Samsung's DVD-P701 can count itself among a new but emerging class of DVD decks: the low-priced progressive-scan player. And while this model may not offer any huge advantages over competing products, with its solid performance and features, it's certainly an appealing choice for owners of high-end TVs. Samsung's DVD-P701 can count itself among a new but emerging class of DVD decks: the low-priced progressive-scan player. And while this model may not offer any huge advantages over competing products, with its solid performance and features, it's certainly an appealing choice for owners of high-end TVs.
From a design standpoint, the DVD-P701 isn't a stunner, but it is attractive, with a fairly slim profile and a silver-toned exterior, though we wish it came in black. The front of the unit is adorned with a limited number of buttons, which is a good thing, plus a jog dial that allows you to rewind and fast-forward at various speeds.
The remote, which also has a jog dial, isn't the best we've seen, but it is stylish and isn't overburdened with buttons. The biggest complaint we have about it is that none of its buttons are backlit, making it difficult to operate in the dark. It's also worth pointing out that the jog dial isn't quite as smooth as it could be. The scans in forward and reverse were a little jerky, and the remote's shuttle ring had a hair-trigger tendency to jump to 138X fast-forward speed without warning. Still, having the shuttle on the remote is a nice convenience.
One other small gripe: the DVD-P701 doesn't load DVDs as fast as we'd like. Loading times ranged from 10 to 30 seconds, depending on the menus involved.
Stacks up well against competing products
The DVD-P701 has all the connectivity options you'd expect in an entry-level progressive-scan player, including the requisite component-video connectors and both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs. Feature-wise, the DVD-P701 compares favorably to other players in its class, such as , which also offers the MP3 CD-R playback support that this unit does. (As with many other players, the DVD-P701 can't fully display longer track names).
Like the Panasonic, this player comes equipped with the all-important 3:2 pull-down circuitry to clean up the output of film-based DVDs. Overall, we came away pretty impressed with the sharp progressive-scan images that the DVD-P701 produced. During one particularly difficult sequence featuring a slow pan over complex terrain in the opening of Star Trek: Insurrection, the player easily outperformed the line-doubler built into our Pioneer 510HD high-definition TV. Zigguratlike building tops were rock solid, and the jumping motion characteristic of progressive scan was minimal. We did notice a little movement along one diagonal edge and some noise deep in the background of one long shot. Also, every once in a while the player hiccupped (displayed a brief burst of pixelization), but overall the processor did quite well.
On another positive note, Samsung thoughtfully included an aspect-ratio control that can be toggled on and off via the remote. Called Screen Fit, this allows wide-screen TV owners to watch nonanamorphic DVDs (those that are not labeled "enhanced for wide-screen") in progressive-scan mode, even if their TV locks into a single aspect ratio with incoming progressive-scan material. In other words, with this deck--unlike with some others--you can watch everything in progressive scan, and that's a big plus.
As we like to note in our reviews of progressive-scan players, having such a player won't do you any good unless you have progressive-scan digital TV or HDTV to display the images. But if you do have such a set or plan to buy one in the future, the DVD-P701, which you can find online for less than $250, is an appealing player for those who aren't ready to spend the big bucks on a high-end progressive-scan player, such as . Those trying to choose between this Samsung and Panasonic's similarily priced DVD-RP56 should note that the DVD-P701 offers comparable performance but is more stylish. At the same time, Toshiba's recently released SD-4700 ($299 list price), which features DVD Audio support, is definitely worth considering. If you want to spend even less, check out . Though it doesn't have a jog dial on the player or the remote and it lacks MP3 CD-R playback support, you can pick it up it for less than $200.