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Home DVD Players

The emergence of DVD recorders  on the consumer market has caused the prices of DVD players  to drop markedly. As the technology on most models is very good, it is now possible to purchase a decent machine for very little money.  While some viewers may be able to detect differences between models, many are generally not that pronounced.  This guide will introduce you to the different types of DVD players out there, as well as give the discerning customer a feel for what to look for as far as specs.

 

 

Single-Disc DVD Player 

  • Plays one DVD at a time.
  • Most basic model; usually costs less than £50 and you can spend as little as £20. Ideal for anyone on a budget or for people just looking for a temporary solution until upgrading to an HD system.
  • If you have a digital TV, look for players with progressive-scan for the best picture quality.

Multi-Disc DVD Player 

  • Comes in either five or six-disc capacity.
  • Easily doubles as a CD changer for parties.
  • Works well for movie marathons as well. (Anyone for Lord of the Rings?)
  • Costs quickly soar when you start adding on HD features.

DVD/VCR Combo Player 

  • If you're not rushing out to buy DVDs of movies you already own on VHS, a space-saving combo player might be a good choice for you.
  • Make sure the components of both players are what you need.
  • From £70 on, depending on the type of DVD player included in the system.

DVD Home Theatre System 

  • Why buy two units when you can buy one and get the benefits of both?
  • Get a surround sound home theatre system plus single-disc or multi-disc player for anywhere from £160 and up.
  • Note that wattage is usually lower on a combo system than on a proprietary AV receiver .

DVD Recorders 

  • For most people who like to watch and record DVDs, this is the best route to take.
  • The technology is current, but isn't ready to expire by next year.
  • You can enjoy watching DVDs and home movies or record your favourite shows or films with ease.
  • Cost varies from £75 to £300.
  • Most models are single-disc style.

DVD Mini Systems 

  • Compact, discreet, and streamlined, mini systems are a lot like an audio shelf system, except that they play DVDs as well as CDs.
  • The integrated speakers make this a great solution for small spaces or the fashion-conscious.
  • Price ranges from £189-£450.

Video Game Consoles 

  • Check out the Xbox 360  or the yet to be released Playstation 3  if you want the best of both worlds: the ability to play video games  and watch DVDs on one compact system.
  • The downfall is that these systems don't always accept all file formats and they could leave you hanging when you least expect it.
  • Cost is reasonable if you're a serious gamer: £280-£350.

DVD Player Specs -- What's Important, What's Not

After deciding on a layout for your player, you should also consider picture and sound quality, and formats. Besides those specifications, which are explained in detail below, always be certain that the model you are interested in seems user-friendly and intuitive enough for your needs. If it's not easy to use, you may miss out on some of the features you are paying for. Speaking of paying, do be sure to stick to your budget. There are many options available in all price ranges and there should be something on the market to fit your needs.

Top Manufacturers

Picture Quality

Most DVD players produce decent images -- that is if you don't have a large screen television (27 inches or larger). On a small screen you won't be able to see much of a difference between one DVD player's quality and the next. However, when you really want to get the best picture you can, opt for a model with progressive scan. If you own an HDTV , a DVD player with progressive scan  is the best option as any HD-ready device will pick up the slightest defects in a picture's quality most  often occurring from an interlaced scan.

Progressive scan and interlaced scan are terms commonly used when referring to DVD players ,camcorders ,computer monitors , and televisions . It defines the way in which the data is transmitted to the screen from the digital device. The difference between progressive and interlaced scan is that interlaced scan will produce and refresh an image at 30 lines per second, taking two passes to produce the line. However, progressive scan moves twice as fast and only requires one pass to produce the same line. What you get is a cleaner, crisper, steadier image.

Component video inputs are found on many of the newer TVs, especially LCDs ,plasmas , and anything that is HD-ready. When looking for a DVD player to step up to the plate, make sure that it has component video outputs to match. This will enhance the picture quality to its fullest. If component video outputs aren't available, the next step down are S-video outputs. While not as good at colour rendition, they will still be better than composite video outputs.

Sound Quality

How much does it matter? It doesn't if all you have in your living room is a TV  and a DVD player . However, as soon as you start to add on a home theatre system  or AV receiver  and speakers , you'll quickly notice the difference between a basic DVD player and one equipped for transmitting top-notch sound. Here are some features to look out for and what they can do to enhance your DVD experience.

  • Dolby Digital Decoding & DTS (Digital Theatre System) Decoding
    • Unnecessary if you plan to plug the DVD player directly into the TV, but a must-have if you are going to connect to your Dolby Digital receiver  or digital-ready receiver or preamplifier.
    • DTS is becoming quite common and it produces a warmer sound than Dolby Digital in a 5.1 format. Most if not all new DVD players come with this feature. It's a must-have if you want to be able to properly play DTS DVDs with your digital-ready or 5.1 ready receiver or home theatre system.
  • Virtual Surround Sound
    • Imitates surround sound from your two-speaker system by creating "phantom" speakers.
    • Not necessary if you already have real surround-sound set up, but a nice feature if you don't.
    • Available on many players.
  • Optical (Digital) and Coaxial (Analogue) Outputs
    • Digital is often the best choice as it will produce the clearest sound, however, some will argue that.
    • Look for both if you want the most flexibility between digital and analogue audio controls.

Disc Formats

Not all DVD players  can play all discs and choosing between one and the other will all depend on what formats you want the machine to play. All can play commercially produced DVDs and CDs, but some models may have trouble with other formats, including homemade DVDs and CDs. If you have no intention of using anything but your basic disk formats, you can opt for a lower cost, less comprehensive machine, which will still play most CDs and DVDs. Otherwise, you might want to look into one of the more costly machines can play almost all disk formats including:

  • DVD, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD-RAM
  • CD, CD-R/RW, SACD, HDCD
  • VCR, SVCD
  • MP3, WMA, JPEG
  • Blue-Ray

HDMI and DVI for HDTV

You'll see HDMI used often when talking about high definition DVD players as well as the term "upconverting DVD players ". This is becoming standard in DVD players, but your TV has to have an HDMI-input in order to use this kind of player as well. It is commonly available in HDTVs. Whether your choose DVI or HDMI, both systems have pretty similar results at the moment, but you'll see fewer and fewer DVI DVD players on the market as HDMI takes over.

  • DVI = Digital Visual Interface
    • Converts digital signals to analogue.
    • Only transfers digital video; audio is converted to analogue.
  • HDMI = High Definition Multimedia Interface
    • Digital video connectivity.
    • Transfers digital audio and video.

Related Guides

DVD Recorders

VCRs

Televisions

Portable DVD Players

Car DVD Players