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Zenith's DVB216 sets the new benchmark in value for progressive-scan DVD players. Not only does this deck offer a good feature package and solid performance, but it's one of the few players that we've seen with an illuminated remote control--all for around $150. Zenith's DVB216 sets the new benchmark in value for progressive-scan DVD players. Not only does this deck offer a good feature package and solid performance, but it's one of the few players that we've seen with an illuminated remote control--all for around $150.
Mirror, mirror on the DVD player
In the looks department, the DVB216 is a bit different. Like Zenith's DVD/VCR combo, the , this unit has a bright, shiny, silver finish and sports a mirrored faceplate that you could literally shave in front of. While the 216 is a slim-line player and has a relatively small footprint, the remote control is on the hefty side. However, as all of the remote's buttons are illuminated for operation in a darkened theater environment, it's fairly intuitive to use and even has a jog dial. The remote is also universal and will control a wide variety of other brands of TVs and cable boxes, as well as a few types of DBSs and VCRs.
Around back you'll find a fairly comprehensive assortment of connectivity options, including one set of component-video outputs, one S-Video output, one composite-video output, one set of stereo-audio outputs, and both coaxial and optical digital-audio outputs.
All in all, we were pretty pleased with the features package. Highlights include a parental control that allows you to block unsuitable scenes on any given DVD, as well as obstruct playback entirely; a zoom function that gives you the ability to zero in on a particular scene; and a Marker Search feature, whith which you can set up to nine markers on any DVD that can be recalled at the touch of a button.
From an audio standpoint, the 216 will play CD-Rs, CD-RWs, CD-ROMs, and MP3s. The player is also compatible with HDCD and DTS audio, though no DVD-Audio (DVD-A) or Super Audio CD support is offered. Finally, the 3D Surround function simulates multichannel surround-sound effects from conventional stereo speakers.
We evaluated the 216's progressive-scan output using an older Toshiba 65H80 16:9 aspect-ratio HDTV-capable rear projector. Watching the opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection, we immediately noticed that the 216 has good 3:2 pull-down implementation, which is essential for artifact-free pictures on a digital HDTV-capable set. This scene was rendered with a smooth and clean filmlike look.
Watching the "Montage of Images" sequence on the Video Essentials test DVD revealed that the player lacks good deinterlacing for video-based material. A shot of the American flag exhibited some stair-step artifacts. In fairness to Zenith, this is an all-too-common problem, even in much pricier players. The Panasonic , with the Faroudja/Sage chipset, is probably the least expensive progressive-scan DVD player that has good deinterlacing for video-based material. But that deck still costs more--about $200 online--than this Zenith.
We also evaluated the 216 on an older 4:3-aspect-ratio, analog, direct-view TV to test for down-conversion artifacts. Sure enough, when down-converting an anamorphic DVD for playback on a 4:3 TV, the 216 exhibits significant down- artifacts. This means that the 216 should not be matched up with a 4:3 set--either analog or digital--that doesn't incorporate an anamorphic aspect ratio. The good news is that at this point nearly every digital HDTV-ready set has this all-important feature.
In the final analysis, the Zenith DVB216 is a stylish-looking, competent, progressive-scan DVD player that's a bargain, even at its list price of $159. In the coming months, we'll see other progressive-scan players break the $160 barrier--and probably get even more inexpensive--but for now, this Zenith is one of our favorite budget choices. Those looking for DVD-A support, however, should check out Toshiba's .