by Staff Writer
Movies played on a DVD player provide a much clearer picture than the old VHS tapes and VCRs. DVD players are an essential part of a home theater system, allowing you to watch your favorite movies with amazing audio and video clarity. You'll find a variety of home and portable DVD players to enjoy entertainment anywhere. This DVD player buying guide offers tips to help you know what to look for when adding a DVD player to your entertainment system.
DVD players: A basic DVD player typically connects to televisions and home theater receivers. The picture and sound quality is a vast improvement over VHS technology. Most DVD players will play back one movie or one music CD at a time. The DVD player controls, most of which are on a remote control, will include options for accessing menus, skipping through scenes and changing audio/video options.
Up-converting DVD players: Many newer DVD players feature picture-quality enhancement known as "up-converting." These video players artificially increase the picture resolution of DVDs to near 1080p resolution to take advantage of the display capabilities of high-definition TVs.
DVD/VCR combination players: DVD/VCR combos merge the best of old and new home entertainment technology. The DVD player offers sound and pictures of amazing clarity, while the VCR player still records your favorite TV shows to VHS. Also, the DVD VCR combo lets you view the VHS tapes in your movie collection.
DVD recorders: You can burn videos, movies and TV shows to blank DVDs with a DVD recorder. DVD recorders are available in three styles: the standalone DVD recorder, the DVD recorder/VCR combo and the recorder/hard drive combo. Any of these units record video onto writable, blank DVDs and play multiple recordable DVD formats.
VHS to DVD: A DVD recorder/VCR combo lets you easily transfer the video from your VHS tapes onto space-saving DVDs; however, some technology prevents the recording of copyrighted VHS movie tapes.
Hard drives: Choose a DVD recorder with a hard drive if you love to edit your DVDs. Record that TV show or home movie to the recorder's hard drive and edit it before burning it to DVD.
DVD changers: Multi-disc DVD players accommodate five discs or more for continuous play. This works well if you want to play CDs with your DVD player. The DVD changer can replace separate DVD players and CD changers in a home theater system.
Portable DVD players: A portable video player is loaded with features and lets you watch movies, listen to music and view photographs. Many portable DVD players increase the convenience with built-in LCD screens and built-in stereo speakers. They use rechargeable batteries; some use car adapters, so you're never without electronic entertainment. For more options, choose a portable DVD player that accommodates CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, CDs and MP3 formats. Be sure to check the outputs on any new portable DVD player so you can connect it to televisions anywhere.
Progressive scan: A television picture is actually made of up horizontal lines that are continuously redrawn. A progressive-scan DVD player is a great choice for the high-definition (HD-ready) television because progressive-scan technology creates a sharper video image for HDTVs by redrawing consecutive lines. Progressive scan is an improvement over interlaced scanning that scanned the odd lines and then the even lines.
Aspect-ratio control: This allows your DVD player to offer you either widescreen or standard format for your movies and TV shows, if the option is available on the disc.
Chapter preview: The DVD format divides the movie into sections, called chapters, making it easier to search for scenes, features or information. The preview quickly accesses information by playing the first few seconds of a chapter, in the menu, before you jump to that scene.
Decoder: A function for accessing multi-channel surround sound formats on DVDs such as Dolby Digital or Digital Theater System (DTS). The decoder can be in your audio receiver or built into the DVD player itself.
DVD region coding: The regional coding system, used by the movie industry, uses digital codes to divide the world into regions and then formats DVDs with these codes. Only a compatible DVD player can play a coded DVD. For example, a region one DVD player (US/Canada) cannot play a region two (Europe/Japan) DVD.
JPEG photo viewer: A DVD player may be able to display certain digital photo formats. JPEG is just one of many photo formats. The JPEG viewer reads photos from a disc in your DVD player and creates a slide show on your TV screen.
Multi-angle: This function allows the audience to view action scenes in a DVD movie from different angles. DVDs that offer multi-angle scene options are rare, but the scenes may be included in special editions and concert recordings.
DVD player care: DVD players do not require much care. Simply place the DVD player, along with other audio and video equipment, in a well-ventilated area to prevent overheating of the electronic components. Dust the machine exterior occasionally with a cloth and periodically clean the interior and DVD tray with a can of compressed air.
Cable options: The back panel of your DVD player includes the outputs to connect to your television or home theater receiver. Component video provides the widest range of colors and the best picture. If the DVD player or the TV does not accommodate component video, the standard composite output (RCA connections) or the S-video output also creates good video quality. Some DVD players have a digital video interface (DVI) that connects to a digital TV.
Update your car's mobile video system with a mobile DVD player and LCD monitor. Roof-mounted car LCD monitors have flip-down screens, and many feature built-in DVD players and TV tuners. This traveling movie theater is sure to keep your backseat audience happy.