Sony's slim and silver DVD
If you own a regular 4:3 non-wide-screen TV, chances are it's not capable of accepting a progressive-scan signal. But progressive-scan is so common these days among inexpensive DVD players, such as Sony's DVP-NS575P/S, that you might as well get a prog-scan deck and use it until you do upgrade your TV set.
Even if it is Sony's entry-level progressive-scan player, the DVP-NS575P/S nonetheless offers step-up styling compared to generic DVD decks. Its slim, silver body matches the company's WEGA TVs and those from most other TV makers as well. (It's also available in black.) Measuring a mere 2.7 inches tall and 9 inches deep, it should fit comfortably atop most tube TVs. The minimal front panel offers only basic transport controls.
As for the remote, it outdoes that of most budget decks, boasting a well-thought-out button arrangement and plenty of functionality--it can also control many brands of televisions. Separate keys are provided for chapter skip, search/slow motion, and 30-second skip/frame-by-frame step. A zoom button is useful both for expanding the image and getting rid of windowboxing on wide-screen TVs.
Unlike most generic decks, the DVP-NS575P/S gives you some control over the picture. There are five different picture modes and separate black-level controls in the setup menu--one for component-video and one for standard. They should be set to Off and On, respectively. The sharpness function should also be set to Off, since it introduces edge enhancement.
Like most units, the DVP-NS575P/S can play a wide variety of discs, including DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, VCDs, CD-Rs, MP3 CDs, and discs with JPEG images. It fared quite well in our compatibility tests, handling two extremely difficult discs, but it couldn't deal with mixed-media discs that had photos and music on the same disc--it found only the music. Neither could it handle DVD-R/+R discs filled with MP3 files, nor could it display a file tree with music and JPEGs. Heavy file browsers would be better served by Panasonic's.
The Panasonic player also does a slightly better job of delivering good progressive-scan images. The Sony did successfully detect 2:3 pull-down with most discs but failed with a more difficult inverse 2:3 test pattern. It also eliminated the chroma bug with flagged DVDs, but unflagged material caused the bug to surface in full force. In real-world terms, all that jargon means that you may notice a few more artifacts, specifically shimmering lines during movement or combing along edges of color (red in particular) on some discs. With this player, however, you'll have to look very carefully.
In its favor, the DVP-NS575P/S did a great job with anamorphic downconversion. If you have a 4:3 TV (non-wide-screen) that lacks vertical compression, this DVD player will deliver a smoother image with fewer jagged edges and unsightly undulations during pans.
Overall, the DVP-NS575P/S offers a few features not found on entry-level players, along with slick style and a Sony brand on the front. We prefer the superior image quality of the Panasonic for more discerning viewers and HDTV owners, but if you own a non-high-def 4:3 TV and plan to upgrade to progressive-scan in the not-too-near future, this Sony is a good bet.