Sony DVP-CX850D 200-Disc DVD/CD Changer
Among DVD's grand promises are not just CD-quality sound and 500-line picture resolution but the ability to finally store all your movies in one small, tidy box. Such is the accomplishment of the Sony DVP-CX850D 200-disc DVD/CD changer. Imagine being able to hold 200 movies within a 7.5- by 17- by 19-inch package. The equivalent stack of VHS tapes makes for a 16-foot skyscraper that's neither practical nor elegant. For the average suburban home-movie enthusiast, the ability to store a complete studio of movie (and music) software in a rack-mountable changer goes a long way toward promoting marital (or cohabitant) bliss...or at least a defendable détente. If you're a big-time collector and have more than 200 disc titles, the DVP-CX850D can be daisy-chained to another appropriately equipped changer. Priced at $899, the DVP-CX850D is lavished with so many technical features that filtering it down to a 1,200-word review is an exercise in minimalism, but here goes.
Besides being a classic-looking, gloss-black device complete with a built-in Dolby Digital decoder and a DTS-stream output, the unit boasts an impressive resume of technical specs, including a 24-bit/ 96-kilohertz audio digital-to-analog converter and a 10-bit video DAC. The unit's back panel is elegant in its simplicity, yet it covers the complete menu of current A/V options. It offers two-channel left and right outputs, 5.1-channel outputs, two S-video outputs, a pair of composite audio and video outputs, a component video out, digital audio outs (optical and coaxial), Mega Control (for connection to other properly equipped changers), and Sony's S-Link (for control through an S-Link-equipped TV). Located on the front panel is a computer-keyboard input to make inputting disc descriptions quicker.
While the A/V processing is designed to produce excellent picture and sound reproduction, this player's coup d'état is found in its disc-management system. Scrolling through 200 discs could be a living nightmare ripe to send you screaming back to the simplicity of a single-disc player; however, with the DVP-CX850D's disc-management system, it becomes child's play. Its DVD-/CD-text display system (with compatible discs) is just the start. It also offers disc-jacket display capabilities for software that's compatible, such as the Ghostbusters DVD. If you want a more-personal disc-identification system (or to label discs that don't have preimbedded text labels), the DVP-CX850D offers that, as well. You can assign any text title to a disc (through either a PC keyboard or the remote control) and then categorize the discs using the unit's selection of category descriptions, including action, classics, comedy, drama, horror, nonfeature, sci-fi, thriller, and western; for CDs, you have the option of classical, country, jazz/R&B, pop, rock, and "others."
When it comes to testing consumer electronics equipment, the acid test for me is rather simple: A) Can I operate the component without looking at the manual? B) How does it measure up to similar products in its class? The basic setup and operation of this player is as straightforward as its Sony cousins, which is to say that it's quite intuitive. When it came to labeling all the discs and putting them into their respective categories, I spent a bit of time wildly punching at the remote's buttons before I figured out the procedure. After stumbling through a few titles, though, the process became clear, and I blazed through the rest of the discs. Once all the software was labeled and placed into the unit's directories (All, DVD, CD, A, B, C, D), navigating through what should have been an unwieldy amount of discs became downright easy.