Low Cost DVD Players
Low-cost DVD Players $75-$150; but not cheap!
This price range of DVD players goes anywhere from $75 to $150. Here you'll start to see more name brand electronics you recognize like Sony, Hitachi and Samsung. Slightly more advanced electronics and materials are used at this level, but there is usually vast room for improvement over this price range.
This slim Sony DVPNS50P/S is an entry level Sony DVD player at the bottom of their class. Most of Sony's video equipment offer great value at any price point. But in this class image and sound quality aren't going to be a full step up from the cheapies, although you may get some extra features.
Present in Sony's DVPNS50P is the progressive scan, digital audio outputs and component outs that you get in the cheaper models. With this unit you get a little more work in the 3:2 Pulldown features, video DACs are 12 bit 108 MHz with 192 kHz/24 bit audio DACs. The numbers are respectable but only tell half the story; the other half must be experienced. A tangible extra included on this Sony DVD player is the addition of DTS processing.
Samsung DVD-HD850 shows off even more processing power for a slightly higher price.
The Samsung is one of the new breed of DVD Players that include an HDMI output for a pure digital video connection to a compatible HDTV set. Unfortunately, this doesn't guarantee a better picture. When DVI first hit the market it was hailed as giving HDTV viewers an even better picture from their DVDs than component. This kind of talk has since subsided and DVI has given way to HDMI as the newest HDCP-compliant digital connection. The marketing surrounding Samsung's DVD-HD850 suggests that it will provide your HDTV with a high-def video signal from the humble DVD. Don't be confused, high-definition DVDs don't exist yet. If they do, they're called HD DVD or Blu-Ray and should hit the market in 2006.
The upconversion advertised with this model is a scaler that takes the 480P scan of the video signal and tries to upsample it to a high definition image. This is already done by most HDTVs sold today, as the TV has a native resolution it already upconverts everything to. This task isn't going to be improved by set-top box that costs $150. Don't put any stock in the high-definition upconversion DVD players out there. A decent set of DACs that provides clean decompression is all you need and is something that more expensive DVD players can do better than this one without promises of upconversion. Not that this DVD player is bad by any means. It has an HDMI output so they're selling it as the High Definition DVD Player, which is more of a marketing device than technical advice.
So, at the $75 to $150 price range you get slightly better DACs, more audio processing with the added DTS format and digital outputs in the form of HDMI. Brand name electronics are likely to be more reliable and longer lived than their no-name counterparts. Sony and Samsung have been making electronics for years and if they're using their own designs it's likely the manufacturers have more experience and know what works. Remember, there are no bad brand names to stay away from, there are only brands that specialize in different price points. Consumer electronics is so competitive that if a company was consistently putting out garbage gear for every price point they simply wouldn't last.
Next we'll look at moderately priced DVD Players in the $200 range.