Video is the star of the show
Video playback is the real star feature of the Dual XDVD8182. With a range of screen configurations and a veritable trove of audio output controls, it is clear where the unit's designers spent tmuch of their time. Movies can be played in 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios with no less than six view modes (fill, original, height fit, width fit, fit to screen, and pan screen); and audio features are even more abundant. Settings include controls for the unit's pink noise generator, which sets the relative speaker levels for multichannel audio playback; dynamic range control, for playback at low volumes; center and rear control, which implements a time delay between the center and front speakers in millisecond increments to improve the immersive audio effect; and down sampling.
For those who don't really mind if the front and rear speakers are optimized to the nearest millisecond, playing movies is relatively straightforward. Inserting a disc into the unit and selecting DVD as the source will automatically start the video playing, providing the car's parking brake is engaged. Controlling playback and settings when the video is playing is done either via the remote control or by pressing six select areas on the touch screen (labeled A to F in the instruction manual), which bring up different menus.
A touch of area E (bottom center of the screen) produces the main onscreen controls for play, pause, skip, and search, while area B (top center) shows the current playing information. In a neat feature, areas C and D (bottom left and bottom right, respectively) skip backward and forward through DVD chapters. The main settings menu is launched with a press in area A (top left), while area F brings up a feature called GOTO search, which allows viewers to navigate a DVD by entering time or chapter information.
Without any explicit directions, it takes a while to get used to this invisible menu system but we got the hang of it pretty quickly. The list of speaker settings for playing back DVD is too long to enumerate here (there are four Pro Logic audio-decoding settings alone), but suffice it to say there are more options for setting the sound for DVD audio than there are for all of the AM/FM, CD, and iPod inputs combined.
Designing an in-car multimedia receiver that can handle numerous audio inputs as well as deliver decent picture quality and deliver it all via an intuitive interface is proving to be a challenge for electronics companies. The XDVD8182 nails the video aspect with a dizzying array of DVD playback options. It's a shame this level of detail is lacking for the sizable proportion of users who will use this system for audio playback as well.