RCA DRC500N review:

RCA DRC500N

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Solid feature package; nice cosmetics.

The Bad Lackluster remote; serious down-conversion artifacts on standard 4:3 TVs.

The Bottom Line When paired with the right TV, this stylish changer is a relative bargain.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.0 Overall

RCA's DRC500N, a five-disc DVD carousel player, is an interlaced-only deck with merely average performance. So what are its biggest selling points? Well, it's an attractive piece of equipment that offers a nice feature package at a reasonable price. RCA's DRC500N, a five-disc DVD carousel player, is an interlaced-only deck with merely average performance. So what are its biggest selling points? Well, it's an attractive piece of equipment that offers a nice feature package at a reasonable price.

Design
The mirrored look is in fashion this year with consumer-electronics manufacturers. Like Zenith's line of DVD players, this silver-finished RCA's front panel has a mirrored bottom half. While it's sporty, the reflective finish is clearly more appropriate for casual use in a rec room rather than in a darkened, dedicated home-theater area, where reflections from the unit could prove to be a visual distraction. The front panel sports buttons for disc select, skip, exchange, play/pause, stop, rewind, fast-forward, previous disc, next disc, open/close, and power.

The DRC500N's onscreen menus are fairly straightforward and easy to navigate. The remote, on the other hand, is a bit awkward in its layout and functionality. For example, the chapter-skip function is controlled with the misleadingly labeled Ch+/- key, and the player's Setup mode is accessible by stopping the disc and hitting the Menu key rather than via a dedicated Setup button. The remote's one saving grace is that it is universal and able to control a wide variety of TVs, DBS satellite receivers, and cable boxes.

Features and connectivity
The DRC500N's connectivity options are adequate but not generous. They include one set of component-video inputs, one S-Video input, one composite-video input, one coaxial digital-audio output, one optical digital-audio output, and two sets of analog stereo-audio outs.

On the other hand, the 500N's feature package is more comprehensive; in addition to DVDs and regular audio CDs, the unit will play CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and VideoCDs. Users with CD burners will like the fact that this RCA can read both MP3 audio and JPEG picture files. The headphone jack has its own volume control, which is a rare feature on a low-end DVD player.

Convenience features include Picture Scan, which performs a high-speed scan in either reverse or forward modes; Frame Advance; and a three-step zoom function (up to 4X) that allows you to magnify a frame for close inspection. Finally, the Go Back button repeats the last few seconds on a disc in case you missed a subtle visual detail or a whispered line of dialogue.

Performance
On our big-rig Runco DTV-991 front projector, the 500 performed fairly well for an entry-level player. High-frequency response--resolution and detail--measured about 460 lines horizontally on Avia's 200 TVL resolution pattern, which indicates a slight roll-off. Coupled with the Runco's extremely high resolution, that translated to a certain softness in the picture when we took a look at scenes from the Training Day DVD. That said, the 500N's performance was up-to-snuff based on its price and position in the market.

After connecting the 500N to an older analog, 31-inch ProScan 4:3 TV, we switched its configuration from 16:9 to 4:3 to test for artifacts when playing an anamorphic DVD down-converted to a regular letterbox image. The opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection is an outstanding torture test for these types of artifacts, and sure enough, we saw crawling, squiggly lines all over the bridge railing, the canoes, and the rooftops. Unfortunately, the down-conversion artifacts were so severe that we can't recommend purchasing this player if you're going to use it with a standard 4:3 TV. However, if you have a newer digital 4:3 set that has a built-in anamorphic-squeeze feature to accommodate anamorphic DVDs, this warning doesn't apply.

In terms of value, the RCA DRC500N is well priced when compared to other similar five-disc carousels on the market, such as Panasonic's DVD-CV51, which carries a street price of just less than $200. The DRC500N also lists for $199 but can be found online for cheaper, making it a relatively good bargain.

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