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Toshiba SD-5700 DVD Player

Affordable DVD Player Does it All

by Jim Bray

Note: TechnoFILE's demo units were provided by K&W Audio.

If you're looking for a DVD player that does everything except take out the trash, Toshiba may have your dream unit.

The SD-5700, part of the company's "Cinema Series" line, is a home theater snob's delight. It offers progressive scan technology that eliminates the interlacing of conventional TV (assuming you have a TV that accepts the non-interlaced signals), Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio decoding, and plenty more.

All for only $399!

As with all DVD players, the SD-5700 plays audio CD's as well, but unlike many players it also handles home made CD-R and CD-RW discs, which is a bonus. My four year old DVD player also does this (though it doesn't do DTS), but then the manufacturers forgot about it for a couple of years and are only now getting back on the bandwagon. It's about time.

That isn't the end of this lovely player's capabilities. If you're into the higher end HDCD (High Definition Compatible Digital) standard, this player handles that as well. Even better, as far as I'm concerned, it also plays DVD Audio discs, the ultra high resolution audio format that's trying to carve out a niche.

It won't play the SACD (Super Audio CD's) audio format Sony's pushing but if they had to dump one format that's the one I'd choose. It has nothing to do with the quality of the format, it's just that so far there are more titles that I'd like to own on the DVD Audio format than the other two.

Still, it would be nice if a player would take anything you can throw at it, but to be fair all of these formats will play on any DVD player: you just won't get the ultra high res stuff.

And there's more. This Toshiba also plays MP3 and DVD-R (when you can find them) discs.

But it's the progressive scan that really gets me excited, especially for the price. While the difference between progressive scan and the built in line doubling "digital reality creation" of my reference widescreen big screen is subtle, and the resolution actually seems slightly higher using the TV's circuitry, I like the color better with progressive scan and there are fewer jagged edges in evidence. And those Superbit DVD's look even better than normal, which is saying a lot.

This Toshiba does a wonderful job with progressive scan, with a crystal clear picture that, with a good disc like "The Fifth Element" or "The Phantom Menace," is breathtaking.

If you don't have a progressive scan TV, you can opt to keep the SD-5700 in interlaced mode (via the remote or a switch on the back of the unit itself) until you upgrade, which is a nice "anti-planned obsolescence" feature.

And if you don't yet have surround sound, the Toshiba offers Spatializer N-2-2 Virtual Surround Sound, which isn't nearly as good as the real thing but is better than nothing.

Other audio features include 5.1 Channel Analog Outputs, for getting the Dolby Digital surround sound information to "Dolby Digital-ready" receivers.You can then adjust the speakers' balances to best take advantage of the surround sound information in your particular listening room. There are also optical and coaxial digital audio outputs.

These outputs also work for getting the true DVD Audio surround signals to your 5.1 channel amp.

Using the player is straightforward for the most part, though I thought some of the features (for instance, a "virtual remote control" or a "navigation menu" that appear on screen, with the movie staying in a central window) were more than a bit superfluous. The on screen menu system works well and configuring the player is easy.

I'd have preferred to have seen Toshiba dump some of the sillier features (karaoke is another one that comes to mind) in favor of ones I'd actually use, like a variable time display that lets you find out how much longer a feature will run. This comes in handy with some discs' supplementary features like documentaries, because the manufacturers never list their running times.

I also didn't care for the remote, which is gray with almost illegible white lettering and features a swing up door hiding the numeric keypad. Since this panel covers a blank area of the remote anyway, why didn't they just get rid of it and leave the buttons open in the first place?

Ah, designers…

Anyway, these nit picks aside, I really liked this flexible, quality DVD player.

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.

 

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January 31, 2006