DVP-NS325

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Price Paid: $159.99 CAN

Purchase at: Future Shop

Strengths
“Precision Drive 2″ does a very good job at reading scratched/defective DVDs.

Weakness
Unit appears to have some sort of built-in deinterlacer, which causes artifacts on poorly-encoded film-sourced DVDs that abuse/ignore the 3:2 pulldown cadence.
Black level adjustment will NOT save after power-off.
Only one set of outputs for component, S-Video, composite, and analog audio.
No optical AC3 output (coaxial only)

Comments/Review
Manufacturers are now producing “low cost” DVD players in order to compete with the Chinese/Korean/etc manufactures (like Apex, Daytek, Truvision, etc) who are now making players that are dipping into the sub-$50 market. The DVP-NS325 is Sony’s low-cost player for 2003, and at a retail price of $89.95 US, it is about par for the features it offers.

The only major feature it lacks is progressive scan, which is a slight disadvantage as manufacturers such as Samsung and Philips have progressive scan players in the $80-90 range. Fortunately, Sony has just released the DVP-NS425 which offers progressive scanning for $99.95 US. Whether or not progressive scanning matters to you is another matter… Sony still has the chroma bug (see www.hometheaterhifi.com for more details) and now even the well-renowned Panasonic is now suffering from the same bug, so any progressive scan player in this price range may prove to be unsatisfactory, depending on your viewing tastes. Personally, I prefer to use an interlaced player and let my Sony 43HT20 perform all the deinterlacing for me.

After opening the box, what surprised me is how many decals & stickers have been stuck on the unit. On the front is a foil decal detailing the unit’s ability to play MP3 and DVD-/+R/W discs. This decal is stuck on the unit pretty good and would be best left on as a permanent fixture unless you want to risk defacing the surface behind it. There’s a large cardboard flip-up stuck on the top front of the unit advertising all its features, presumably used for floor models to help sell the unit. Finally, there is a smaller sticker on the top-middle-right that urges you not to return the unit if you have a problem, but to instead call a 1-800 number listed. I did call this number when I wanted to ask them about the black level problem (see below) and found them very helpful and gung-ho about having my unit picked up by Purolator and replaced with a new unit very quickly. In the end, I declined the offer and went to Future Shop for a same-day replacement instead.

Build quality is what can be expected for a sub-$100 unit these days… this isn’t a DVP-S7000 by any means. However, the unit is pretty good considering what you pay for, and I’m not one to comment about how “hefty” a DVD player feels when it’s $90 US.

One shining feature that this unit has is its “Precision Drive 2″ function, which essentially means that the unit is more tolerable to scratches and defects in DVDs, particularly rentals. From my experience, this player handles these troublesome DVDs quite exceptionally. A special example: I have a Buffy DVD (clean with no scratches) that has some sort of defect in the second layer that my PS2 cannot handle. However, the NS325 is able to read the disc fine (albeit it takes an extra couple of seconds for the player to initially read the disc after inserting). I’m not sure if other manufacturers have implemented similar technology with their recent units, and if this is not the case then I’d say this is a BIG selling feature for the Sony.

MP3, DVD-R, and DVD+R playback work well on this unit. (I’ve yet to test DVD-RW and DVD+RW discs). There is a nice MP3 menu, although I wish it would come up automatically after inserting an MP3 disc (you have to hit ‘Menu’ to bring it up.)

Picture quality for most material is the same as for any interlaced unit; ie. outstanding. (We’re not comparing VHS units here, after all). However, there seems to be one glitch. I have a series of Transformers DVD box sets that were released by Rhino over the last couple of years. Now, the episodes on these DVDs were encoded very, very poorly (the 3:2 pulldown cadence breaks into 3:3 and 2:2 quite often). With pretty much any progressive setup (whether it be just a progressive TV or a prog TV with a prog DVD player) the most you’ll see is some combing artifacts between scene changes. However, for some reason with this player there are some severe color striping artifacts appearing, particularly in red areas. Of course, if you’re familiar with the Transformers series, you’ll know that there’s LOTS of red (Optimus Prime alone is enough) to bring out these artifacts. I’m not sure what the cause is for this strange artifact; the only thing I can guess is that Sony has incorperated some sort of deinterlacer within the unit to pre-process the material. While this may potentially help certain DVDs, in this case it seriously hinders it and I wish there was a way to turn it off.

The player also has the ability to set black level. The default is already set to the standard (so you can see the blacker-than-black bar on Video Essential’s pluge screen) and there’s also a setting to bring it down to the PS2’s level (where the blacker-than-black bar is invisible). Although you can temporarily set the black level down to this level, it will not save this setting after you turn the unit off. This is not a big deal, but it would make things easier if you switch back and forth from the NS325 to the PS2 quite often.

All in all, unless you watch Transformers or some other animated series with bad 3:2 cadence (like Anime), you should be very satisfied with the Sony DVP-NS325. The unit is a good buy at $89.95 US, and the Precision Drive 2 is the icing on the cake. If you’re in need of progressive scannning, be sure to check out the new NS425, which should now be on sale.

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