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GROUP TEST

 

MULTI-REGION DVD PLAYER GROUP TEST

 

BOX COPY 1

If you’re in the market for a multi-region DVD player it might be an idea to start looking around now. We don’t want to alarm you but the days of cheap easily hackable and region-free decks could soon be coming to an end. Major manufacturers like Philips are already expressing concern over the flood of unlicensed players coming into the country and there are warnings for dealers and importers on its web site (www.licensing.philips.com/) concerning patent infringements and border detentions… 

 

For the moment, though, there is no shortage of players that can, one way or another, will play Region 1 discs from the US where as a rule movies are available two or three months before they’re released in the UK. There are plenty of Internet websites where they can be purchased, and in case you are wondering it’s all perfectly legal. However, a lot of people are still wary of buying a hackable or disabled player as many of them bear unfamiliar or strange sounding names. In general that’s not something you need to worry about, the important microchips, electronic components and deck mechanisms are usually made by well-known companies and unlike VHS tape, DVD technology offers comparatively little opportunity for manufacturers to cut corners and get it disastrously wrong.

 

Something else we have to get used to is buying DVD players from supermarkets, shops and outlets not normally associated with home entertainment products. Again it’s nothing to be concerned about and in our experience supermarkets usually have very fair returns policies when things go wrong, just don’t expect too much in the way of technical advice…

 

By and large hacking a DVD player is not difficult and in most cases there’s very little opportunity to screw it up. However, the hack codes on some players allow you to access so-called ‘Service Menus’ with options that could affect the player’s performance or even stop it working altogether. Follow the instructions and if you’re not sure get someone who knows their way around menus and handsets to do it for you, or get a player that is already enabled for all-region replay. Final word of warning; we cannot guarantee any of the hack codes printed here here. You tinker with your DVD player entirely at your own risk and we cannot take any responsibility if things go wrong. There’s also a chance that some codes may not work, this can be for a number of reasons, like not following the instructions, but don’t forget a ‘hackable’ region lock is an unadvertised feature and it’s not unknown for manufacturers to change a player’s firmware (the software that controls how a player works) during a player’s production run, without any warning whatsoever.  

 

 

 

ALBA DVD-513 £140

It’s a bit of a generalisation but budget DVD players tend to be made using thinner and therefore cheaper materials and are usually quite light whereas high-end models can be quite heavy as they use more substantial components and thicker gauge metalwork. The Alba DVD-513 is housed in a surprisingly chunky case and it has the feel of a high-end heavyweight but the £140 price ticket, short feature list and rather plain cosmetics gives the game away.

 

One notable extra you won’t see mentioned anywhere on the player, the instructions or the packaging is that the DVD-513 has been enabled for all region playback, no hacks or codes to worry about, just slap in an Region one disc and away it goes. The trick play options are a bit odd though, it has four forward and reverse picture search, indicated as percentages and a bizarre forward only slomo with no less than 11 speeds. There’s an on-board Dolby Digital decoder, one-shot zoom and a rather nifty on-screen display that shows the picture in a one-third sized sub-screen, alongside the various playback menu options. The remote handset’s quite good too, with big buttons for the main functions and the rest hidden away under a sliding flap, but that’s about as interesting as it gets, you don’t even get budget player regulars like 3D sound or MP3 replay.

 

At switch on the player’s plain intro screen unceremoniously orders you to ‘Insert a playable disc’, no snazzy backgrounds or screensavers here. Good news for recordable DVD wanabees, the 513 plays both DVD-R and DVD+RW discs without fuss. AV performance is a notch up on the budget norm; rapid movement is crisply rendered in bright scenes. The Beryllium Sphere sequence (chapter 10) in Galaxy Quest is a good example. It’s shot in a desert and despite the intense lighting colours still manage to look natural, even on our Region 1 test disc, which on some players can end up looking dull and flat. Contrast balance not too bad at all, it did a fair job with the fast, colourful and darkly lit Can-Can sequence in Moulin Rouge though some background detail and texture was swallowed up in the shadows.

