It's 107 degrees outside my southwest desert home and my wife and I are considering going out on the town for the evening. For us, as with many married couples, going out on the town is a bit of a misnomer since we usually go out to dinner and see a movie. However, it's not a very pleasant experience driving from place to place in such high heat. Those 107 degrees take their toll on you; suppressing your appetite and by the time you cool down in the theater, the movie is half over.
That's why the option of staying home for dinner and watching a DVD that we just received in the mail from Netflix seems so inviting. Air-conditioned comfort is a dream when coupled with home theater surround sound and all the popcorn my microwave can churn out.
Of course, there's one obstacle to overcome. How do I tell my two boys they have to stop watching one of their favourite movies, Shrek? We have but one DVD player and it's in the living room attached to all my high-end gear. If I had a second DVD unit for the kids, I wouldn't have to interrupt Shrek's daring quest to rescue Princess Fiona from the dragon.
Unique Features - Thankfully, as a contributing writer for DVD ETC., I have a back-up plan in store. I have a new Toshiba SD-2800 DVD player that retails for $199.99 sitting idle in a box ready to review. With DVD players selling at a record pace, this budget DVD player is well suited for both an entry level consumer or for those, like me, looking to supplement their existing player. Since I wanted to relocate my kids to another room, I didn't want to spend a great deal of time learning how to set up a complicated DVD player. Fortunately, for me, I found the Toshiba easy to install right out of the box. It's a no nonsense player with a shallow design and a minimalist front control panel. Even so, the Toshiba player is packed with plenty of punch for beginners to enjoy. Playback consists of
Audio CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD, DVD-RAM and Video CD plus it has CD text compatibility. Producers of CDs can place text content on a disc such as a title and the unit will display the information either on the front panel or via the on-screen display. This can be helpful for identifying a title or track during playback. A dialogue enhancer is also built into the system to aid in boosting dialogue tracks that are often too soft relative to the music or special effect audio tracks. I discovered how helpful this can be while watching action scenes with loud explosions and muttered speech. Perhaps this may end the question, "What did he just say?" and the art of the quick rewind.
First time DVD buyers will like the intuitive on-screen menu usually reserved for more expensive players. I was able to navigate through most of the on-screen features in record time without referring to the owner's manual. Each function is given a distinctive picture icon such as a video camera image for the angle setting option or a speaker for audio settings. The remote control has most of the advanced features listed with separate buttons allowing for one-touch operation. My older DVD player annoys me when I am forced to traverse through endless menus searching for tools that I use often. Sometimes I concede to defeat rather than search for the right menu containing the command I'm looking for. It was refreshing to just pick up the Toshiba remote control and successfully explore the features of the SD-2800.
Click to Page 2 for Installation, Evaluation, and the Final Take.
Installation/Setup - Adding the Toshiba to a stand-alone television
or integrating it into a complete home theatre is accomplished much like
any other DVD player. Video outputs include S-Video, composite and
component. A 10-bit 27MHZ video digital-to-analog conversion with a
high-resolution filter improves resolution and color purity. I noted
playback to be both warm and bright without degrading detail. This may
not have been as important to my sons watching Shrek and the
loud-mouthed Donkey entering the Kingdom of Duloc, but more mature
viewers will enjoy the picture quality in a wider variety of movies.
The SD-2800 will complement a home theater system when connected to a
Dolby Digital & DTS compatible receiver. However, for those not
ready to upgrade to true surround sound, Toshiba utilizes an audio
transfer technology called Spatializer N-2-2 to produce a multi-channel
virtual surround sound experience from only two speakers. The result is a
larger listening area with wrap around special effects without
sacrificing center channel dialogue. This may be one of the greatest
features for consumers looking to build a home theater one component at a
time. Sound quality through two speakers cannot rival the depth,
accurate localization or realism as a 5.1 channel Dolby AC-3 home
theater, but Toshiba's Spatializer technology helps close the gap when
paired with a set of quality speakers. Another benefit to setting up a
two-channel theater system versus a 5.1 system is simplicity. A novice
will not be overwhelmed by proper speaker positioning or room
characteristics with two speakers any more than a veteran home theater
aficionado setting up five speakers and a subwoofer.
Final Take - Despite its intended target market being entry-level
buyers, the Toshiba SD-2800 is loaded with features. Add to this the low
price, and the cost to value ratio increases. I was skeptical of
performance issues with an inexpensive unit, but Toshiba has found a way
to offer some of the same qualities found on their more expensive
products. I especially like the on-screen icon based menu. This feature
not only saves time setting the system up for optimal playback, but it
will keep you from cracking open the manual before each use. That's
vital when your wife is tired of waiting to see a movie and suggests you
consult the manual. Not many technically savvy husbands want to eat
humble pie and turn to a manual for help.
The dialogue enhancer helps boost low-level speech and the
Spatializer virtual surround sound technology is great for two-speaker
playback. The conveniences incorporated in the SD-2800 are plenty.
Certainly high-end DVD players and changers offer better overall video,
sound and playback features, but at a price many consumers aren't
willing to pay. That's where the Toshiba SD-2800 shines with quality and
affordability merged into a single package. For my wife and I, we have
now found a great supplemental player for our household that solves our
problem of watching two movies at once. Perhaps the biggest benefactor
will be our children when movie night approaches and the temperature
heats up outside.
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