As the most popular consumer electronics medium ever, DVD is really the only way to watch a movie at home. Whether it's on a 32-inch TV or in a state-of-the-art screening room, DVD offers an incredible viewing experience, with an impressive picture and multichannel digital surround sound. Integrating one into a home theater is relatively easy, and will offer huge sonic and visual benefits.
Zenith, maker of excellent video products for as long back as we can remember (recall "the quality goes in before the name goes on"?), has released their new DVD2381, a value-driven DVD player that will work in virtually any home theater. Based in the value section of their line, its long list of standard features will surely amaze.
Unique Features - The DVD2381 DVD player offers some excellent features. Most importantly, when it comes to video, it outputs a progressive-scan image, which, coupled with a TV with a progressive-scan input, will offer a much-improved video image. Not just a feature, progressive scan truly adds something special to the picture, resulting in a more film-like image. Also, the DVD2381 will play discs that are encoded in Dolby Digital or DTS, which is a nice feature for a player at this price (more on that later). Most discs available on the market offer a Dolby Digital soundtrack, but those movies or music discs (either DVD or CD) that offer DTS soundtracks can be played back as well, offering what many call an improved sonic experience. Also, as I just mentioned in a roundabout way, the DVD2381 doubles as a CD player (like all DVD players). However, this DVD player also plays CD-Recordable discs, as well as CD-RWs (rewritable). Another format that the DVD2381 can play is the popular MP3 format, that is mainly used on the internet. While MP3 recordings don't usually sound as rich and full as recordings that originated on CD, it is a nice feature to be offered by Zenith nonetheless.
The supplied remote works pretty well, and is reasonably well laid out. It fits nicely in the palm of the hand, and makes things easy when navigating through any given disc. A nice feature associated with the remote control is that the buttons light up in the dark, making it easier to find that "pause" button when the popcorn is finally ready.
Build quality of the Zenith is similar to most inexpensive VCRs, in that it's not super heavy duty, but it doesn't need to be. It has a plasticky feel to it, rather than a hefty component. Again, for the price, this is not all that important, and not unexpected.
Now, in case you didn't read ahead to the bottom of this review already, trying to see the price, I'll save you some trouble. This DVD player has entered the arena of VCR pricing! At only $159.95, this has to be the most feature-packed DVD player on the market for anywhere near this price. However, the review must continue.
Click to Page 2 for Installation, Evaluation, and the Final Take.
Setting up any DVD player can be confusing.
First, it's important to tell it what type of TV you have. This makes a
difference because if the DVD player thinks you have a widescreen, or
16X9 TV, then it will unqueeze anamorphic widescreen images off of a
DVD. If it thinks you have a conventional 4:3 TV, and you have a
widescreen TV, the picture will look weird. Nonetheless, it's important
to get this right in the setup menus of the DVD player. However, once
it's set, it doesn't need to be changed, unless the DVD player gets
unplugged from the wall for an extended period of time. Once the correct
settings have been selected (this should take only minutes, depending
on your system), you're good to go.
Connecting the DVD player to your A/V receiver 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 offer an excellent picture, and it's a lot better than
conventional composite cable.
A nice setup feature is that you don't necessarily need to use the
remote to set up this DVD player. Many of the setup controls are on the
front panel, which makes for a less frustrating setup experience if that
remote becomes lodged between seat cushions of your sofa.
Final Take - Video performance from the DVD2381 was impressive, to
say the least. Connected via the progressive scan outputs into my
reference TV, the picture quality was excellent. On various difficult
test DVDs, I found it did a nice job. On the recent Superbit reissue of
Desperado, a fairly tough DVD on most TVs and DVD players, there was
very little picture noise, and overall provided a pleasing picture,
especially for the Zenith's price point. Typically, you'd expect to get
similar performance out of a $700 player just a year ago. With this
player, you get the picture quality of a much more expensive DVD player
at the price of a VCR. Skin tones were clean and natural, without
looking reddish, as some DVD players do. Shadow detail was also natural,
without giving that digital haze you sometimes see on cheap TVs and
electronics. Zenith was somehow able to get around this, probably due to
the progressive scan output.
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 good as I did when
using the progressive scan output. However, with a 27- or 32-inch TV,
you'll be very pleased using the S-video connection.
As a CD player, the Zenith is in fact wanting. The analog audio
portion of this machine is weak (as is the case with most DVD players),
making for a fairly tinny CD player. However, at this price, I'd
recommend getting a separate standalone CD player for those needs. Use
this DVD player for what it was intended, and you'll be very happy.
As I alluded to earlier, working the controls of the Zenith was easy
enough, placing it in the middle of the pack (in my experience) on an
ergonomic playing field. My only negative feeling about the DVD2381 is
that it doesn't have as solid a feel as I would like. Of course, for the
money, it's clear that Zenith saved some money on the actual
construction of the unit, and once it's in your AV cabinet, you'll never
notice it. However, picking it up and even opening the DVD drawer to
insert a disc felt a little wobbly. Anyway, not a big deal, but I
wouldn't expect to have this DVD player in ten years the way you might
expect with a more expensive model.
All in all, The DVD2381 is an excellent player for the money,
offering a great picture and fairly easy ergonomics. If you're looking
for a good entry level DVD player, consider the Zenith DVD2381. It's got
all the features you'll probably ever want, and more than you may ever
Suggested Retail Price