DVD player Buyer's Guide
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Since they first went on sale in 1997, DVD Players have largely replaced the video cassette recorder. The reason's simple. Even the cheapest DVD Players give better picture and sound quality and can process information more efficiently than a VCR. You will get a better home entertainment experience with a DVD Player.
A DVD looks like a CD but can hold both audio and video data. It does this in a compressed format (MPEG-2) that the DVD Player then decodes to turn into a video signal. The greater storage capacity of a DVD means that as well as the audio data you would get on a CD, you also get a full-length movie and extra data like subtitles, index information and special features on the one disc.
Choosing a DVD player Key features of DVD players Connections Related products
Choosing a DVD player
While DVD players may have been around for less than a decade, the rapid change in the market is similar to other electrical consumer goods. Features that existed on the most expensive models alone are now found almost across the range. Meanwhile, new technological improvements aimed at exploiting the capabilities of digital high-definition TVs are being introduced at the top end. To help you make the right choice of DVD player we have outlined what you can expect to find on basic, advanced and expert models.
Choose a basic player if you just want to rent or buy pre-recorded DVDs and play them back using a player and an existing analogue TV set. With any basic player, you'll get excellent picture quality, CD-quality sound and the ability to select scenes, see special features, and enjoy any added features included on the disc. And there will be no fading of picture or sound quality that repeated playing of a videotape is likely to produce. If you are not going to use the player as part of your sound system than a single disc player is cheaper and will take up less room. Basic players will have a remote control and will connect easily to your TV. They will also be able to read multiple formats including, among others, CD audio and MP3 files.
Choose a mid-range player if you want to use your DVD Player with an LCD, Plasma or Widescreen TV and your current sound system to take full advantage of the better sound quality. Advanced players will have more features like multi-disc play and more sophisticated connections to your TV and sound system that mean that you can use them as replacements for sound systems. These players are more likely to be able to handle DVDs recorded in other formats, too, so will be useful for playing material recorded by friends and family, for example, as well as commercial offerings.
Finally, choose an expert level player if you want to use the player as part of a complete system. For an enhanced viewing and listening experience that includes audio as well as video or if you think that you will be upgrading your television to high-definition technology this option is also for you. These players can be used as part of a home cinema set-up and can include progressive scan technology and component video connections to give extremely sharp and flicker free pictures. This will mean more equipment than just a player and a TV, notably speakers, but on the plus side you will experience a DVD as shoulf be experienced.
Key features of DVD Players
Assuming that the content is on the disc, basic DVD Players offer language choice, special effects, parental lock, programmability, digital audio output, support for multi-angle movies and the playing of audio CDs. The feature set increases with more expensive players. Simply put, the more you spend on a player, the more formats you will be able to play and the picture and sound quality will be better.
Multi-region players: Film studios, keen to protect release dates, price differentials and the amount of information given in certain markets, originally imposed a constraint on DVD Players by restricting which countries DVDs play in. All pre-recorded DVDs have one of six regional codes and region-locked DVD Players can only play DVDs from the same region. So, for example, a Region 1 player (USA and Canada) can only play Region 1 films. Multi-regional players can play DVDs from any region allowing for the widest choice of DVDs.
Zone Region converter
Zone 1 USA, Canada
Zone 2 Europe, South Africa, Japan, Middle East (including Egypt)
Zone 3 South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan
Zone 4 Australia, New Zealand, Latin America
Zone 5 Africa, India, Asia
Zone 6 China
DVD types: In addition to regional format variation, DVD formats can vary in other ways. Common formats are DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD Ram. Not all DVD players can handle all the formats - so it is worth checking before you buy which format it is that you will most likely use.
Multi-disc players: If you're going to use your DVD player and associated sound system to play your CDs think about a multi-disc player. Sometimes referred to as DVD Jukeboxes they can store multiple DVDs or CDs. 30 discs is a reasonably common limit.
DVD audio: Any DVD player will play CDs but some will play newer types of audio disc (DVD-Audio or SA-CD) which offer better sound quality than a standard CD. Only more expensive DVD players and hi-fi equipment are compatible with these discs.