 

The 5.1 channel decoder performs as expected producing a neutral and uncontroversial surround soundstage. Dolby Surround effects on the analogue mixed stereo output still have plenty of impact despite there being a shade more background noise than usual but there’s nothing wrong with the coaxial and optical digital outputs. Audio CD sound is typical of most budget DVD players, in other words largely inoffensive but not really up to serious hi-fi duties.

 

The 513 is a fairly bland machine and apart from all region playback, the marginally useful 5.1 decoder and a decent picture there’s really not much else to say, other than it’s unusually heavy.

 

Contact: Alba 020 8787 3111

 

TECH SPEC

All Region (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, Dolby Digital decoder, picture zoom, SCART cable supplied

 

AV out (1 x SCART), S-Video (mini DIN), composite video, mixed stereo, 5.1 channel and coaxial bitstream (phono), optical bitstream (TOSlink)

 

BOX COPY

In common with several other players in this group the DVD-513 doesn’t require any hack codes to play Region one discs as the region lock has been disabled. However, it’s worth pointing out that this is an unadvertised feature and you shouldn’t just take our word for it as things can and do change and manufacturers have been known to implement the lock on later production runs, or change the firmware making it impossible to unlock. If R1 replay is an important feature, check that it actually works, before you part with the plastic.

 

Overall              3

Picture Quality            4

Movie Sound                  4

Music Sound                 3

Build Quality            3

Features                       3

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

ALBA DVD-513

£                                  £140

VERDICT                      3

STATUS                       

COMMENTS            Fair AV performance but rather basic

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        Y

OUTPUT                       DD

COMP’NT VID            N

SCARTS                       1

ISSUE              103

 

 

 

 

BUSH DVD-2008, £200

You often see the word ‘Universal’ flash up in front of you when watching DVDs, though it’s a little unusual to see it before you’ve loaded a disc… The Bush DVD-2008 title screen proclaims it to be a Universal Player, which we suspect is a reference to the fact that it is factory set for all region replay. Indeed, the only reference you’ll find to regional coding is a tiny R2 logo on the back panel, otherwise it’s as if it didn’t exist, there’s certainly no mention of it anywhere in the instructions or on the packaging.

 

Otherwise the 2008 is an unremarkable entry-level player, housed in a compact and unobtrusive silver-grey box. The simple, no-frills theme is carried across to the features list. There are no headline-grabbers and even the basics, like multi-speed replay are a bit disappointing with a top speed of only x8 and forward only slomo. There’s a 2-stage picture zoom and a volume control and an unadvertised MP3 replay facility.

 

Whilst most users will have no need to go anywhere the setup menu, other than to set the display mode (4:3 pan & scan, 4:3 letterbox or 16:9) there are some oddly teccy sounding entries under the audio output and Dolby setup options. These include things like SPDIF/RAW and RF REMOD. It’s okay if you know what S/PDIF etc. means (Sony/Philips Digital Interface, aka coaxial and optical digital audio outputs) but without an explanation or glossary entry it only serves to confuse.

 

The S-Video output on our sample proved to be unreliable but there were no problems with the composite and RGB connections. Chapter 4 in Se7en -- the interior shots of the Gluttony murder -- provides one of the sternest tests of a player’s ability to handle dark and contrasty sequences. The 2008 has a fair crack at it but doesn’t quite make it and in several shots static backgrounds collapse into a heavily pixellated mush. The good news is that this is the 2008’s only serious shortcoming – as far as playback is concerned – and on lighter and more colourful material the image is crisp and well balanced. In brighter scenes there’s lots of fine detail – the crowd watching the Pod Race in Phantom Menace is a case in point, you can almost see their faces – and it has no problems rendering skin tones.  DVD+RW discs are not recognised but it has no problems with DVD-R recordings.

