Pros: Excellent build quality, features, USB, up to 1080p over HDMI, DivX, MP3/WMA, performance
Cons: Not the cheapest, but worth every cent
After trying out the Philips DVP5982 and 5960, I got the Pioneer DV-400V. The Philips was less expensive, but it has usability shortcomings and some DivX files were stuttering on it. The Pioneer is not a silver bullet, but it is much better in some aspects.
I have had the original king of DivX, a.k.a. Philips DVP642 for a while and considering its impressive feature list (including PAL playback, DivX playback and progressive scan), I was relatively happy with it for $41 that I paid. I was not happy with it overall however, and would not have paid its original price (my unit was Philips-refurbished).
One of the issues I had with it was the fact that although it played most DivX videos, it stuttered on some others and showed terrible block noise on some others, making them unwatchable. That was in addition to it having fast scan speed of no higher than 8x and its resume functionality requiring you to push Play while it said Loadining. Miss Loading and you are stuck trying to find the point where you stopped watching last time. Exciting.
To improve on the above and to supplement my new 50-inch 1080p Hitachi plasma TV, I decided to get a DVD player that would further improve on DivX playback, have HDMI and upscaling to 1080p (or at least to 1080i) and, for the love of progress and file sharing, a USB port.
I tried newer Philips DVD players, namely Philips DVP5982 and Philips DVP5960 and, although they were both improvements on the DVP 642, they were not perfect. I got the Pioneer DV-400V in black color and I think I will keep it.
The Pioneer DV-400V is a DVD player with upconversion to 480p, 720p, 1080 I or 1080p. It can play DivX, Xvid and JPEG files, WMV, MP3 and WMA. You do not need to create a VCD disc structure, just copy the files to a CD-R/W disc or DVD and insert it into this player and it will play them. Same applies to the USB port that the player has: you can copy files onto a USB drive and the player will play them, albeit with some slight issues.
The player is available in black color as Pioneer DV-400V-K and in silver as Pioneer DV-400V-S.
The player supports slow and fast scan, even in DivX files. Even though the manual does not say anything about it, it will play (and even upconvert) European PAL discs on an NTSC TV. Nice!
It has a coaxial digital audio out, HDMI out, component video out, S-Video and composite video out. Unlike so many recent DVD players, it has buttons on the front panel to control its menus, SUB/DVD switching and playback and has a very intuitive remote control.
Once the player arrived, I realized that it might be missing one of the features I need once in a while: an ability to 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 not too lightweight, which gives it a solid feel. The front panel is not Spartan like so many recent DVD players. It has menu control buttons as well as playback control buttons, all of which look stylish and have good tactile response.
The display is bright and informative. The onscreen displays are excellent and are very well designed. I adjusted some settings and tried to watch a movie on my Hitachi P50H401 50-inch plasma TV over HDMI. For some reason, the image appeared stretched, with black bars above and below it. Only after I switched from Component to "Full Range RGB" in the HDMI menu did the image become normal.
I also had to switch the sharpness mode to "Soft" to get rid of oversharpening. The player also has adjustments for brightness/contrast and Gamma.
I was immediately impressed with how convenient and informative the menus and onscreen displays are. From colors to presentation, the menus are among the best I have seen.
For example, the onscreen display shows at the same time the total time of the current chapter, remaining time and running time. It also can show bitrate in real time, which is not always useful (DVD), but interesting nonetheless.
And another impressive asset in this player is how Resume functionality is implemented. In some DVD players you have to jump through the hoops to ensure the movie starts playing from where you left off last time. This Pioneer just does it seamlessly and it has resume functionality even in the MPEG or DivX files! Very convenient.
Most DVD players have remote controls you have to look at when using or struggle to remember the button locations. The DV400 has a remote control that is pretty close to perfection. The buttons have excellent tactile response. They do not require high effort yet have good positive feedback.
The buttons are located in intuitive order and the most frequently used buttons are larger than secondary ones. The remote is almost perfect. The only (small) issue is the location of the 0 on the numeric keypad, but I can get used to it.
The 1080p 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 1080p upconversion of the DV400 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 at this price point?
Since I have not expected it to rival an HD DVD disc in my new Toshiba HD-A3, I am very happy with the image quality.
The sound excellent as well (using coaxial digital connection to my Panasonic XR55 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.
The front USB port is a great feature and lets you use a USB drive or any similar device, provided it does not require much power. USB-powered hard drive will most likely not work. Still, it is a great feature as I can copy over a bunch of MP3 or WMA files onto a USB drive, plug it into the USB port of this player and play it through my receiver and speakers. Ditto the video files. The only issue is the player asks you if you want to play audio or video when the USB mode is turned on. So you have to use the onscreen menu to select that. But after that you can switch the TV off and just play your music.
The front panel display says GUI when you are using the menus or shows numbers if the GUI mode is off.
Unlike many other DVD players, which only have 90-day labor warranty, this Pioneer has 1-year warranty for both parts and labor.
No issues so far, after over a year of use.
What I Like
Relatively low price for feature set is a nice thing. Connectivity options, features, PAL playback and conversion to NTSC, computer video file playback, USB, 1080p. Very good build quality, excellent video and sound, great remote control, menus, responsiveness.
Still has issues with some DivX files.
Unlike the Philips DVP 5982 or 5960, the Pioneer DV400 excels in all areas. There is no need to sacrifice usability for DivX playback anymore. The DV400 is a very good upconverting DVD player with a USB port, DivX playback and even PAL playback on an NTSC TV. If you need to play PAL discs on an NTSC TV, play computer files and DivX, play media files from a USB drive and upconvert up to 1080p, the DV400 is an excellent choice. And it is an excellent choice for regular DVD playback as well. I highly recommend it.