Digital surround sound: Utilises the information on the DVD to provide sound quality almost equal to cinema sound. This is accomplished by converting the audio track into signals for each individual speaker - usually five speakers and one sub-woofer used for low frequency effect. Dolby Digital and DTS are two popular surround sound formats.
MP3 playback: Some DVD players, especially portable ones, can play MP3 digital music files and other audio files from inserted media.
VCD playback: A popular movie format in Asia, Video CDs or VCDs are cheaper and lower quality than DVDs. They are stored on standard CDs, which means they do not have room for extra features. Many DVD players also play VCD Playback movies.
Display photos: Certain DVD players can also display digital photographs on your TV. These must be stored on a compatible disc.
CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R and DVD-RW discs: Some DVD Players can play audio and video content created on your computer. This can be played from recordable CDs or DVDs on CD-R, CD+RW, DVD-R and DVD-RW discs. Not all DVD Players can perform this function.
Bookmarking: Bookmarks allow you to store favourite scenes or places in a disc. More expensive players allow you to store bookmarks for several discs and remember them even if the disc is removed.
Resume: If you are going to view your discs repeatedly, the ability to resume where you left off can save a lot of searching. Multi-disc resume means that the player will remember where to start on up to 30 discs.
The connections between your DVD player and your TV and stereo can make a huge difference to the quality of the sound and picture. These are the connections to think about.
Component video: DVDs are encoded in component video (VHS and laser discs are composite video). If you have a TV with component video input (likely to be a new TV of the high-definition digital kind), buy a DVD Player with component video output. Then connect the player and the TV with a three-wire component video cable. Before buying a player with component video output make sure you understand the subtle difference between component progressive and component interlaced (and that your choice is compatible with your TV). The former will give the best results.
S-video connection: This is the next best thing to component video and is an option on DVD Players that do not have component output and TVs that do not have component input. You may need a separate cable for this but the picture difference should be worth it.
SCART leads: A common form of connection used in the UK is the SCART lead. This handles both audio and video signals. SCART connections are common on DVD players and newer TVs. Gold plated SCART leads give a better connection. A SCART connection will give you a better picture than S-Video and is close to component standard. SCART cables are not usually included with players. Expect to pay around £25.
Analog RCA connections: Available on almost all DVD Players this connection, while not producing results quite as good as others, will give you better pictures than your old VCR and, importantly, will connect DVD players to older televisions that don't have SCART connections.
Audio connectors: DVD players, especially the more expensive models, can have many audio outputs. Outputs can include phono, digital coaxial and digital optical. If you are connecting to a separate hi-fi system this can be a very important feature.
Progressive scan: The newest buzzword is progressive scan in the DVD Player market and while more expensive players include it, it can't actually be used unless you have a digital TV. With it your picture can be refreshed 60 times per second which makes for a sharper, almost flicker free picture and is better than anything delivered by the alternative interlaced scanning method.
DVD recorders can be used with a digital TV to record your favourite programs and films as well as to watch pre-recorded items. Great picture and sound quality, but the recording facility makes them more expensive than players and they can also be harder to use than VCRs. The variety of recordable formats available can also add to the confusion.
DVD Home Cinema Systems:
To get the best audio experience the DVD home cinema concept is becoming more widespread. It uses surround sound and additional noise enhancements to put you at the centre of the entertainment. The choice is between buying an off-the shelf package or putting together a combination yourself of DVD player, amplifier/decoder and speakers, specifically tailored to suit you. The amplifier is sometimes contained in the sub-woofer.
Perhaps the ultimate in mobile entertainment, a portable DVD can be heavy on battery use but is ideal for a long journey where you need to while away the hours.
Add a DVD drive to your desktop PC or your laptop and you could be looking at the latest movies without the need for a TV at all.
Combining two technologies means that while you can watch the latest films on DVD you can also record using the video element of the combo. And you will still be able to view all those old tapes! (source: kelkoo website, 22/11/2008)