The players are in position, and the pieces are now on the board. But this is not a chess game, and the stakes are even higher than in the richest of Grand Master tournaments. This is the beginning of another video-recorder format war, but unlike the VHS vs. Beta conflict of the late 1970s and early '80s, there are three competing formats.
A DVD player is already a terrific bargain - an inexpensive black box that can play discs full of razor-sharp images, immersive surround sound, and fascinating extras. But what if you could wed a DVD player with another popular entertainment device like, say, a TV, VCR, or game console? Well, it's already being done.
When progressive-scan DVD players first emerged almost two years ago, the already excellent picture quality we'd come to expect from standard players suddenly got a whole lot better. That's because the new models could convert video signals to a progressive-scan format for display on a TV or monitor with progressive-scan capabilities.
Less than a year after I reviewed Panasonic's DMR-E10 DVD-RAM recorder in the December 2000 issue, here I am reviewing a follow-up model that, as we've become accustomed in things electronic, has more useful features, equivalent or better performance, and a much smaller price tag - $1,500 instead of $4,000! The drop to a far more realistic price is tre mendous prog ress all by itself.
The DVD format advanced from a high concept to a hot commodity blindingly fast. Navigating the crowded aisles of their local video stores, DVD enthusiasts - who just yesterday felt like elite, high-tech trailblazers - today rub shoulders with increasingly large crowds of new converts. And as models of DVD players have multiplied in number, so have their features and capabilities.
Tell me if any of this sounds familiar: You want to buy a DVD-Video player to impress your friends with your techo-hipness (and besides, you're tired of watching fuzzy VHS rentals). You have a digital surround receiver, so the player doesn't need a Dolby Digital or DTS decoder.