In May 2001, Panasonic introduced its model year 2001
single-disc DVD player, the DVD-RV31. While this model goes for an affordable retail price of
only $180, its host of features seems anything but entry-level. The
DVD-RV31 is not your typical entry-level DVD player when compared to the previous
generation of DVD players in this price range and even compared to some of
its current model year competitors. For 2001,
Panasonic added CD-R and
CD-RW playback compatibility and decoding for
the popular MP3 format, easy access front-panel buttons for the
"A-B-C-D" features of Panasonic DVD players ("A" for Advanced
Virtual Surround Sound, "B" for Bass Plus,
"C" for Cinema Mode, and "D"
for Dialogue Enhancer), a convenient
front-panel shuttle dial for fast scan and slow motion operations, a disc stabilizer
feature for reading slightly warped discs, and component video
output for the best possible picture. All that for a model that is $50
less than last year's DVD-RV30. Finally, to match the looks of your current
set-up or furnishings, this model is available in either a black or silver
See pictures of this model in our photo
Key Features - Does it have the features I
The DVD-RV31 comes with just about all the features you could expect
from an entry-level DVD player:
single-disc DVD player: plays back DVD-Video, video
CD, CD-R, CD-RW media
program play, random play, repeat play, A-B repeat
play, and resume play
Dolby Digital and
DTS output: for outboard decoding by
an A/V receiver
dynamic range compression: makes the dynamic range between
loud and soft sounds narrower which is more suitable for low volume playback (for
parental lock-out feature: to prevent children from
viewing DVDs with certain MPAA ratings (e.g., PG-13, R, etc.)
Then throw in these features, which distinguish this model
from its peers:
Advanced Virtual Surround Sound
(AVSS): a virtual surround sound feature using just a pair of stereo speakers.
Bass Plus: allows an active subwoofer
to be connected directly to the DVD-RV31 without using a full blown 5.1-channel surround sound
receiver and speaker system.
Cinema Mode: video
equalization with "normal" or "cinema" viewing modes.
The "cinema" mode supposedly enhances shadow detail in dark scenes.
boosts the dialogue audio signal (center channel information in a Dolby Digital
encoded DVD) so that the dialogue can be heard
easier over the rest of the soundtrack.
disc stabilizer system: a feature that makes
playback of slightly warped discs possible. Without this feature,
slight warped discs would be difficult or impossible to read. It's
a nice feature if you plan to rent a lot of DVDs.
smooth slow motion and fast scan: one of the
the industry, with five speeds each in forward and reverse modes.
CD-R and CD-RW playback capability and MP3
decoding: record your favorite music and MP3s on CD-R and CD-RWs
for hours of non-stop music entertainment.
audio during search capability: selects whether you
want to hear audio during scan searches
Video Features & Performance - How
good is the picture?
Picture Quality. The picture looks fantastic
and sharp on our 27" Sony direct-view TV, using the S-video
connection. The colors are accurate and saturated. Skin
tones are good, as are shadow
details. On our 61" Sony rear projection TV (with conventional 4:3
aspect ratio), details not resolved by the 27" TV are revealed with
startling clarity. Along
with the additional visual details are the occasional 4:3 aspect ratio down-conversion
picture artifacts. For example, at the very beginning of Chapter 11
of "Meet Joe Black", the diagonal ceiling supports have a "staircase"
jagged edge look to them and the black and white floor tiles
seem to be pixelated. As the camera continues to pan down from the
ceiling, the black and white tiles seem to undulate. On the 27" TV, these
down-conversion and motion artifacts are not visible. As
another test, we watched for the same effect in "Men In Black" Chapter 8
(at time counter 29:20), when Agents Jay and Kay walk down the hall and the white
circular light fixtures on the ceiling moves down the screen behind them as
they walk forward. The "staircase" jagged edge effect
around the outline of the light fixtures are much smoother. In fact,
the picture looks smoother than some of the other DVD players we reviewed in the recent past. So the performance of 4:3 aspect ratio down-conversion
processing varies, depending on the material. Though we didn't test
the DVD-RV31 with a widescreen 16x9
aspect ratio TV, we expect the picture quality to be much better when
widescreen (i.e., "enhanced for 16x9 TVs") DVDs. Certainly on a widescreen TV, you wouldn't
expect to see
any of these 4:3 aspect ratio down-conversion
Editor's Note: With respect to 4:3 aspect ratio
down-conversion artifacts, the Sony DVD players tend to fare better due to
their 4-tap video filtering feature. Some reviewers don't like the soft
picture quality of the 4-tap filter, but we find it much more pleasing when
using a large 4:3 aspect ratio TV. Again, this is only an issue when
viewing an anamorphic widescreen DVD with a very large TV (40" or
larger). For TVs less than 40", these artifacts are less likely
to be an issue.
