Pros: Price, build quality, nice front panel, features, DivX, PAL, output, 3-year full warranty
Cons: I wish it had USB, DVD-Audio and SACD playback
You can never have enough DVD players. OK, maybe it is an overstatement. But DVD players are so cheap and capable now, you almost have to have an excuse not to upgrade. So naturally, when I saw the Marantz DV4001 DVD player with HDMI, upconversion up to 1080i, DivX Ultra, PAL and SECAM playback, MP3, WMA, etc., all at an insanely low price of under $85 (shipping included), I had to get it. It does not have a USB port, but a high-end name like Marantz with all these features for this price is just too hard to resist. Oh, and it looks very nice too, with its stylish front panel and at 8.8 lbs, it is built like a tank.
I have used this player with my 50-inch 1080p Hitachi plasma TV along with the Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver. Since the XR57 has one HDMI input and can play DVD-Audio (including multi-channel) when passed over HDMI, I installed a passive HDMI switch between my DVD players and the receiver. I use this HDMI switch to switch between this Marantz, the Toshiba HD-A3 HD DVD player and the DVD-Audio/SACD Pioneer Elite DV-48AV DVD player. At some point I will sell one if not two of these, since I bought and am awaiting the arrival of the Sherwood BDP-5003 Blu-Ray player ($67, shipping included, price mistake, thank you very much).
Once the player arrived, I discovered that it is really a quality piece of equipment. Not only does it weigh 8.8 lbs, it has a great-looking aluminum front panel and even the RS-232C interface, D-Bus Remote (RC-5) in/out and a direct IR input.
It only has a coaxial digital audio out (no optical) though. The remote is substantial and even has buttons to control input and volume of the amplifier. I connected the player to my receiver (the aforementioned Panasonic SA-XR57) with both a coaxial cable and an HDMI cable. Yes, the coaxial cable is redundant. But why not? For those who want to use this player for playing CD and MP3/WMA media, the DAC section has impressive specs and surely will not disappoint. I go the direct digital route as the XR57 is a fully-digital (class-D) receiver/amp.
The Marantz DV4001 is a DVD player with upconversion to 480p, 720p or 1080i. It can play DivX (it is Ultra-certified), MP3 and WMA as well as display HD JPEG pictures. It will even play (and even upconvert) European PAL discs on an NTSC TV. Nice! It also plays Super VCD and VCD. And, of course, DVD-Video and CD (both in -R/+R/-RW/+RW).
Unfortunately, there is no DVD-Audio playback, SACD playback or USB port (otherwise, my Pioneer Elite would be replaced completely). The player has a coaxial digital audio out, HDMI out, component video out, S-Video and composite video out.
One more "bang for buck" variable to consider. The player comes with full 3-year parts and labor warranty. And you probably won't need it since this player feels built as a tank.
Once the player arrived, I immediately checked whether it could play European PAL discs on my non-PAL TV. It turned out it plays them and plays them well, without stuttering. It even upconverts them.
The player is medium-sized and is pretty heavy (8.8 lbs), which gives it a very solid feel. The front panel is absolutely beautiful, unlike so many recent DVD players. The front panel playback control buttons look stylish and have good tactile response. The disc tray is solid.
Again, the player is connected to my receiver and the receiver is connected to the TV using HDMI. The TV is Hitachi P50H401 50-inch plasma.
Most player's remote control even has buttons to control your amplifier. The buttons also glow in the dark for a while. The buttons have excellent tactile response. They do not require high effort yet have good positive feedback.
The buttons are located in reasonable order, but not as well as on the remote of my Pioneer Elite.
The 1080i output over HDMI is excellent: razor sharp and clear. It does not quite have the smallest detail of the HD DVD or Blu-Ray, but it is pretty close. And I saw definite improvement over passing 480p signal from my old Philips DVP642 over component out to my TV.
The in-player 1080i upconversion of the DV-48AV is very good. It is not perfect though. You can see the stairstep artifacts, especially obvious when watch "South Park" - the diagonal lines are not smooth but resemble steps. But what can we expect from a non-high-def source?
Since I have not expected it to rival an HD DVD disc in my Toshiba HD-A3, I am very happy with the image quality. I cannot tell which is better, the upconversion of my Pioneer Elite, or this Marantz. The upconversion of the Toshiba HD-A3 is marginally better than both though.
The sound during movies is excellent as well (using coaxial digital connection as well as HDMI to my Panasonic XR57 receiver). The player also passes sound over HDMI, which is convenient. The player plays most of my MPEG and AVI computer files flawlessly. The files can be burned on a CD-R/W disc just as a regular data CD with no VCD structure needed. I say most, because although it stutters on fewer files than my Philips did, it still has issues with some files, which it refuses to play completely.
DVD-Audio and SACD
I wish it played them, but it doesn't.
Unlike many other DVD players, which only have 90-day labor warranty, the standard Pioneer DVD players with 1-year warranty and Pioneer Elite's 2-year warranty for both parts and labor, this Marantz has full 3-year warranty for both parts and labor.
What I Like
Solid construction, beautiful front panel, connectivity and low price for feature set, PAL playback and conversion to NTSC, computer video file playback, 1080i, good upconversion. Excellent video and sound, responsiveness, 3-year warranty.
What I Dislike
No DVD-Audio or SACD playback, no USB. Otherwise I would have gotten rid of my Pioneer Elite.
If you don't need a USB port, DVD-Audio or Super Audio CD playback, this player is an amazing bargain and an excellent performer. I highly recommend it.