DVD Bargains Page 4

And then there are recordable DVDs: the write-once DVD-R format and the three incompatible rewritable formats, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW. If you have a DVD burner connected to your computer and are transferring home movies to disc, check the player's compatibility carefully, and make sure it plays the disc formats (and data capacities) your burner is recording. Speaking of computer stuff, there are some DVD-Video players and recorders that even offer connectors like RS-232 ports for external control and operating-system upgrades.

Finally, before I take down your credit card number, let's touch on player perks. Personally, I like remotes with some kind of jog wheel or shuttle control - a knob that lets you quickly scan through tracks or chapters on a disc without having to punch a lot of buttons. It's also a good way to cruise to the spot in the movie where Cameron Diaz shakes her . . . uh, well, never mind. Some players have jog wheels on the front panel, and that's okay, but they're best located on the remote itself.

Here's another convenience: backlighting on the remote. Who wants to break the mood in the movie room by turning on the lights so you can find the pause button? Universal remotes are also favored by many folks. They can make life a lot easier, if you take the time to program them. And they can allow you to consolidate that coffee table full of remotes into one master controller. More important, make sure the button layout is logical and operating the remote feels right, with buttons falling comfortably under your fingers.

More usefully, you might pick a player with video adjustments like an enhanced black-level setting (although most TVs supply almost all of what you need), virtual surround sound if you have a two-speaker setup (but nothing beats the real thing), and zoom (for checking to see whether any of the extras in The Patriot are wearing wristwatches).

Here's the bottom line: if you've been waiting to buy a DVD-Video player, or want a second one for your bedroom, you can wait forever, or you can realize that prices have dropped enormously and there are terrific players with the most important features to be had for $500 or much less. Now, let's have that credit card! Hey, you need some software? I've got Gladiator, I've got The Fast and the Furious. You need Windows XP Professional?