 

The analogue stereo output is lively with no more than average levels of background hiss so Dolby Surround effects sound pretty good. The coaxial digital bitstream output has no problems either, CD-Audio replay is comparable with most recent budget mini hi-fi systems and MP3 replay is fine for providing background sounds.

 

A competent enough performer and all-region replay, straight out of the box, is a bonus but it’s not a player to get your pulse racing.

 

Contact: Bush 020 8787 3111

 

TECH SPEC

All Region (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, MP3 replay picture zoom, volume control, SCART cable supplied

 

AV out (1 x SCART), S-Video (mini DIN), composite video, mixed stereo and coaxial bitstream (phono). Front: headphones (minijack)

 

 

BOX COPY

Enabled all-region playback might seem like an advantage – no fiddling around with hack codes or risking warranties by ‘chipping’ – but it does mean that some R1 discs may not play. The fly in the ointment are DVDs with Region Code Enhancement (RCE) coding, that prevents them playing on decks set for all region playback. The usual workaround is to set the player for R1 only playback but, as yet, that’s not possible on the 2008, until the hack for setting region code – if one exists -- becomes available.

 

Overall              3

Picture Quality            3

Movie Sound                  4

Music Sound                 3

Build Quality            3

Features                       3

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

BUSH DVD-2008

£                                  £200

VERDICT                      3

STATUS                       

COMMENTS            Competent budget model with enabled all region replay

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        N

OUTPUT                       Dig

COMP’NT VID            N

SCARTS                       1

ISSUE              103

 

 

 

GOODMANS GDVD131 £150, BADGE WINNER

If nothing else you’ve got to admire Goodman’s cheek… In case you should forget who makes it the GDVD131 has an illuminated Goodmans logo set into one of a pair of display windows; and don’t forget you’re paying for that facility! To be fair the 131 is quite reasonably priced, not just because it has a built-in Dolby Digital decoder but it’s also an unusually compact design and that very curvy case is really eye catching, very 50s retro...

 

Playback options are fairly routine, there’s picture search (both directions) up to x32 normal speed but it has forward only slomo. It can play MP3 files on a CD-R and it has a 2-stage picture zoom plus a volume control on the handset, which, by the way, is a bit pokey but it’s by no means the worst we’ve seen lately. The 131 is supplied as a Region 2 only machine but thanks to a bit of detective work we managed to uncover a simple hack (see Xtra Info), for changing or unlocking the region code.

 

The bright Goodmans logo is truly annoying and there really should be some way to switch it off but that’s really as bad as it gets. This is actually a very agreeable little machine, provided you don’t want to play any DVD+RW recordings because it wrongly identifies them as audio CDs and emits a loud hiss on the analogue channels. DVD-R recordings are okay though and they play perfectly well. Contrast balance is on the border and it just manages to avoid blocking on dark backgrounds. It’s a close run thing though and you can see it’s thinking about it in dimly lit sequences in movies like Se7en, especially when there’s little or no movement. Even so, the picture can still be quite gloomy and it’s really at its best with lighter material, like the Big Entrance (chapter 19) in Galaxy Quest, which has lots of movement and some very busy crowd scenes, all of which the player deftly handles. Bright and heavily saturated colours are generally clean and true to life though flesh tones and subtle shades can sometimes look a touch coarse. R2 playback on some titles has a very slight jerkiness to it when output in PAL; this disappears when the video output is set to NTSC.

 

The Dolby Digital decoder provides a rich and dynamic soundfield that’s as good as anything you’ll hear on any player costing this side of £300. Dolby Surround soundtracks also come out of it really well and whilst there is some background hiss it’s not enough to take the edge off the effects. When it comes to playing audio CDs there are no surprises with the of sound you’d expect from a budget or mid-range deck, which is fine for most users but you might want to make separate arrangements if you’re looking for serious hi-fi sound quality. MP3 replay is not too bad, given the format’s limitations and high levels of compression but taking into account the fact that you can pack up to 12 hours worth of sounds on a CD-R it’s a useful facility to have, for providing non-stop music at parties.

