What a difference $40 makes! Compared to the $60 Apex that we recently tested, the $100 AD-1600 is a great value. It can play DVDs and MP3 CDs as well as read JPEGs. On top of all that, the picture looks fine--just pray that the unit you buy works as well as ours did. What a difference $40 makes! Compared to the $60 Apex that we recently tested, the $100 AD-1600 is a great value. It can play DVDs and MP3 CDs as well as read JPEGs. On top of all that, the picture looks fine--just pray that the unit you buy works as well as ours did.
The AD-1600's silver face is marked by a line of logos, a blue LED, and the disc drawer. This Apex is not especially slim, and while its width is less than that of many players, its depth is greater at 12.5 inches, so make sure that you have the room in your home-entertainment center. On the far right of the 1600's front panel, buttons for forward-/reverse-scan and -skip form a circle around an audio button, while controls for play, stop, and open/close stand in a column to the left. You can't access the menu system from the front panel, which may be inconvenient if you misplace the remote.
The smallish remote packs its many buttons too closely together, but the major ones are easy for your thumb to pick out by feel. This remote includes a few buttons that you've probably never heard of, such as the VideoCD-specific PBC Off as well as L/R for messing with the stereo mix. The simple menus look different from those of this model's step-down brother, the AD-1200, and are generally easy to use despite the fact that they lack icons and explanatory text.
Unlike the AD-1200, the 1600 has a solid case and is virtually silent when spinning a disc. Like its brother, this Apex passed the endurance test of 48 straight hours of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back on repeat.
No major features are missing from this inexpensive deck. Unlike most competing players, it can read JPEG and Kodak Photo CD image files--a nice bonus for those who want to display a digital slide show on their TV. We didn't test Photo CDs, but the JPEG discs that we tried worked beautifully. A menu shows a standard Windows file-folder tree, which lets you drill down to individual pictures with ease; the same sort of navigation is more difficult on the 1200. You can rotate and zoom into images, and you can choose from 12 different transitions, such as wipes and blinds.
MP3 capability is similarly top-notch. This Apex played all of our test discs and presented the files in the same intuitive file-tree structure. The 1600 can play tracks in random mode within a folder and shows the first four letters of each folder or filename. The AD-1600 is also compatible with DVD-Rs, DVD+Rs, and DVD+RWs--but not DVD-RWs.
The back panel is missing a component-video output, though most users at this price level won't mind since component-video jacks are uncommon among inexpensive TVs. Slightly more expensive decks, such as Samsung's , do have component-video jacks. The single digital-audio output is coaxial rather than optical--an unfortunate choice because optical connections are more common among A/V receivers. The remaining connectivity options include an S-Video output, two standard video outputs, and a set of left and right stereo-audio jacks.
Overall, there's very little to complain about with the AD-1600's picture quality. The only hiccup came in the form of little white blocks that would crop up intermittently in the picture, then disappear. They were certainly annoying when they appeared, but they occurred randomly and less than 1 percent of the time.
The AD-1600 delivers all 500 lines of DVD resolution, although it cannot display a blacker-than-black PLUGE pattern. All things considered, this is a minor flaw (blacker-than-black material in DVDs provides subtle detail in shadows). In its favor, the AD-1600 did an above-average job converting anamorphic (enhanced-for-wide-screen) discs for 4:3 TVs, introducing relatively few moving line artifacts. Audio quality via the analog outputs was fine for both DVDs and MP3 CDs.
The Apex AD-1600 is easy to use, has a nice feature set, and can compete with any other noncomponent, entry-level deck in terms of picture quality. Unfortunately, many people online--including we here at CNET--have complained about inconsistencies in Apex products, so the AD-1600 that you end up buying may not perform as well as the one that we tested. To be safe, make sure that your vendor has a good return policy. That said, the Apex AD-1600 is a very good value when found online for less than $100.