Samsung DVD-P721M DVD Player Reviewed

Samsung DVD-P721M DVD Player Reviewed

One of the early DVD players to break the price barrier of a couple hundred dollars this early inexpensive model offered limited features and build quality but got you into DVD for a song

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Much like the computer industry, pricing for DVD players has come down to affordable levels for great performance. Players with features that cost $1,500 two years ago can now be found for a fraction of that cost. In fact, the trend these days is not what type of DVD player to buy, but what player should you get that is under $200?

Additional Resources
• Read more Denon DVD-Audio and SACD player reviews here.
• Read audiophile source component reviews here including SACD and DVD-Audio players, turntables, DACs, CD transports and more.

There is such a selection of DVD players out there right now, with all the features most people need, and they are priced to sell. It took, comparatively, much longer for VHS decks to come down to this level of pricing, but since DVD has permeated the marketplace to such a wide extent, it only makes sense that we see players so affordable so quickly.

Samsung's latest entry into this market is their DVD-P721M. It offers so much bang for the buck that on the surface many of us may wonder why more expensive players even exist? We'll get to that later, but in the meantime, let's look at what the Samsung DVD player offers, and why it exists.

Unique Features - The DVD-P721M DVD player offers some excellent features. Most importantly, it outputs a progressive-scan image, which, coupled with a TV with a progressive-scan input, will offer a much-improved video image. Since many TVs do not have this feature (except many newer high definition TVs), it may be a moot point for many consumers, but it surely is better to have the option in your DVD player than not. Especially for those of you considering upgrading your TV to high definition set at some point. A fairly common feature for DVD players that is also found in Samsung's DVD-P721M is the ability to play discs that are encoded in Dolby Digital or DTS--a nice feature for a player in this price range. With this flexible output, it allows the player to pass the signal to you're A/V receiver or surround sound processor, rather than actually decoding the signal, as some more expensive players do. I personally prefer my processing to take place in my processor or receiver (rather than the player), keeping the price down on the player, too.

Additionally, this DVD player also plays CD-R (recordable) discs, as well as CD-RW (rewritable) discs. Another format that the DVD-P721M can play is the popular MP3 format, mainly used to download music from the Internet. While MP3 recordings don't usually sound as rich and full as recordings that originated on CD (because they are compressed sonically), it is a nice feature to be offered by Samsung nonetheless. A revolutionary feature that I really thought was innovative was the inclusion of a Memory Stick port that allows the user to play back images stored on the popular format from a digital camera, or play back MP3 audio that has been stored on a Memory Stick. This is a real bonus if you want to show some family photos on your big screen or listen to music using this portable format.

There are two supplied remotes that come with the DVD-P721M. One is the full-featured remote that many will use most of the time, while the other is a smaller version meant for quick, daily control, rather than the exhaustive controls that one might need when using the Memory Stick feature or other more complicated maneuvers. Both remotes work pretty well, and they are both reasonably well laid out. The larger remote fits nicely in the palm of the hand, and makes things easy when navigating through a disc. Build quality of the Samsung is pretty slick, with a really cool front fascia. It features a silver-metallic look that is very striking. It's not the most heavy-duty, but it doesn't need to be.

Installation/Setup//Ease of Use - Setting up the Samsung was fairly straightforward. The menus are easy to read, and pretty straightforward. There are really nice graphics used in the menus, and this makes the setup process an easy experience.

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Connecting the DVD player to your A/V receiver or processor is a cinch; just use a digital optical or coaxial cable for your audio, and connect your video preferably through the component video outputs on the back of the DVD player into your component video input on the back of your TV. If you don't have such an input on the back of your TV, take the next best option, and connect your DVD player to your TV via an S-Video cable. This will provide an excellent picture--above and beyond that of using a conventional composite cable.

Final Take - Video performance from the DVD-P721M was impressive, to say the least. Connected via the progressive scan outputs into my reference Panasonic 37" HDTV plasma, the picture quality was excellent. On various difficult test DVDs, I found it did a pretty nice job. It didn't quite possess the sharpness and detail of my reference Pioneer Elite DVD player (which costs substantially more than this player), but I did not expect that it would and the picture looked great--even better than I would have thought at this price point. On the Mach II DVD edition of Super Speedway, a fairly tough DVD on most TVs and DVD players, there were minor amounts of picture noise, but, overall, the DVD-P721M provided a pleasing picture.
Typically, you'd expect to get similar performance out of a $600 player just a year
ago. Skin tones were clean and natural, without looking too reddish, as they can with some DVD players. When I hooked up the DVD player using the conventional S-Video connection, I found the picture to be very pleasing as well. It also produced a good quality picture, but not nearly as clean or good as when I used the progressive scan output. However, with a 27" or 32" TV, you're sure to be very pleased using the S-Video connection.

I questioned earlier why more expensive players exist. The Samsung (and other players in this price category) show us why. As an introductory player, the DVD-P721M supplies just enough of what you'd need, plus a little more: progressive scan being a big plus, and a Memory Stick port. It also produces a clean image. While the Samsung offers plentiful features and good performance, it doesn't provide superior performance like that found with premium players--and it's really not meant to. SO, if you're looking for DVD-Audio and/or SACD playback, in a top-of-the line unit, be prepared to pay for it. Especially with larger screen sizes, you'll want to spend the extra dollars on a DVD player to meet your needs. However, when using a 27" to, say, even a 60" TV, with progressive scan capability, the DVD-P721M is a great player for the price. If you're in the market for a new DVD player for a second room, like a den or bedroom, this machine is one to consider. If you are looking to compliment your big-screen and home theater around it, look at higher-performance units.

Suggested Retail Price

$219


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