While reading through current 2003 DVD statistics, I was fascinated to learn some figures about the hottest selling consumer electronic product ever produced. For instance, there are more than 250 DVD player models on the market, representing more than 60 brands. DVD playback devices are predicted to be in fifty percent of U.S. homes by the middle of 2003 and may reach ninety percent by 2010. That's twice as fast as it took VCRs to penetrate the market.
Currently, over 95 million households in America have at least one DVD playback device, including set-top players, DVD-ROM drives and DVD-capable game machines. Additionally, over 10 million U.S. homes have more than one DVD player. Many factors have driven DVD players to record sales. Some of these factors include the availability of inexpensive discs to buy or rent, a wide variety of players and recorders on the market, and a tremendous coalition of companies working to standardize a format to help elevate retail sales. The buzz across the country is how DVD picture and sound quality are superior to VHS tapes and public praise of special features included as bonus material on DVDs.
Unique Features - For people looking to get their feet wet in the DVD trade with an inexpensive first player or for families yearning to supplement an existing DVD unit, Panasonic offers a full line of cost effective, feature rich models. Of these solidly performing entry-level players, the Panasonic DVD-RV32 has been launched as the top dog in this budget-friendly class. With a suggested retail price just over a hundred dollars, I was able to find the DVD-RV32 at electronics stores
for under a C-note. What comes packaged in a player that costs less than two tickets to Disneyland? Plenty, I'm happy to report.
The video quality is enhanced with a Cinema playback mode for video equalization. When changed from normal to cinema mode, shadow detail is enhanced in dark scenes. Audio output is improved with Advanced Virtual Surround Sound (AVSS), Bass Plus connectivity and a dialogue enhancer. The AVSS system will play a virtual surround sound field through two stereo speakers when a 5.1 system isn't available. This function is a welcome addition on a player that may very well be added to a home theater in the midst of an upgrade or whose primary role will be to play DVDs and CDs in a spare room. To increase bass output without using a 5.1 channel surround receiver and speaker system, an RCA connection is provided for an active subwoofer. When the Bass Plus is turned on, bass output is increased to a factory preset natural bass effect or an emphasized bass effect. The dialogue enhancer feature boosts the center channel of 5.1 Dolby Digital encoded DVDs so conversations will not be drowned out by the rest of the soundtrack.
Since DVD rental discs are not usually well taken care of, a disc stabilizer system is included to minister to the playback of slightly warped discs. Add to this a quick 8-second replay, smooth slow motion and fast scan and 4:3 picture zoom capabilities and you'll see the beauty of the DVD-RV32.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - The DVD-RV32 is available in either a traditional black case or a more modern silver finish case. Both units have a shallow design good for a compact application such as in a motorhome or a dorm room. On the right side of the front panel are the customary play, pause, stop and search buttons along with repeat, random and quick replay buttons. Also included is a shuttle dial for fast scan searches, both forward and reverse. The high speed scanning can search a disc at up to 200 times the normal speed. A nice touch is the spring loading of the circular knob that returns the dial to its neutral position when you let go to resume the normal speed. The left third of the player has what Panasonic refers to as A-B-C-D buttons. These buttons activate the Advanced Virtual Surround Sound, Bass Plus, Cinema playback and Dialogue Enhancer. Inclusion of these buttons on the player keeps users from searching the remote control to turn them on or off.
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The Panasonic DVD-RV32 is simple to set up and easy to use. After
connecting the component, S-video or composite video output to a
monitor and connecting audio outputs to either a surround sound
receiver or television monitor, a quick setup screen appears the first
time the unit is turned on. It's here where selection of the
appropriate language and aspect ratio are made. Three aspect ratios are
supported; 16:9, 4:3 pan and scan and 4:3 letterbox. Additional graphic
menus can be chosen to adjust video and audio settings.
First, I connected the component video outputs to a Mitsubishi
WS-65611 rear projection HDTV and the Toslink optical digital audio
output to a NAD receiver for 5.1 surround sound. The DVD-RV32 sent
audio information to a set of Mirage Omnisat speakers and a Canton AS
Final Take - Testing an entry level DVD player is usually mundane at
best. The quality of video playback is less than satisfactory when
compared to high-end players and recorders. To see just how well
Panasonic's DVD-RV32 would perform, I rifled through some tried and
true reference material. Viewing Star Wars Episode I and Gladiator, I
noticed warm colors, rich skin tones and shadow detail superior to
other inexpensive players. I observed occasional down-conversion
artifacts and slight aliasing in some movie scenes, such as in Phantom
Menace around Darth Maul's dual-edged light saber and around Yoda when
he is seated. Overall, however, the color was rich, accurate and well
saturated across the spectrum and edges that appear jagged on many
other players were much smoother on the Panasonic.
While playing Toy Story, I did not detect chroma noise and ruled out
the chroma up-sampling error bug on the DVD-RV32. Sometime in the
future this annoying bug that makes red and blue color rich scenes
appear to flicker and have jagged edges will be exterminated. Until
that time, it's nice to see companies like Panasonic make strides to
eliminate this irritating error on even their most basic players.
Multi-channel Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks were quite good. I
found the audio performance as clear and enjoyable to listen to as
similarly built players. Decoding the Windows Media Audio (WMA) file
format is an added bonus not found in most entry-level players.
The remote control is an average size with plenty of buttons to
control the DVD-RV32. The buttons are well placed, but so small and
tightly arranged that large hands will undoubtedly have difficulty
pressing one button instead of two. The labeling of the buttons also
leaves something to be desired. Lettering is so small
and gray that finding the appropriate button is tough even in a
brightly lit room. When the lights are low, you might as well forget
Nevertheless, the impression the DVD-RV32 left me with was positive.
This unit is in a field of very competitive inexpensive DVD players,
but performs well and has some useful features. Positive points I found
are the spring-loaded rotary shuttle dial, smooth scan modes, good
graphical menus and good video playback free of the chroma bug.
Negative points were limited to one of the worst remote controls I've
seen and the lack of a coaxial digital output and headphone jack.
However, the DVD-RV32 should definitely be considered if you're in the
market for economical entertainment.
Panasonic DVD-RV32 DVD Player
DVD-Video, DVD-R, CD, CD-R/RW, VCD
192kHz/24-bit audio D/A converter
Component video, S-video and digital
Optical Dolby Digital & DTS output
"Bass Plus" subwoofer audio output
16.9" W x 2.9" H x 9.75" D
1-year parts, 90 days labor warranty
Suggested Retail Price