Avi Greengart is the Research Director for Consumer Devices at Current Analysis (Mobile Phones, Connected Devices, and Digital Home). He also regularly writes for Slashgear, sporadically blogs at Home Theater View and Tweets far too often as @greengartAvi's expertise lies in understanding consumer electronics marketing, consumer behavior, and technology adoption patterns: where new technologies meet the mass market. 

 

 

Avi Greengart is an expert on the convergence of technology and entertainment. Avi understands TV, video, audio, computing, and wireless, how all these are coming together, and which technologies are likely to survive long enough to make a difference in your life. In his weekly column, Avi answers your questions, does your product research, and provides free advice.

Column #13

DVD Players Revisited

Question: Just last night, a neighbor of mine was inspired by how low the costs were for DVD players, and he bought one on sale for just under 80 bucks. Now, obviously there are lots of things that a better DVD player can do better. But, to someone like me (who just wants to watch stuff), will they matter? Or should I buy an 80 dollar DVD Player?

AskAvi responds: (November, 2001)

My first column covered DVD player basics, but prices have fallen so quickly that itís worth revisiting. The two basic issues to consider havenít changed - what kind of TV you have, and how many discs should the player be able to hold. First, let's talk televisions: 

If you have a "regular" TV, any DVD player will work. The no-name loss leaders do not perform as well as models with better digital to analog circuitry, but on 27Ē televisions (or smaller), you are unlikely to notice much difference in the video. Even the connections may be up to par Ė nearly all players today ship with component video output (the best video connection), and a digital audio output (ideally, both a coaxial and optical Ė some receivers have one or the other). However, I still do not recommend going this route because ofÖ ergonomics. There are two things Iíve never seen done well on a no-name budget box Ė the menus, and the remote control. Since these impact how easy it is to use the player every single day, make sure whatever you buy has clear, intelligent menu layout, and a well designed remote control.

 

Iíve seen budget models from Philips, Panasonic, and RCA in the $120 range that meet these requirements, so I canít recommend the $99 loss leaders. In truth, the remote control is so important to how pleasant it is to use, that even spending a bit more ($150 or $180) for a Sony (many of their remotes are excellent) may be money well spent.

 

The other big feature youíll see touted on budget DVD players now is progressive-scan capability. If you do not have a TV capable of displaying a progressive image (typically, an HDTV-ready set) you will not get any benefit from that capability until you upgrade your TV. Unless you plan to upgrade your TV within the next six months, don't bother.

 

If you have an HDTV or "HDTV-ready" TV that can display progressive scan video, a progressive-scan DVD player will usually provide a more film-like picture than the internal scaler in your TV. The Sony D700P DVD player I recommended in August is still an excellent player and a solid value at around $280. And the Denon 2800 also remains a good choice with slightly better performance than the Sony (a slight further reduction in jagged edges in certain scenes) for a lot more money ($500-600). But the consumer electronic world moves quickly, and Panasonic has recently introduced the RP56, which contains arguably the best deinterlacing chip of all from Sage (Faroudja). The Panasonic sells for as low as $229, which I consider an unbelievable bargain.

 

All the players listed above have a single drawer that holds a single DVD. The other question you're faced with when buying a DVD player is whether you want a single disc player, a dual disc player (Toshiba sells a few of these), a carousel player (5 - 6 discs), or a mega-changer (300-400 discs). This boils down to personal preference vs. cost. While having two discs in the player is nice for 2 disc special edition DVDs, the real reason to buy a carousel is to double as an audio CD player. If you have the money and want to store all your CDs and DVDs in the player itself, get a DVD mega-changer - but keep in mind that switching from disc to disc can be slow, and setting up the changer to list the names of the discs can take an entire weekend.

 

If youíre looking for a DVD changer, one stands out from the rest. Kenwood has introduced an upscale line of components, Kenwood Sovereign, and their 400 DVD changer has several innovations. Thereís a link to their Internet console (sold separately), which can be connected to the changer and can automate the disc labeling process. There are three slots dedicated to rental discs, making it easy to swap and play those discs without disturbing the rest of your collection. The player can flip a disc over internally so you can play side B of double-sided discs. And itís a progressive scan changer, with one of the best deinterlacing chips available - the Sage/Faroudja chip.

 

One final note: the laser in DVD players is set to a different wavelength than CD players. While all DVD players can play CDs with no problem, it's possible that owning a dedicated CD player - or a DVD player that contains separate lasers for DVD and CD - may make an audible difference if everything else in your listening chain (room, speakers, amplifiers) is of sufficiently high quality. Personally, my single-laser DVD player does double duty as a CD player, and it sounds fine.

-avi

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© 2001, 2002 Avi Greengart