I never did consider buying a DVD player until my parents decided to come visit me in the U.S. from Singapore - they intended to stay a month or two and i figured I needed to get some great inhouse entertainment. My dad also had a bunch of VCDs (video CDs - which never really caught on in the U.S. but is THE preferred media in Asia) which he wanted to watch.
The three principal criteria when I went looking for such a machine was:
1. I needed a DVD player
2. I needed a VCD player
3. It had to be reasonably priced
I fulfilled all three with the Toshiba SD-1200 with excellent results. Foremost, the picture was extremely sharp and focused. MAKE NO MISTAKE: This is an entry - level machine, albeit a very good one. As you've probably read in other reviews on this machine, it replaces an older model Toshiba SD2109 and actually improves on it by adding VCD capability, DTS-compatible output (has to do with surround sound system - breaks up sound into 6 separate channels), Dolby Digital 5.1 output, Component Video (gives you best connection between the TV and DVD). This is a loaded entry-level system! What follows in this review is breakdown of the machine in point form.
What I like about watching DVD in general and the Toshiba SD-1200 in particular:
1. DVD is a format that is truly versatile. Not only can you watch movies, you can listen to music tracks independent of the movie. The disc has so much storage space, the producers of the movie/concert can add a myriad of additional clips, additional songs, interviews - things that you cannot find on other formats like Video, Laserdiscs. Case in point: Sarah Mclachlan's Live Mirrorball DVD had 9 extra songs not featured on the concert CD.
2. The Toshiba unit is very light and easy to move around; it also has a small build and you won't have any trouble fitting it in standard VCR slots. Moreover, if you simply want to place it on top of your TV, you don't have to worry about creating any dents. Amazingly light for what the machine offers.
3. The controls are very straightforward, and the manual tells you all you need to know about operating the unit. Especially useful for New Users such as myself.
4. Excellent Picture Quality. Combined with my sony wega TV, it puts on an extremely silky feel to the screen. I cannot honestly tell you that I can recommend a Toshiba over a Panasonic/Sony/Samsung etc but I can say that if you are looking for your first DVD player, this unit will not disappoint. Btw, you can get this product at Mercata.com for about $159. This is cheaper than any high-end 4-head stereo hifi VCR but delivers at least twice the picture. *Mercata is a bulk-buying site like Mobshop.com but currently they have an offer that offers new buyers about 20% of the bulkbuy price (currently, as we speak about $195). Leave a message in response to this review and I can answer any questions about the deal.
Here are a few caveats when considering buying this product:
1. It supports DTS (digital theatre system) sound ouput: You need a separate Decoder and a surround sound speaker system to take advantage of it - the more expensive and professional DVD players will include the decoder (they only cost about $500 :(). In addition, the DVD disc must also indicate that it is DTS compatible. It is unfortunate that I don't have the time or money to look into getting a true surround system - one of the best aspects of having DVD is having the option of bringing the movie to life through superior sound (not unlike what you find at the Theatre).
2. Expect to use at least two remotes. Your el-cheapo universal remote may not be able to handle this DVD player, and the remote that comes with this machine is specific to the DVD player. I personally have no qualms about this, I utterly dislike those Walmart type Universal Remotes - of course if someone bought me that $300 digital remote that you can program to handle anything under the sun....that would be sweet.:)
3. If you have a TV of the 1980s and early 1990s, I highly recommend you get a new television with at least S-video inputs. A good DVD works requires a good TV. Reminds me of this army infantry addage: You're only as fast as your slowest soldier. Applied in this instance, the picture coming out of the DVD will only be as good as the screen you're watching it on. I CAN'T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH. For this purpose, I got the Sony WeGA 27" Trinitron, Flatscreen TV. To say the least, they work well in tadem.
I hope this review makes it a little easier to jump in to get your first DVD player. please leave a comment if you need me to clarify any details.
*Needed to add that you can get very cheap DVDs from www.columbiahouse.com; about 6 DVDs for an average price of $9. I've started an extensive collection at minimal expense. Full details if you are interested and ask.
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