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While major manufacturers such as Toshiba and Sony have the lion's share of the DVD player market, the smaller players are starting to snap at their heels. Usually originating from the Far East, brands such as Liteon, Mustek and Lafayette are shipping DVD players and recorders over here with the 'pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap' mentality.
Another manufacturer to join the fray is Nissan, which is releasing this DVD player to catch the attention of people that have dabbled with DivX video. Sharing the name (but not the badge) of the famous car manufacturer, the business models are not too different -- as a home electronics manufacturer, Nissan packs many features onto its products while selling them for a budget price on these shores. This has resulted in a basic-looking player, but the technical attractions of component outputs, DivX playback and a 5-in-1 card reader make the asking price of £60 very attractive.
The DV100 comes in two models, one with a modern silver finish and a black one that looks like a relic of the '80s. We tested the silver version, which looks presentable, but the black model is horrible. Having said that, they're both slim at under 50mm tall, especially when you consider that the front panel houses a 5-in-1 card reader. This is a rare feature for DVD players, and means you can transfer media straight from digital camera or music player without having to burn to a CD.
The back panel is also impressive, with all the connectivity we could ask for. RGB Scart, composite and S-video are present and correct, and if you've bought a television in the last few years you'll also be pleased to see a full set of component outputs.
It's a similarly impressive story on the audio side -- if you have an AV amplifier then you can hook up via coaxial or optical audio, but you can also connect each speaker up individually as the rear has 5.1 connections. These are the sort of features that you don't usually get on players at twice this price -- if only all manufacturers were as comprehensive as Nissan.
The rest of the package gives the DV100's budget origins away all too easily. Most budget DVD players have a hard time disguising their asking price, but recent efforts from Toshiba still retain a workmanlike, quality appearance. With the Nissan DV100S, the whole package looks cheap, from the thin cardboard box to the tiny, badly translated manual. The player feels empty inside, and we'd be worried about stacking any heavier AV equipment on top of it. The remote control is also poor, with buttons that are either badly located or spaced.
It's hard to know where to start on such a well-featured player -- we had to keep reminding ourselves that it only costs £60. Basically, all the formats that have sprung up for use on the Internet are supported on this player, with MP3, JPEG, WMA and DivX all played from CD or the 5-in-1 card reader. The interface is very PC-like, meaning you can create directories and then browse through folders to make it more manageable when using the remote control.
Nissan hasn't used the official DivX logo on the box, but something that's been engineered to look just like it. Thankfully, it was compatible with all the content we downloaded from the DivX site as well as a couple of test discs that we were given by the company. It's also compatible with the Xvid codec.
On the audio side, the player supports Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS formats. It will also play back MP3 and WMA audio, and we had no trouble playing back either when we burnt them to a CD or played from a memory card. The Nissan did have trouble playing back JPEGs from a Sandisk Memory Stick that we used, but apart from that it worked exactly as it should. And with support for MMC, SD, Smart Media and Memory Stick as well as the more antiquated CompactFlash, nearly every commonly used multimedia format will fit into the Nissan somewhere.
One of the most useful inclusions on the DV100 is the switchable PAL and NTSC outputs. Because Nissan isn't a major manufacturer, its players are easy to make multi-region using a remote control hack -- you just have to know where to look on the Internet. If you decide to do this and then subsequently import an American DVD, the player will not fall victim to the annoying judder of NTSC-PAL conversion. Another great feature for anyone who's serious about their movies.
Our list of problems wasn't long, but the player takes a relatively long time to load up, for up to 10 seconds after you press the power button. You also can't upgrade the firmware on the player itself, which might have been a good idea in case Nissan wanted to add more support for audio and video formats.
The Nissan DV100 contains so many features at such a low price that a good AV performance might be a bit too much to ask. Certainly, the player isn't quite as detailed as Toshiba's latest, but its component outputs will service a flat screen admirably. The picture is solid when using component or RGB Scart and for DVD movies it's better than you could reasonably expect at the price.
DivX playback also looked just as good as it did from our computer -- it was a noticeable drop in quality over DVD but still very acceptable for TV series. The audio performance was good, but it did lack definition. The cheap components are undoubtedly to blame, but the detrimental affect on audio performance was more noticeable than with video. However, we think it's unlikely that you'll be rigging up such a cheap player to an expensive speaker system.
Edited by Nick Hide