 

Apart from the light up logo and some relatively minor qualms about the remote handset the 131 is a terrific little machine. The styling and cosmetics are definitely going to get it noticed and whilst the AV performance isn’t going to set any new standards it’s still very good for a budget player and we suspect most users will be very happy with it.

 

Contact: Goodmans 023 9239 1100

 

TECH SPEC

All Region (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital decoder, multi-speed replay, MP3 replay picture zoom, volume control, SCART cable supplied

 

AV out (1 x SCART), S-Video (mini DIN), composite video, mixed stereo, 5.1 surround and coaxial bitstream (phono). Front: headphones (minijack)

 

BOX COPY

Being so new the unlock code on this machine proved to be a little elusive but we managed to track it down and the good news is that it is quite straightforward. Proceed as follows, with the player in Stop mode press Setup, Vol +, Vol -, Vol +, Vol-.  On the screen you should see ‘Ver 2’, press the left or right cursor keys to change it to ‘Ver 1’ to ‘Ver 6’ (for Regions 1 to 6) or ‘Ver 255’ for all region playback. To store the setting press Setup twice.

 

Overall              4

Picture Quality            4

Movie Sound                  4

Music Sound                 4

Build Quality            4

Features                       4

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

GOODMANS GDVD131         

£                                  £150

VERDICT                      4

STATUS                       

COMMENTS    

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        Y

OUTPUT                       DD

COMP’NT VID            N

SCARTS                       1

ISSUE              103

 

 

 

HAUS H-615L, £129

You would be forgiven for thinking that the H-615L costs a good deal more than the £129 being asked for it at jungle.com. It has the sleek good looks of a high-end player and Haus sounds like one of those snooty esoteric hi-fi brands. However, the feature line up is about right for a budget player, though it does have built-in Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 channel surround decoders.

 

There’s a basic selection of trick-play options (picture search has a top speed of x8 and forward only slomo), but it can play MP3 recordings and it has a one-step picture zoom with an inset sub-screen showing the whole picture, a 5-scene bookmark plus volume and mute controls on the remote handset. Speaking of which, it’s a smart design, buttons you use most often are well spaced and easy to find and the main transport and cursor keys glow in the dark. The region lock (factory set to R2) is easily switched to other regions or all-region replay.

 

The H-615 will play DVD-R recordings and it reads DVD+R discs but our sample locked up when selecting or skipping chapters. In fact it froze a couple of times when play ordinary discs, for no apparent reason, and it had to be switched off to get it going again, suggesting that the operating software could be buggy.

 

Picture quality was variable. The contrast range is a little on the narrow side and this showed up as distinct graduations in shading in dark scenes and around light areas. This also results in a reduction of detail and muddy colours, so a movie like Se7en ends up looking even murkier than usual. In brighter scenes the picture really perks up and even a small increase in light makes a big difference. Moulin Rouge, another movie that seem to have been shot mostly at night, bristles with vibrant colour and plenty of background detail.

 

The Dolby Digital and dts surround outputs produce a lively soundstage with cleanly separated effects but the analogue Dolby Surround channels are marred by the occasional pop and click and a little more background noise than usual. Audio CDs and MP3 replay is fairly inoffensive and in the same general ballpark as budget audio systems and components.

 

The H-615 starts out with a lot of promise, we really like the class design and the remote handset is one of the best we’ve seen on a budget player but the dark picture spoils an otherwise decent set of results and the suspect control system counts against it. Even so it is still good value and worth considering, particularly if you can make use of the Dolby Digital and dts surround decoders.

 

Contact: www.jungle.com

 

TECH SPEC

All Region (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, Dolby Digital & dts decoders, multi-speed replay, 5-scene bookmark, MP3 replay picture zoom, volume control

 

AV out (1 x SCART), S-Video (mini DIN), composite video, mixed stereo, 5.1 surround and coaxial bitstream (phono)

 

BOX COPY

To switch the H-615 it to a specific region, or all region replay there’s a simple handset hack, however, it is a little unusual in that there are no on-screen or front panel indications that it has worked. The player has to be in the all-stop mode, so press the Stop button twice to make sure, then enter the code ‘2317’ followed by the region number (1 to 6 or 0 for all region playback). To finish switch off the machine, wait a few seconds then turn it back on again.

