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REVIEW

 

PHILIPS DVD 728, £120 (typical street price)

 

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Doubtless there is a very good reason why the Philips DVD 728 doesnít have an S-Video output but for the moment it eludes us. The absence of this important facility might not sound like a major issue but it could prove a real turn-off for some users, unable to use RGB and unwilling to compromise on quality with composite video.

 

Itís a pity because that is about the only thing to spoil this otherwise excellent little player, which is one of the best entry-level models Philips has produced in quite a while. It begins with the very tidy slim line case with an elegant mirror finish front panel but itís the long list of genuinely useful extras that really catches the eye. The ability to play any kind of recordable DVD is a little unexpected on a Philips player but welcome nonetheless, and this flexibility extends to several other kinds of non-standard media on recordable CDs including MP3 audio tracks and JPEG images from a digital camera or scanner.

 

The 728 goes the extra mile with a facility to handle files stored in sub-folders, which not all players can cope with, and JPEG replay has a number of enhancements, like a preview function, which displays a screen full of thumbnail sized images for easy selection. You can also zoom or reduce the picture, choose between 15 different wipe patterns and rotate or flip pictures horizontally and vertically. If you also record some MP3 tunes on the disc you can play them at the same time to accompany your picture slideshow.

 

DVD playback options are unusually varied. Thereís a set of ĎSmartí picture and sound controls that let you select from three video presets (standard bright & soft) or manually adjustable brightness, contrast, hue and saturation. On the analogue audio front there are 7 equaliser presets (rock, pop, live, dance, techno, classic & soft) and 5 cheesy reverb settings (concert, living room, hall, arena & church), plus switchable dynamic range compression, for late night listening, and to round it all off there is a mute button. The only downside to the AV adjustments is that the picture freezes when the menu is accessed so it can be difficult to judge their effect.

 

A couple of other features worth mentioning are a PIN-protected disc lock, which lets concerned parents ban playback of specific discs Ė this is in addition to the normal parental lock -- and a resume feature, which remembers where you left off on the last five discs played in the machine. The 728 has a decent assortment of replay features with up to 32x forward and reverse picture search plus forward/reverse slomo and 6 zoom and picture size reduction modes.

 

About the only thing thatís missing is a hackable region lock, though since this player uses the normally pliable Mediatek 1379 decoder chip itís not beyond the realms of possibility that one will turn up.

 

The on-screen setup menu is a model of clarity and easy to navigate from the remote handset. The latter is a pleasure to use with clearly labelled keys and large, well-spaced buttons for the main transport functions, though for some reason it flouts convention and doesnít have a disc open/close function. 

 

Playback gremlins common to many low-end players are notable by their absence. The 728ís much touted 4 x Video Upsampling (54MHz/12-bit) feature appears to earn its keep and as well as the promised improvement in detail sharpness it may also contribute an unusually wide dynamic range. Gloomy movies like Se7en, Lord of the Rings and 28 Days Later are bursting with background texture. Colours are crisp and skin tones are natural looking moreover it is action-blockbuster friendly, tackling sudden or rapid changes in brightness and explosions without a murmur.

 

The 728ís sonic abilities match those of the picture and the analogue mixed stereo output is clean and largely untroubled by background noise, though it sounds best with all of the tweaks and toys switched off. Coupled to a competent Dolby Pro Logic AV amp it generates a lively soundfield, both from DVD soundtracks and audio CDs and thereís a choice of bit-perfect optical and coaxial digital audio outputs for onward connection to a 5.1 amp/processor.

 

VERDICT 30

The 728 is close to being a must-have player, our only reservations concern the missing S-Video socket and currently rigid region lock which may prove an inconvenience for some users.

 

 

KEY FEATURES

 

MP3 & JPEG playback

All recordable format replay

Smart Picture

Smart Sound

5-disc resume

Disc lock

 

Contact

Philips 0870 900 9070, www.philips.co.uk

 

 

FEATURES 4/5

It would have earned a top score but for the lack of an S-Video output

 

PERFORMANCE 5/5

Excellent, a class leader

 

EASE OF USE 4/5

Not bad at all, even the remote is a cut above the norm

 

VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5

Theyíre not exactly giving it away but all things considered not a bad deal

 

OVERALL 4/5

This could have been an outstanding machine but for the missing socket

 

CAPTION

The combination of a slim profile and trendy mirror finish means this is one very smart looking player

 

COMPLETE YOUR SYSTEM

 

Philips 28PW9857, HE110, £1000

Top performing 28-inch widescreen, and it keeps it in the family

 

Yamaha DVX-S100, HE110, £800

Top class 5.1 system and speakers, great sound and great styling

 

 

BOXOUT Ė MP3 and JPEG PLAYBACK

 

With the Philips 728 and a multimedia PC fitted with a CD Writer it is really easy to set up a slideshow of your digital photographs on your TV. If youíre using a Mac or a Windows PC simply Ďdrag and dropí your JPEG picture files on your hard disc onto a blank recordable CD, and slap the finished disc in the DVD player. Not only does it make it easier to share your pictures with others it also helps to preserve your photographs for posterity. Even DVD players without a JPEG replay facility can display digital stills. All you need is a readily available freeware utility like VCDeasy (www.vcdeasy.org), which formats your picture files as MPEG 1 data. This effectively turns your picture disc into a Video CD, which by a fortunate quirk of the market (VCD is still very popular in the Far East) most DVD players can replay.

 

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R. Maybury 2003, 0406

 

 

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