Progressive Views: 4 Progressive-Scan DVD Players Page 4

Sony DVP-NS700P

DIMENSIONS 17 inches wide, 3 inches high, 10 1/8 inches deep WEIGHT 6 pounds PRICE $349 MANUFACTURER Sony Consumer Electronics, Dept. S&V, 1 Sony Dr., Park Ridge, NJ 07656;; 800-222-7669

Like a campsite-crawling bear pursuing a Snickers bar, I was immediately sucked in by the shiny silvery case of the Sony DVP-NS700P ($349). But good looks aside, what intrigued me most about this player was how much you can do from its front panel. In addition to the basic transport buttons, there are controls for navigating menus and scanning discs at various speeds via a shuttle ring. You won't need most of these controls most of the time, but if you happen to misplace the remote, you'll be glad they're there.

The Sony's back panel has more than the average number of outputs, including two A/V sets with both composite- and S-video connections. A three-position switch is used to set the single component-video output to interlaced-scan, progressive-scan, or "selectable" mode, which lets you choose either format from the onscreen setup menu. Like JVC, Sony gets a big thumbs up for supplying a set of component-video cables.

Sony's remote control is styled like the company's other handsets - blocky, black, and festooned with big buttons. I was pleased to find that some of the buttons glow in the dark. The remote doesn't have a shuttle ring like the one on the front panel, but there is a new and very cool control, Instant Replay, that backs a scene up a few seconds. This should come in particularly handy when you're trying to catch the dialogue in British movies with characters who have heavy Cockney or Scottish accents. The remote can also control a few basic functions of your TV.

The Sony player's fantastically detailed onscreen menu/display system provides graphic displays of soundtrack format, bit-rate transfer, and current DVD layer. You can call up a menu to select three different levels of video noise reduction with a single remote click. There are also Video Equalizer and Enhancer menus, which let you adjust picture controls and edge enhancement, respectively.

Like every other Sony DVD player I've used, the NS700P provided extremely smooth playback in both directions in its 2x mode. The Sony also did a great job of delivering smooth, seamless images in progressive-scan playback. In a scene from For the Love of the Game where Kevin Costner faces off against a nemesis, for example, the rows of bleacher seats looked solid even as the camera panned across them. Contrast and color were also excellent, with deep, vibrant, and richly rendered images.

One problem that cropped up in For the Love of the Game, however, was a small amount of combing primarily visible on solid patches of bright, intense color, especially bright oranges and reds. Whenever the action cut to an object like the catcher's orange chest protector or the bright red graphics of the signs lining the outfield walls, I could see a colored line "floating" above the object's edge. I noted the same effect on Yellow Submarine. I've seen this glitch on many other, more expensive progressive-scan players, but on the Sony the problem seemed less pronounced.

The Sony NS700P's wealth of features, above-average video performance, and low price combine to make it a worthy option when you're shopping for a progressive-scan DVD player. Indeed, its only drawback is that progressive-mode video artifact I described above. Even so, the player was such a pleasure to use that its benefits easily outweighed this minor flaw.