good; the contrast balance is about right, lifting the detail in darker scenes like the wormhole journey in Contact, and it accurately renders bright colours and fast movement, like the road crossing scene in Toy Story II. The stereo output has a clean focused sound that makes the most of Dolby Surround soundtracks.  

 

Verdict

A touch pricey maybe but a thoroughly likeable machine, well featured, capable of very acceptable results and with the added bonus of a 'loose' region lock.

 

Hitachi 0345 581455, www.hitachitv.com

 

Ratings

Overall              4

Picture Quality            5

Sound Quality            4

Features                       4

Ease of Use                  4

Build Quality                  4

Value for Money            3

 

Pros

Good picture and sound, loose region lock

 

Cons

A tad pricey

 

Rival Buys

Hitachi DV-PV305 £250

LG DVD-3200 £280

Sharp DV-720 £250

 

Quote

'Hitachi DVD players are always a pleasure to review, more so when like the DV-P515 the regional coding lock is so easily hackable'

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

HITACHI DV-P515

£                                  £250

VERDICT                      4

STATUS                       

COMMENTS    

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        N

OUTPUT                       Dig

COMPíNT VID            N

SCARTS                       2

ISSUE

 

 

 

TOSHIBA SD-210, £230

Toshiba has bravely resisted the temptation to join in the fray at the budget end of the DVD market, which has resulted in its entry models looking a tad expensive. It has finally relented and brought out two models that puts it in contention in this highly competitive sector. The SD-210, which we're looking at here, is the dearer of the two, costing  £220 (the other one is the SD-110 for £200), the only difference being the 220's ability to play MP3 tracks recorded on CD-R/RW discs.

 

However, the feature that will probably get this player (and the SD-110) noticed is a set of component video output sockets on the back. Component video is big in the US but it hasn't had much impact here because only a small handful of TVs (most of them made by Toshiba) have the necessary input sockets and processing circuitry. It certainly gives the best results when replaying NTSC discs, but since this is a Region 2 only player ('chipped' versions are available), and suitable TVs are thin on the ground we suspect most UK users will end up using the player's RGB or S-Video outputs, which gives the best results on PAL discs. 

 

Apart from that the 220's specification is in line with most of its rivals. It has a 4-stage zoom (actually three zoom and one 'shrink' setting), 4 picture search speeds and 2 forward only slomo modes. There's a useful picture control called Enhanced Picture Mode (EPM) with four settings: Light, Normal, Movie 1, Movie 2 and Animation; the two movie settings adjust brightness and colour levels whilst animation mode increases contrast. There's also a set of sound options called Enhanced Audio Mode (EAM) which is basically a switch for a pseudo surround option and a dialogue enhancer that helps to make the analogue sound a bit more interesting when the player is connected to a stereo TV. 

 

Toshiba has put a bit of effort in the casework, it's quite good looking and the remote handset has been tidied up Ė compared with previous models -- up but the biggest change has been to the on-screen display system which now uses a set of colourful icons and drop-down menus.

 

AV performance has never been in question on Toshiba players and if anything there's a small improvement on this model, thanks to the EPM options, particularly the Movie 2 setting, which gives good results on darker scenes, such as the closing chapters of Men in Black, when Edgar the alien attempts his escape. Can't knock the sound either, it's rich and detailed with plenty of punch and negligible background hiss.

 

Verdict

Worth considering for picture and sound quality, it's fair value too and the component video output might create some interest amongst serious home cinema fans.

 

Toshiba (01276) 62222, www.toshiba.co.uk

 

Ratings

Overall              4

Picture Quality            5

Sound Quality            4

Features                       3

Ease of Use                  4

Build Quality                  4

Value for Money            4

 

Pros

AV performance, slick on-screen displays and the price is very reasonable

 

Cons

Fiddly remote 

 

Rival Buys

Philips DVD-722 £230

Hitachi DV-PV305 £250

Samsung DVD-511 £230

 

Quote

'...the feature that will probably get this player noticed is a set of component video output sockets'

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

TOSHIBA SD-210

£                                  £230

VERDICT                      4

STATUS                       

COMMENTS            Toshiba makes its mark in the budget player market   

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        N

OUTPUT                       Dig

COMPíNT VID            Y

SCARTS                       1

ISSUE

 

 

 

 

---end---

R. Maybury 2001, 2505

 

 

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