DVD Player Embraces the Future
output, Super Audio
By Jim Bray
sample for this column was provided by K&W
Audio of Calgary, Alberta.
Its nice to see a piece of electronic equipment that wont
be out of date next year.
Toshibas twin disc SD-5109 DVD player isnt only a nice unit
for today, itll work even better when you upgrade your home theater
to take advantage of new technologies.
Of course its going to cost you. The 5109 sells for $999, which
is more than three times as expensive as some players.
The most important future benefit is the progressive
scan component video output, which means that when you move from
todays TV to tomorrows (assuming you havent already,
of course), the Toshibas rarin to go.
Progressive scan as opposed to interlaced is
how computer monitors work. Fortunately, DVD titles are recorded onto
the discs as 480p signals, which most DVD players dumb
down to the NTSC standard of todays North American TV stations.
If you have a compatible progressive scan TV (and Toshiba coincidentally,
Im sure happens to make some), the progressive scan component
output gives a better picture than NTSC (an acronym some wags have said
stands for Never Twice the Same Color!).
Not that the DVD formats any slouch to begin with, but the 480p
(480 lines, progressively scanned), 60 frame per second picture should
appear even more film-like.
Unfortunately, I didnt have a progressive scan TV with which to
try the feature, so I can only say that it worked fine in a local store
The deck can also play back HDCD (high definition compact discs)
and stereo DVD Audio discs. Both of these are high end
music formats (and are, naturally, incompatible with each other) that
are supposed to sound even better than your garden variety compact discs.
Its nice to see all of this audio flexibility, too, though there
isnt much software thatll take advantage of it yet.
One bit of flexibility Id like to have seen, but which isnt
included, is the ability to play back home made CD-R audio compact discs.
This is a common oversight on many DVD players today and it really bugs
me. It means that, if youve recorded your own CD on your computer,
youre out of luck if you want to play it back on the 5109.
Toshiba has also included Spatializer N-2-2 virtual surround sound,
which is a way of fudging the stereo signal so your brain thinks its
surround. This is meant for people who havent yet upgraded their
audio systems to include Dolby Pro Logic, Digital and/or DTS. It works
okay, but its hardly a substitute for the real thing.
Naturally, the player also handles Dolby Digital (AC-3) and DTS-encoded
discs without breaking a sweat. It even has its own internal decoder,
so if you only have a digital ready receiver you can plug
in the Toshiba and itll do all the AC-3 decoding for you.
Audio outputs include coaxial and optical digital, as well as stereo
and 5.1 channel analog.
The 5109 holds two discs, for those who want a multi-disc changer.
A nifty video feature is zoom which, as the name suggests,
lets you expand an area of the picture to better fill the screen. This
can be used to highlight a particular area of the screen and make it easier
to see, which is kind of neat.
I liked using it to show my wife how much picture area is lost when you
watch a widescreen movie in Pan&Scan mode. Unfortunately,
she still isnt convinced.
The 5109 has all the standard DVD player features, like multiple angle
viewing (which is nice, though not many DVDs give you multiple angles),
variable audio tracks and various aspect ratios.
The weakest link in this otherwise fine player, as is often the case,
is the remote control. Its a two level design that hides
the number keys behind a sliding panel thats an accident waiting
to happen. You have to remove the panel to stick the batteries in and
it feels as if, over time, the panel would come off for good.
I wasnt thrilled with the remotes layout and functionality,
either. Its clean and fairly straightforward, but not particularly
intuitive and the buttons labels are small and hard to read.
Still, on the whole, this is a lovely player that works very well and
has enough features to keep almost anyone happy today and for many
years to come.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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