Are you looking for a progressive-scan DVD player that sticks out in a crowd? The DVD-P721M has a Memory Stick slot alongside its disc drawer for viewing digital photos and playing MP3s. With that extra multimedia firepower, the nicely equipped, well-priced DVD-P721M is a tempting deck for those who own--or are thinking of buying--Sony's digital cameras, camcorders, and MP3 players. Are you looking for a progressive-scan DVD player that sticks out in a crowd? The DVD-P721M has a Memory Stick slot alongside its disc drawer for viewing digital photos and playing MP3s. With that extra multimedia firepower, the nicely equipped, well-priced DVD-P721M is a tempting deck for those who own--or are thinking of buying--Sony's digital cameras, camcorders, and MP3 players.
Head of the class
The silver P721M achieves a clean, classy look thanks to a burnished-metal face that's set behind a panel of clear plastic. A jog/shuttle dial sits to one side and allows users to step forward--but not backward--frame by frame. Another surprise on such an inexpensive deck is the headphone jack with volume control.
The remote lacks its own jog/shuttle control and backlit keys, but it's reasonably well laid out, with a central joystick that the thumb can find easily. Unfortunately, the joystick often fails to respond to said thumb, forcing the user to click repeatedly for results.
A purple key labeled M.Stick calls up a menu that lets you select from among digital photos, a PhotoCD, or MP3 files. Choosing photos brings up thumbnails of all the images on the Stick. In addition to displaying full-screen shots of Junior's birthday on your TV, the P721M can also manipulate photos. It can run a slide show in any order that you choose, rotate images, and even filter the pictures with sepia, negative, or black-and-white effects.
The P721M handles MP3s like a shelf-sized iPod. It can navigate file folders on a Memory Stick and shows ID3 tags if the song contains them. When given an MP3 CD, it displays the first 16 characters of the filenames in an onscreen menu. This Samsung can also play a discs' worth of MP3 tracks at random but can't fast-forward or rewind within a song.
Other notable features include a second remote control with just the basic playback (rewind, fast forward, play, and stop) and menu-navigation buttons--perfect for less tech-savvy family members. The player's nifty zoom can magnify any portion of a DVD picture. The output bay has ports for component video, S-Video, regular video, analog audio, and both types of digital audio. But the build quality is suspect back there; the component jacks sank into the rear plate when we connected the cables.
Stickler for detail
In addition to all those bells and whistles, the P721M displays a good progressive-scan picture with well-implemented 3:2 pull-down. When hooked up to a Samsung direct-view, wide-screen HDTV, even fast-paced scenes from Star Wars: Episode I had smooth, solid lines, few motion artifacts, and an impressive level of detail. We did notice some extra noise, however; in one instance during a shot of the Naboo cruiser's bridge, the red-bathed background crawled a bit with shadowy dots.
The P721M hiccupped a couple of times during testing. At one point we tried to eject the disc without pressing Stop, and the player simply froze and became unresponsive to anything but the power switch. The deck hung again during a menu transition on the Star Wars special-features DVD. Also, the spinning disc made a bit more noise than we've noticed with most other players.
If you own a standard 4:3 interlaced TV, you may notice jagged and moving line artifacts when watching enhanced-for-wide-screen discs. And if you own a wide-screen set that locks into one aspect ratio when fed a progressive-scan image, you won't be able to watch nonanamorphic discs in progressive mode. Both of these issues are common to many other entry-level progressive-scan decks.
Online retailers have the Samsung DVD-P721M priced at $199, which is comparable to other progressive-scan units such as the and the . Of course, neither of those decks have a Memory Stick slot or half of the P721M's the slick features. Even without the Stick, this well-equipped deck would be a fairly good bargain, and if it weren't for the quirks during playback and its loose jacks, we'd give it an even higher score. Minor shortcomings aside, if you're already invested in Sony's flash media format, the 721M is an attractive choice that's loaded with gadget appeal.