DVD In The Fast Lane Page 2

As expected, the video output options were limited to composite- and S-video. Naturally, I used the S-video connection to get the best available image. It was only after I configured the DVD 800's settings via its goofy, cartoonish onscreen menus (more echoes of Fisher-Price) and finally got around to watching some DVDs that I started to warm up to the Oritron again. Though short on features and ergonomic refinements, it worked just like any other average DVD player. There are four fast-search speeds in both directions, and the two slower speeds provided reasonably smooth images. The player's manual lists a zoom function, but I wasn't able to make it work. In addition to DVD-Video discs and CDs, the Oritron was able to play a rewritable CD-RW and a write-once DVD-R made on a Macintosh computer's DVD drive, but it failed to read a write-once CD-R disc.

For such an inexpensive player, the Oritron had acceptable audio and video performance. With every disc I watched, it provided consistently clean images and passed the Dolby Digital soundtrack to my receiver without a glitch. In a surreal scene from The Avengers (1998) - a board meeting where everyone is dressed in brightly colored teddy bear costumes - the player rendered the garish hues without any color noise or bleeding. I was also impressed by the detail in the furry textures.

The only significant anomaly I encountered came when I viewed static test signals from the Ovation Software Avia setup DVD. Eyeballing the sharpness test pattern, I noted both picture jitter and bleed-through above and below the vertical edges of the pattern's graphics. Fortunately, these problems didn't materialize with the movies I watched, even in graphics-heavy title and credit sequences.

Oritron's DVD 800 is a fully functional DVD player that doesn't sell for much more than an average VCR. At this price you'd expect a manufacturer to cut corners, and you can find evidence of that in almost every aspect of the DVD 800. But when you come right down to it, a DVD-Video player's primary function is to play movies, which is exactly what the DVD 800 does - and surprisingly well, too.

DIMENSIONS 17 1/4 inches wide, 2 3/4 inches high, 101/2 inches deep
WEIGHT 5 3/4 pounds
PRICE $250

JVC of America, Dept. S&V, 1700 Valley Rd., Wayne, NJ 07470; www.jvc.com; 800-526-5308

With a champagne-gold finish and a sleek display window extending over most of its front panel, JVC's XV-S45GD looks like a much pricier DVD player. So I was surprised to learn that it's the entry model in JVC's DVD lineup and lists for only $250. Also contributing to the player's streamlined appearance is a bare minimum of buttons occupying its front panel. Controls include buttons for play, pause, stop, scan, and skip.

The S45GD's full complement of A/V outputs includes component video and both optical and coaxial digital audio jacks. Its solidly built remote control is comfortable to hold, with large, clearly labeled buttons. The keypad is neither backlit nor glow-in-the-dark, but there's enough differentiation in button shape and spacing to let you operate the player in a dimly lit room.