 

Overall              4

Picture Quality            3

Movie Sound                  4

Music Sound                 3

Build Quality            4

Features                       4

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

HAUS H-615L

£                                  £129

VERDICT                      4

STATUS                       

COMMENTS            good value but only average picture performance

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        Y

OUTPUT                       DD

COMP’NT VID            N

SCARTS                       1

ISSUE              103

 

 

 

 

LECSON DVD-1000 £200

Billed as a ‘Budget Audiophile’ player the Lecson DVD-1000 has an impressive set of features, starting with an onboard Dolby Digital decoder and an unusually exotic array of video output options, more on those in a moment. It looks the part too with a solid aluminium front panel and neatly laid out controls. Inside the box there’s screening around critical components – very rare on budget players – and here’s something you don’t see every day, it comes packed in a fitted cotton bag.

 

The rather tacky looking remote handset lets the side down somewhat, it’s smothered in tiny buttons, frequently used transport functions are difficult to find and it took us a while to work out what the ‘Ack’ button was for (it’s short for ‘acknowledge’ or Enter…).

 

As well as composite, S-Video and RGB video connections there’s separate component video and progressive scan video outputs, though it’s worth pointing out they are both meant for replaying NTSC discs on a suitably equipped TV. There’s a modest assortment of convenience features, like a 3-stage picture zoom, MP3 replay, forward and reverse slomo and picture search, but only up to a rather meagre x8. The volume on the analogue output can be controlled from the handset, it has a front mounted headphone socket with it’s own level control and there’s good news for Region 1 fans, the region lock is easily hackable (see Xtra Info).

 

We had no luck playing recordable DVD formats. It didn’t recognise DVD+ RW recordings and our DVD-R test disc loaded but the machine froze and it had to be switched off and restarted to extract the disc. Picture performance turned out to be fairly ordinary, contrast balance was skewed in favour of lighter material resulting in over-dark shadows and some background pixellation, this shows up in Se7en, when the two detectives are searching a gloomy tenement. On the other hand exterior shots in Phantom Menace are lively and full of detail and it managed to keep up with rapid movement and sudden changes in brightness without any difficulty.

 

The audio side of things makes up for some of the lost ground. The Dolby Digital channels generate a big dynamic soundstage with tightly focused effects. The analogue stereo output has very little background noise and even MP3 recordings didn’t sound too bad but the real surprise is CD-Audio, which is getting into hi-fi territory.

 

Basically it’s a good machine with some interesting facilities that should appeal to R1afficianados who can make use of the component and progressive scan video outputs but it is let down slightly by lacklustre picture performance and a truly nasty remote.

 

Contact: Debenhams Stores, 0845 6005003

 

TECH SPEC

All Region (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, Dolby Digital decoder, MP3 replay picture zoom, volume control, SCART lead supplied

 

AV out (2 x SCART), S-Video (mini DIN), component video, composite video, RBY Progressive scan output, 5.1 channel, mixed stereo and coaxial bitstream (phono). Front: headphones (jack)

 

BOX COPY

Disabling the region lock on this machine is an absolute doddle. Step one is to open the disc drawer then press the following code on the remote handset: Intro, 20110, and the on screen display shows ‘Set OK’, close the disc drawer and its done. To set the player to a specific region – i.e. Region 1, to play RCE coded discs – simply change the last number of the code. For example, to set the player to Region 1 the code would be 20111, for Region 2 it’s 20112 and so on.

