DVD Buyers Guide
Within five years of being introduced in the late 1990s, the digital video disc replaced the video cassette as the most popular way to buy or rent prerecorded movies for viewing at home on your TV. With double the resolution, 5.1-channel digital audio, random access to any scene and no rewinding, the DVD came to dominate home video for a decade. As DVD-ROM usurped CD-ROM drives, the movies could be played in most desktop and notebook computers, too. The term DVD came to describe both the disc and the player.
What are DVD’s limitations?
It is not a high-definition format. The best you can expect is 480p, which though ample for a conventional TV, is not even close to exploiting the beauty of a Full HD TV (1920 x 1080) set.
If a Blu-ray component delivers a high-definition picture and I can use it to play my old DVDs and CDs, too, why get a new DVD player?
There are several reasons. You own a conventional TV and have no plans to replace it with an HDTV set. Second, you want a player that records. Writing to disc is a feature available on certain DVD models but not on Blu-ray players that are readily available in the U.S. (Writeable Blu-ray in a computer is more common.)
Third, you want a relatively inexpensive combo―LCD TV/DVD player or DVD/VCR. Or fourth, you want a portable disc player but perceive relatively little benefit in heightened image quality by getting one that can play Blu-rays on a very small, self-contained screen.
What do DVD recorders record?
Transferring a tape from an attached VCR or camcorder (or directly from an inserted cassette in the case of a combo model) can almost always be done using analog inputs (composite video or S-Video and stereo). To make a digital transfer from a digital camera or camcorder (including ones that use mini DV cassettes), you should find a DVD recorder with a compatible FireWire, USB input and/or SD card slot. If you’re using a high-def camcorder, a DVD recorder is an inferior technology for archiving footage since the resulting copy will mean lower quality.
Being able to record a TV show is problematic. For over-the-air recording, the DVD recorder would need an internal digital (ATSC) tuner or an attached digital-to-analog converter box and antenna. If you have a cable or satellite receiver and service, the receiver is the tuner, and you can use its analog outputs. Recordings will be made in standard definition, though at twice the resolution of a VCR.
What type of DVD player should I choose for outputting the best possible resolution to an HDTV set?
Your first choice should be a DVD player that can upscale the picture resolution through its HDMI output to the 720p or 1080p resolution native to your display. (The least expensive DVD players are unlikely to contain an HDMI output.)
Your second choice should be connecting the DVD player using its three component video outputs. Component video has the bandwidth to support a progressively-scanned video frame, which reduces motion artifacts associated with an interlaced scan. (Unlike HDMI, component video does not support audio, so you’ll also have to hook up a stereo or digital audio cable.)
The S-Video and composite video outputs on a DVD player are used for connecting the player to a conventional TV.
What is a DVD home theater system?
DVD home theater system is a complete system for upgrading a TV with DVD player, A/V receiver and 2.1- or 5.1-channel digital sound―including speakers and wires.
Should I choose a DVD player with multi-format capability?
If you plan to play discs created in a computer with content downloaded from the Internet or transferred from a standard-def camcorder, then the more formats the DVD player recognizes, the better. Every DVD player recognizes factory-pressed DVDs (MPEG-2) and CDs containing movies and music albums, and usually other disc types you burn yourself: DVD-R/W, DVD+R/W and CD-R/W. In terms of file formats, virtually all DVD players can be used to present a photo slideshow from JPEG files; some can play MP3and WMA music files and some can play alternative video formats like DiVX, WMV, or VCD (MPEG-1).
Are there other frills to identify in a DVD player?
Enhanced navigational tricks help you enjoy the movie even more. They may include multiple fast scan speeds (some with choppy sound), slow motion, A-B repeat for watching your choice of action segment continuously, bookmarking for returning to any point within a scene and zoom (particularly useful for showing a portion of a photo close-up). Some players contain a slot for showing photos from an SD card.
What are DVD portables?
Assuming you neither own or want to use a notebook computer with DVD drive, a dedicated DVD portable with its own screen and rechargeable battery is a simple way to watch movies without a TV or while traveling.
If you’re a frequent flier, get a model with long battery life. If you lean on the fast-forward button, get a model with smooth scan. If you plan to share the movie with someone else, spring for a model with a slightly larger screen (the difference between a 5- and 10-inch screen is significant, up close) and two earphone jacks. If passengers plan to use the player on the highway, get one with a car lighter (12-volt) power adapter. Some higher-end models include an SD card reader or USB port for playing photos, music and videos from digital media. If you plan to hook the portable up to a TV, make sure it has A/V outputs (not all do) and connecting cables. A handful of DVD portables offer A/V inputs, so the screen and speakers can be used as a monitor for another device. If you’re finicky about the remote, check to see if the player comes with a full-size or credit-card type. Some manufacturers have dispensed with the remote entirely, the assumption being that the viewer will be in arm’s length of buttons on the portable itself.
Are there players that let me load several hundred discs at once?
Yes. Called mega-changers, these bulky components let you control a music and movie library from the couch.
Who wants a DVD player compatible with discs released internationally or display technology used in other countries?
If you acquire discs released for foreign markets, they may not play on a Region 1-only DVD player manufactured for sale in the U.S. You’d want a multi-region DVD player. If you own a multi-system type TV or plan to take your DVD player overseas where a different type of TV system such as PAL is used, you may want to get a DVD player capable of having its output signal switched.
- DVD is not a high-definition format.
- If you’re attaching a DVD player to an HDTV set, choose one capable of up-converting the picture resolution through its HDMI output.
- When your TV doesn’t have an HDMI input but it does have component video, get a DVD player capable of outputting a progressive signal through its component video jacks.
- Beyond the compatibility of factory-stamped movies and CDs, check the list of formats supported by the player regarding computer-created discs and file formats.