Pros: Low price, good remote, plays PAL discs on NTSC TV, compact and light, component out
Cons: Too much contrast and color saturation, unstable CD playback, uses remote to turn off
I have bought the Craig DVD player for $15, shipping included. I did not expect much of it and was going to use it as a dedicated CD player over a digital connecting, letting my Panasonic SA-XR55 receiver do the PCM or DTS decoding. In this scenario, the quality of player's electronics matters little.
Once the player arrived, I was surprised. The remote control is very well designed and is much better than the one that came with my Philips DVP642 (which is complete garbage). Furthermore, the player can play NTSC and PAL DVDs on an NTSC TV. Meaning I can watch discs from Europe at home.
The player itself has a minimalist design. It is compact and light and has no Power button on the front panel that you could use to turn the player off. You can turn it on from the front panel and there is an ""Eject" button, but to turn it off you have to use the remote.
The plan to use it as a dedicated CD player (transport only) failed since during playback of CDs, the player develops what seems like tracking/error correction problems and there are loud clicks, even in store-bought CDs.
But the player proved very good at playing DVDs. No tracking problems there and its component video outs work rather well. There is no way to adjust contrast and color saturation (unlike my Philips DVP642) and the picture is slightly too contrasty with oversaturated colors.
Although it is by no means a replacement for a good Panasonic player, the Craig DVD player is a pretty good solution for a smaller TV.
The sound is good through the player's analog outs. I use its digital out and let my receiver do the decoding, in which case the sound (Dolby Digital or DTS) is excellent. Except for clicking in CD playback.
The disc loading times are average. The player is not noisy in operation and does not heat up much. The remote control does not have to be pointed at it directly either to make it work.
I used it with Dolby Digital and DTS and both worked well (my receiver did the decoding). The menus are easy to use and the onscreen display is much better than my more expensive Philips DVP642. You can actually see elapsed time and time remaining at a push of a button on the remote. Philips is just horrible in this aspect.
The remote has a logical button layout. The buttons feature good tactile response. The main buttons are easily memorized and can be used in dim light, even though the remote is not backlit. Secondary functions (subtitles, sound, language selection, numeric buttons, etc.) may require you to turn the light on.
The remote has power and eject buttons as well, so you can turn the player on and off without having to approach it. In fact, you cannot turn it off without the remote (strange).
The reaction to menu commands is very good and resume from stop mode is instantaneous. I am very impressed with this.
I have not tried any other formats aside from MPEG/AVI files and that did not work. I use my Philips DVP642 for MPEG/AVI/DivX playback.
I have played more than 10 PAL DVD discs from Europe and, despite poor disc quality and very high MPEG compression, they played well. The image quality was not top notch (due to high compression), but otherwise there were no problems.
The player has S-Video, component video and composite video outs as well as analog and digital coaxial audio outs. There is no optical digital audio out and I would not expect one at this price.
The fact that this player has a coaxial out and my Philips has an optical out lets me easily connect them to my receiver and still have an optical out available for other devices (e.g. TiVo or DirecTV box).
I use the player's component video out to connect it to my TV directly since my Philips has a faulty comoponent out and uses S-Video.
Although I have used it only occasionally, this player was in use for several months and work well so far. Just don't plan on using it as a CD player.
As an inexpensive DVD player with PAL playback on NTSC TV, the Craig DVD player is a good buy. Do not expect top notch video quality or stable CD playback though.