Zenith DVB216 Progressive-Scan DVD Player
Sure, a mirror reference was the obvious route to go with the intro. After all, how many DVD players do you know that sport a fully mirrored front panel? Still, I'll try to keep the analogies to a minimum.
In a sea of black boxes, the Zenith DVB216's appearance is a refreshing change of pace. So is its price. At well under $200, it's a member of the new breed of inexpensive progressive-scan DVD players. Hopefully its looks are a reflection (mmm, punny) of its performance.
With the power off, the DVB216 has an almost-unmarred mirrored front surface that's broken up by a silvery-gray stripe with chrome buttons. The tray is part of the silver stripe, so the only thing that detracts from the mirror are the logos that seem to propagate with each subsequent DVD-player generation. This player boasts Dolby Digital, DTS, CD, MP3, HDCD, 3D Surround Sound, Progressive Scan, and (last but not least) DVD-Video logos. Once you power up the player, it looks even cooler. What was once just a solid mirror now reveals a lit LCD panel that displays title and elapsed time from behind the silver surface. The display also has a spinning thing that I guess is supposed to represent a spinning disc. Above the nondescript chrome buttons glow electric blue labels for each. The only thing that mars this otherwise-beautiful fascia is the power-on light. It's a sickly lime color and has no place on a player this cool-looking.
The DVB216's back panel has the usual assortment of connections, including both optical and coaxial digital audio connections, plus regular old analog stereo. The single Y/Pb/Pr output is switchable between interlaced and progressive via the onscreen setup menu, but this is trickier than it sounds. If you have an interlaced TV and try to plug the DVD player into its component input, you won't see a picture because, out of the box, the player is set for progressive output. You'd think that all you have to do is temporarily hook up the player using the composite or S-video connection, turn off the progressive-scanning in the menu, and then go back to the interlaced component connection. No such luck. When the video-output switch on the Zenith's back panel is set to S-video, you can't access the part of the onscreen menu that lets you change the progressive setting. I never figured out how to get around this; so, if you haven't yet upgraded to a progressive TV, you may not be able to use the player's component outputs.
The remote Zenith packs with the DVB216 is great. For the first time in quite a while, the primary remote that comes with a product didn't make me cringe at its consumer-unfriendliness. The main transport buttons are right where your thumb rests. Above them are the disc-navigation buttons, which have a different shape. As for the secondary controls, the more-important ones are closer to the main controls, while the lesser-used ones are farther away. This remote is easy to use without looking at it, and, even better, all of the buttons glow in the dark with a cool blue/green color (aqua, if you will). There's even a shuttle control at the bottom.
First up, as usual, are test patterns. Using our reference Princeton AF3.0HD monitor, I hooked up the DVB216 using component and S-video cables. With the S-video signals and the resolution pattern on the Avia test disc, the player seemed to put out, at most, 450 lines of resolution. At higher resolutions, there was also a fair amount of beading between the lines. This is comparable to other players in this price range, including the Samsung DVD-P421 that I reviewed in the August 2002 issue. Compared with the Samsung's, the Zenith's progressive output has slightly less apparent resolution: just a tad over 450. Our Philips PM5662 Waveform monitor confirmed the difference between the players. It's really just splitting hairs, though. With normal video material, you probably won't notice a difference.