 

Overall              4

Picture Quality            3

Movie Sound                  4

Music Sound                 4

Build Quality            5

Features                       4

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

LECSON DVD 1000    

£                                  £200

VERDICT                      4

STATUS                       

COMMENTS            well featured but only average picture

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        Y

OUTPUT                       DD

COMP’NT VID            Y

SCARTS                       2

ISSUE              103

 

 

 

 

REOC A5 £140

If you do your weekly shopping at Tescos or Sainsbury’s you probably won’t have come across the Reoc brand but if you buy your spuds at Safeway you will almost certainly have had to weave your trolley around stacks of Reoc DVD players and TVs at the end of almost every aisle.

 

This is the second Reoc player we’ve seen the A3 was a useful budget model with an easily disabled region lock. The A5 is the ‘step up’ model, with an on-board Dolby Digital decoder and it can also be hacked to play discs from other regions but whereas on the A3 all you had to do was tap in a simple code, the A5 is a bit more complicated and involves creating a short text file on a PC and burning it onto a CD-ROM (see Xtra Info). It’s actually quite easy but if you don’t fancy doing it yourself you can buy a ready-made hack disc.

 

The slim case and control layout belie the low cost and on paper it looks like quite a good deal. The A5 has a fair selection of secondary features including a 2-stage picture zoom, 4-mode spatial sound, MP3 replay and a volume control on the remote. Trick replay is fairly basic though, with only x8 picture search but it does have three forward and reverse slomo speeds.

By the way, the handset is a bit of a pain with small and hard to identify buttons.

 

DVD-R discs play without any problems but we found DVD+RW recordings could be a touch erratic and occasionally froze or refused to play. We also had problems with the S-Video output, it looked awful on Region 2 discs, R1 recordings were a little better; hopefully this was confined to our sample. The composite video output was reasonably clean but the contrast balance could have been better and it tended to obscure detail and mutes colours in dark areas of the picture or shadows. Moulin Rouge looses some of its vibrancy and scenes like the Emergency Rehearsal (chapter 11) looks quite drab. It fares a little better with brighter sequences though this can reveal the odd processing artefact and there’s an occasional jerkiness in the picture when there’s a lot of movement on the screen.

 

Dolby Digital soundtracks emerge in good condition, there’s some low level hiss on the analogue stereo output but it’s well below the annoyance threshold; audio CD and MP3 replay is no worse than usual on a budget player.

 

Sadly the price and spec don’t quite make up for the very average picture performance and things like the awkward remote and fiddly region hack.

 

Contact: your local Safeway store

TECH SPEC

All Region (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, Dolby Digital decoder, 4-mode spatial sound, MP3 replay, 2-stage picture zoom,

 

AV out (1 x SCART), S-Video (mini DIN), composite video, mixed stereo and coaxial bitstream (phono)

 

BOX COPY

Full details of how to hack the A5 for all region replay can be found at: http://reoc.keyservice.co.uk/a5/home. Basically all you have to do is to create a small text file and ‘burn’ it onto a CD-R or CD-RW disc. Pop it into the player and a few seconds later the message ‘R0’ appears on the screen and it is done. Unfortunately the web site fails to supply instructions for returning the player to its factory condition, or how to switch to a specific region, to defeat RCE coding for example.

 

Overall              3

Picture Quality            3

Sound Quality            3

Features                       4

Ease of Use                  3

Build Quality            4

Value for Money            4

 

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

REOC A5

£                                  £140

VERDICT                      3

STATUS                       

COMMENTS            well specified but disappointing performance

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        Y

OUTPUT                       DD

COMP’NT VID            N

SCARTS                       1

ISSUE              103

 

 

 

 

SAMSUNG DVD-N505, £229 Badge Winner

Just as we’d started to worry that the DVD market player was in danger of becoming a shade predictable Samsung comes up with the DVD-N505. It’s a bit of a scattergun approach and the N505 is loaded with novelty features and unusual design touches but enough of them stick to make the exercise worthwhile. Nevertheless, even without the gimmicks it is still a very decent little machine.

