The Editors' Choice designation for this product has been changed since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer products.
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 .