I watched several animated movies, including Toy Story and Spirited Away, as well as action-oriented films such as House of Flying Daggers and Master and Commander. Overall, the screen provides a clear, accurate, and bright picture. But while the animated features looked consistently crisp, with deep, saturated colors, the action movies didn’t create such a vivid impression, and appeared slightly fuzzy when examined up close. The LCD display uses a Toshiba technology that makes the screen easier to view from the side than with some of the other players.
The SD-P2800 can be set to simulate surround sound in a two-speaker environment, which makes a significant difference when the action heats up. In the “Under Attack” scene from Master and Commander, with sails snapping and canons blasting, the surround effects were plenty convincing on headphones, if underwhelming on the speakers.
Several cables are included for connecting the player to a separate display, which could be handy for TVs in bedrooms, vacation houses, or hotel rooms. The output options include component, S-video, and composite, which I list in order of quality. We tested the component video out to a 50- inch Pioneer plasma set, and it worked perfectly. The setup wasn’t simple, but with the well-written and illustrated instruction guide, it wasn’t an ordeal.
To test out its audio capabilities, I burned a DVD full of MP3 folders and popped it in the SD-P2800’s drive. The screen showed the contents of the first folder and its song titles, but wouldn’t allow me to see all the folders on one screen. So in order to find an album, I had to scroll through each folder— tedious on a 4.7GB disc of MP3s. With support for DTS, Dolby Digital, DivX, DVD-Audio/Video, DVD-R, Video CD, CD-R/RW, MP3, WMA, and JPEG files, the SD-P2800 will play most anything you throw at it—digital pictures, homemade videos, MP3 CDs, you name it. One unique feature is the 4-In-1 memory-card slot—compatible with Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, SD, and Multi- MediaCard—used to view photos from digital cameras.
The battery charged faster and had longer legs than most others, and lasted about 4.5 hours. A car adaptor is included, but no carrying case. The SD-P2800 isn’t aimed at a budget audience, but the solid build quality and its many features and inputs/outputs should make it especially attractive to tech-savvy buyers.
A swivel screen and long battery life set this player apart.
With one of the smallest screens in our survey at 8 inches, you’d think the Sony DVPFX810 might be at an automatic disadvantage, but it makes up for the small size with characteristic-of-Sony video clarity (deep black levels) and with the most innovative screen in the grouping; one that can swivel right-toleft 180 degrees. Below the screen to the left, you find the usual iconic disc play, pause, and stop buttons, all which are easily accessible and function well, as do the LCD mode and Menu buttons to the right. The wheel control below the screen, however, is a bit tiny for larger, clumsier fingers to manipulate accurately. Not to worry, Sony includes a remote that feels hefty in your hand and whose buttons and control wheel are of ample size and fully functional.
The Sony performed well with some of the DVD videophile standards, such as the “Under Attack” chapter from Master and Commander. Some of the detail in the dark deck scenes was lost, but the nice black levels in the scene also added to the notion of reality—a real plus. The sound was among the strongest of those players we reviewed. The Dolby Digital surround was convincing on regular ear buds in this a d r e n a l i n - r u s h scene, and even more pronounced on the Philips wireless Dolby Headphones reviewed elsewhere in this issue (see the Philips HD1500 review on page 80).
When I tested the player with CDs, the results were similarly impressive. Cat Stevens’s signature voice on “Where Do the Children Play” [Tea for the Tillerman, Universal-Island Records] had a believable presence through the player and the intricate and beautiful guitar work on “Hard Headed Woman” along with the drum break in the middle almost made me feel I was back in 1970 doing—well, never mind about that.
The manual indicates you need about 5 hours and 30 minutes to charge (and re-charge) the included battery pack, which attaches snugly to the bottom of the player. Doing so will give you about 6 hours of DVDVideo playing time, says the manual. I’m a believer. After charging up the battery pack, I was able to watch all of The Fifth Element and Rent (close to the six hour limit) with a bit of battery power left over. Impressive. But with the AC adaptor and car adaptor that come with the DVP-FX810, you may not need to resort to battery power all that often.