 

The front panel is very bold, sharply angled and a complete contrast to the current trend for curvy fascias and cases. It’s not exactly pretty but it definitely stands out. The shiny chrome jog/shuttle dial on the right side of the front panel is another unusual feature and it’s duplicated on the remote handset, giving access to a good assortment of trick play functions (6 search speeds up to x128 and 3 slomo modes).  

 

Picture zooms have become an almost standard fitment on DVD players but the one on the N505 sets a new benchmark. It works both ways, shrinking the picture to 50% normal size and enlarging it to 15x magnification, but unlike any other zoom we’ve seen, this one allows you to change picture size in tiny increments by stabbing the +/- buttons on the remote handset. It’s totally pointless of course but great fun to play with.

 

Another somewhat questionable feature is NUON compatibility. NUON is an interactive feature available on some discs – so far only three – that allows access to things like menu customisation and picture controls but it really isn’t anything to get excited about, and recent news that the company behind the NUON brand has been sold, after getting into financial difficulty doesn’t inspire much confidence. A far more interesting facility is VLM or Virtual Light Machine. This is a colourful graphic display that fills the screen with patterns that dance around in tune with CD-Audio and MP3 tracks, a bit like the ‘Visualisations’ you get on some PC media players. There are five themes to choose from and it can be quite diverting, for few minutes anyway…

 

Rounding off the more notable feature the N505 also has 3D sound, a scene digest that creates a visual menu of what’s on the disc, there’s a Strobe display that breaks down a shot into a sequence of thumbnail stills, it has a 3-scene bookmark, a screen-fit mode that resizes the picture and the remote handset can control the main functions on a score or more different makes of TV.  

 

DVD-R and DVD+RW discs play without any problems, and it doesn’t do a bad job on commercial recordings either! Picture quality is excellent; colours are bright and natural looking across the board, even in dull or gloomy scenes. Fine details and backgrounds are crisply revealed and it has no problem capturing rapid movement. There’s no blurring whatsoever when Obi Wan wields his light sabre in Phantom Menace, laser fire and explosions have real substance.

 

Although the 505 has only format standard audio facilities they are put to good use. The coaxial and optical bitstream outputs are clinically clean and background hiss on the analogue stereo output is at a very low level. When heard through a decent AV system Dolby Surround effects have plenty of impact and sound more sharply focused. Audio CD and MP3 replay are the only thing about this machine that’s average, but even that can be livened up with the VLM light show.

 

Not all of the fancy features hit the mark, some of them are a waste of space but it doesn’t matter, the N505 is a simply great performer and even without the glitz it would be well worth short listing.

 

Contact: Samsung 0800 521652, www.samsungelectronics.co.uk/

 

TECH SPEC

Region 2 (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, 3D sound, picture zoom & macro, scene digest, 3-scene bookmark, strobe, screen fit. VLM graphic display, ‘NUON’ compatible, multi-brand TV remote,

 

AV out (1 x SCART), S-Video (mini DIN), composite video, mixed stereo and coaxial bitstream (phono), optical bitstream (TOSlink). Front headphones (jack)

 

BOX COPY

Until now we’ve managed to find hack codes for virtually all Samsung DVD players but the region lock on the N505 has proven to be a bit elusive. We are reasonably sure one exists but this is a new model and it had yet to be revealed at the time of going to press. None of the existing hacks for Samsung players worked, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Don’t give up and if and when a code emerges rest assured we’ll let you know…

 

Overall              4

Picture Quality            5

Movie Sound                  5

Music Sound                 3

Build Quality            4

Features                       4

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

SAMSUNG DVD-N505

£                                  £229

VERDICT                      5

STATUS                       

COMMENTS            innovative design, great AV, some interesting features

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        N

OUTPUT                       Dig

COMP’NT VID            N

SCARTS                       1

ISSUE              103

 

 

 

TRUVOX DVD-600, £100 BADGE WINNER

Buying British has never been an option on DVD players; even machines built in this country are assembled from parts made in other countries. That’s the way it is these days, and not just with DVD players, it’s all to do with internationalisation and the global marketplace. Seeing a player bearing the old Truvox brand, packed in a box plastered with Union flags came as a bit of a surprise therefore, so has there been a revival in the UK consumer electronics industry?

