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Wednesday 1 December 2004

DVD Player Face-Off [Spiny]

Having recently applied my decorating skillz to Spiny Towers(R), turning our dining room into a playroom for the kids, the plan was to bung the old telly in there with a budget DVD player.

Of late, here's been a bit of an explosion of big name DVD players supporting DivX. Not wanting something that would fall apart after 6 months, I was first interested in the new Sony players. However, the DivX forums revealed that they can only pump out DivX, not Xvid. Not a Good Thing(R). So I consulted endless mags & plumped for the WhatHifi product of the year, Toshiba SD340e. Eighty of your earth pounds from Amazon.

So far so good, but then our lounge DVD player died. A shame as it was very good. A Sony 735 with cracking dvd playback. However, as we all know, the march of technology is relentless. I was hardly surprised to find I could replace the Sony with a better performing model for around half the original price of the dead player.

The player I chose is a Pioneer 575A on the basis that I'd never seen less than a 5 star review & forums were full of happy customers, not bleating. (For bleating look to Dennon DVD player customers in the AV forums). Again, this plays DivX and Xvid with the addition of SACD & DVD-A should I want to run another 6 cables into my Amp. I picked one up from my local Sevenoaks when I had the chance. Not as cheap as on line, Richer sounds have them for £120 & I paid £140, but Pioneer are stuggling to meet demand for these players & the're rare as hens teeth.

So, how do they compare?...

Well, the reviews I've linked pretty well match my experience with the two players. The featherweight Tosh performing way beyond my expectations for the price & the Pioneer, just beeing damn good. But you want to know about more interesting stuff eh?

DVD-R Compatibility
The Pioneer beats the Tosh here. Using my Lite-On dvd writer the Tosh wouldn't accept DVD-Rs but would play +Rs happily. The Pioneer on the other hand, plays everything I've thrown at it. I've also been flexing the plastic on PC upgrades & bought a Pioneer DVR-108 burner to replace the Lite-On. DVD-/+Rs burnt with the Pioneer drive play happily in both. Navigation with discs bunt with the Pioneer seems faster than with Lite-On burnt discs too. Less errors I guess.

Again the Pioneer wins hands down. While the Tosh plays stuff fine, it's not too clever about aspect ratios. Playing an anamorphic ratio file stretches the picture rather than introducing horizontal black borders. You can bugger about with telling the tosh you have a 4:3 and then selecting widescreen on the telly to squash the picture a bit, but I didn't find an obvious remedy in the menus. The Pioneer on the oter hand, just works.

Bother players are obviously a lot quieter than Bill's Big Black Box. But the Pioneer is quieter than the Tosh's mechanism which can be heard when the volume is very quiet.

As far as I'm concerned the convenience of a networked Xbox is still king of the DivX players, but if you need better DVD playback & non networked DIvX compatibility you can't go wrong with the Pioneer DVD-757A.

Oh, and while you're at it, get a decent SCART lead. I upgraded to a QED P2110 & the difference was startling, a much "cleaner" picture than my old el-cheapo SCART.


  1. Currys are doing a region 2 DVD player for £19.99 right now - it's absolutely mad. Yes it looks like it only cost £19.99 but to be honest, it's perfect for just having another DVD player around in case stuff goes boom.
    I still have my SCAN DVD player that I bought somewhere in the region of 3 years ago now. Black, plastiky, but loaded with ports and plays absolutely everything - you name it, it'll play it. It might actually be Bargain Of The Century.

  2. DivX DVD Players are awesome

  3. One more thing : most stand alone DivX players (at least the ones from established hifi brands that I've heard about) have problems if your Xvids are encoded with packed bitstream. The symptom is jerky playback. Not very good, as this is the default with the Xvid encoder at the moment.
    You can pick up a utility from here to fix your files up though. Just open the file, select unpack & save it out. Only takes a couple of mins.
    Having watched more content I reckon the Xbox still provides a better quality decode.

  4. Argh this is terrible... I have just whacked £122 on my barclaycard for a Pioneer DV-575A... delivered.

  5. Well pretty much all the big name players have this issue & maybee it's something they can solve with a firmware update. It's pretty easy & quick to fix the files with Moitah's utility too. If you haven't got a networked Xbox I reckon the 575 is pretty much the best player you can get at the moment. It's fantastic with DVD-Video too. I mean really *really* good.
    Don't forget though, if you buy anything over the phone or t'internet you are covered by the UK distance selling regulations. Let them know in writing within 7 days and you're entitled to a full refund, except shipping costs.
    I'd keep the player if I were you tho. It's a cracker.

  6. Wasn't complaining... just it's EED's fault that I am spending money I don't have! {GRIN} not complaining though - some sound advice and ideas found here!

  7. For bargain Divx (not xvid) the Philips DVP630 is worth a gander for £50 Philips.For living room action the Panasonic S97 is looking peerless at the moment. Unbeatable have it for £199, list price £299.'s got the lot, except pezzy Divx but y'know, it's a proper playah.

  8. One to look out for, WMV HD playback"Besides being able to play regular DVDs, the Z500 also supports playback of WMV HD, DivX, XviD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and QuickTime MPEG-4 video files, and has built-in 802.11g WiFi so you can stream audio and video files over your home wireless network. Better still, it even has a USB 2.0 port if you want to play files stored on an external hard drive. Should be out early next year."