 

In fact the DVD-600, like most budget DVD players these days is made in the People’s Republic of China but, as the box explains, it was developed in the UK, which basically means specifying the general feature list and customising the front panel design. The DVD-600 doesn’t stray too far from the usual budget mix of features and that includes multi-speed replay (four search and slomo speeds), a picture zoom and 3D sound. There’s a volume control on the remote handset and the region lock is easily disabled (see Xtra Info).

 

In truth the only unusual things about the DVD-600 are the lack of MP3 replay and the set of component video outputs on the back panel. Component video is the preferred connection for watching NTSC material on a suitably equipped TV, but it’s a little unusual on a budget player since, almost by definition, those who buy budget DVD players are unlikely to also have the kind of high-end home cinema TVs or displays with component video inputs. However, there’s another more important reason why component video is not necessarily such a big deal on this machine, and we’ll come to that in a moment.

 

But first a few words about recordable DVD formats. Our sample had no difficulty with DVD-R discs and they played as normal. DVD+RW discs also loaded up and appeared to work, however playback was often quite jerky with frames dropping every so often and once or twice playback froze altogether. Going back to NTSC/R1 movies, a similar jerky effect marred replay of our R1 test discs and this was present in all modes (PAL & NTSC) and outputs, including component video. The jerkiness appears to be a processing problem, it’s not enough to stop you wanting to watch NTSC discs but it is enough to be annoying.

 

Another annoyance is the dreadful remote handset, it’s bad enough that all of the buttons are small and packed tightly together, but the weird layout of the chapter skip and picture search buttons defies explanation and why on earth are the slomo buttons plonked next to the volume up/down buttons, miles away from the rest of the transport keys?

 

Fortunately R2 playback is actually quite good and it avoids the most common problems associated with budget players, namely muddy colours and loss of detail in shadows and dark sequences. The opening shots of the Paris skyline in Moulin Rouge and the interior shots, such as ‘Like a Virgin’ (chapter 19) are full of fine texture and shades. Motion artefacts are nowhere to be seen on PAL recordings and it handles movement and rapid changes in brightness without difficulty, capturing all of the drama and excitement in the Pod Race in Phantom Menace.

 

Background noise levels on the analogue stereo output is well suppressed and the digital outputs are both squeaky clean. CD-Audio replay is a little bland but it’s no worse than most of its rivals.

 

Even taking into account the iffy remote and less than perfect NTSC play this is still a pretty good deal and if you’re on a very tight budget it’s definitely worth shortlisting.

 

Contact: Debenhams Stores, 0845 6005003

 

TECH SPEC

All Region (see text), PAL/NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, 3D sound, picture zoom, volume control, SCART cable supplied

 

AV out (1 x SCART), S-Video (mini DIN), composite video, component video, mixed stereo and coaxial bitstream (phono), optical bitstream (TOSlink)

 

BOX COPY

The DVD-600 can be easily switched to a specific region – to avoid problems playing back Region 1 discs with RCE coded protection for example – or to enable all region replay. To begin press Open/Close on the remote and set then enter the following code ‘8421’. The on screen display should now show ‘Region 2’, by repeatedly pressing the Enter button in the middle of the cursor keys the Region number can be stepped through 1 to 6 and ‘All’, for all-region replay. To store the setting press Open/Close once more and it’s ready.

 

Overall              4

Picture Quality            4

Movie Sound                  3

Music Sound                 3

Build Quality            4

Features                       4

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

TRUVOX DVD600           

£                                  £100

VERDICT                      4

STATUS                       

COMMENTS            very decent budget machine

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        N

OUTPUT                       Dig

COMP’NT VID            Y

SCARTS                       1

ISSUE              103

 

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2002, 2003

 

 

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