Slow Motion, Fast Scan, and Frame-by-Frame Advance. Panasonic DVD
players have one of the smoother slow motion and fast scan picture in the
industry. The picture remains clear and steady during both
operations. This makes using the slow motion and fast scan features
pleasurable. Fast scan has
five speeds in either forward or reverse, up to 100x. Slow motion is available
in five speed increments as well, in both forward and reverse. You can also advance
the picture frame-by-frame by
repeatedly pressing the pause button.
Video Processing. As with all Panasonic DVD
"Cinema Mode" video equalization processing can be set to
"normal" or "cinema". Though Panasonic touts the
"cinema" mode for its more film-like look and better shadow detail
when viewing movies, we actually prefer to use
the "normal" setting for all types of DVDs, movies or otherwise.
Audio Features & Performance - How
good does it sound?
DVD Multi-Channel Playback. For DVD playback, we
connected the DVD-RV31 to our Sony STR-V444ES receiver using the Toslink
optical digital audio connection. Multi-channel movie soundtracks,
both Dolby Digital and DTS, were reproduced with amazing clarity and
enveloped us in a
seamless sound field. Admittedly, we were quite pleasantly surprised with the
surround sound performance of the DVD-RV31. It sounds remarkably
good for a DVD player at this price range.
DVD Stereo Playback. If you don't have a
multi-channel surround sound set up, you can use the AVSS
feature with your stereo system or your TV's stereo speakers. This
feature simulates the effects of a surround sound system with just a pair of
stereo speakers. If you're using your TV's stereo speakers, just make sure you turn off the TV's own simulated
or enhanced stereo sound field feature. AVSS makes the sound field
much wider than just regular stereo. It's a pretty nice effect if you
don't have a real surround sound system, though it does not come close to
having a real multi-channel surround sound system.
Audio CD Reproduction. For music reproduction, we
tried both the stereo analog connection and the optical digital audio
connection to our receiver, and with both types of connections the sound was
really good. The
sound has good tonal qualities and is well-balanced with deep bass
extension. Imaging is good. Overall, we were quite pleased with the
audio quality of the DVD-RV31. It proves to be a capable single-disc CD
player. So much so that it was a pleasure listening to our
set of test audio CDs.
CD-R, CD-RW, and MP3s. On top of
everything we had just mentioned, the
DVD-RV31 is one of the new DVD players to feature CD-R and CD-RW
compatibility as well as MP3 decoding (a lossy, compressed audio
format made popular by CD-R drives and the internet). Put in a CD-R or CD-RW with MP3
files, and the unit plays back those music titles without issue or problem. Songs
are played back by the order of the filename: files with first characters
consisting of numbers first, then
alphabetical. Be aware that for CD-RWs recorded in multiple sessions, this unit can only
playback those recordings made in the first session. Be aware that
reproduction from these MP3 files are limited by the recording/encoding bit
rate. Anything recorded with less than 128 kbps will sound degraded.
For a high fidelity home audio system, I would recommend MP3s encoded at no
less than 256 kbps data rate. Anything less would mean too much
compression was used at the cost of sound fidelity. And while we prefer the sound
quality from uncompressed audio CDs (as in a PCM bitstream), we can appreciate the appeal and
convenience of MP3
playback of custom-made CD-Rs and CD-RWs on a home audio or home theater system.
Disc Performance - How well does it handle the discs?
The DVD-RV31 performs quite nicely.
Additionally, the disc stabilizer system is supposed to make slightly warped discs
easier to read. This feature should come in handy if you rent a lot of
DVDs, as rental discs can be badly handled.
Navigation. When navigating through the various DVD
menus, the DVD-RV31 is pretty responsive. It's not as fast as some of
the top performing and higher-end DVD players, but the response times are
average to above average for DVD players in this price category. This makes
navigating through the various DVD menus a quick and efficient process.
Layer Switch. In
our layer switch tests, this model exhibits good performance in switching
between layers of a dual-layered
DVD disc. Most layer switches are noticeable to some extent in any DVD
player. Like many DVD players, the picture is momentarily paused for about a full second as the
DVD-RV31's laser automatically re-focuses on the second layer.
DVD Angle Change. Using the scene deconstruction
featurette in the bonus features section of the "Men In Black"
Collector's Edition DVD, we were able to verify that the DVD angle change
feature performs smoothly and with a lag time of less than one second from
the time we selected a new angle to the time that new angle is displayed.
This is about as fast as we've seen from the fastest of DVD players.
Ease of Use - Is it easy to set-up & use
The DVD-RV31 is easy to use. Simple as that. The operating
instructions are well-written with clear and helpful diagrams. (To get
the most of this unit, do read the user manual.) Most common
settings have reasonable default factory values, making the set-up process quick and
painless for most consumers.
Initial Set Up. For those with the
conventional 4:3 aspect ratio TVs, you can skip the first-time set-up menus
altogether due to very logical default settings. If you have a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio TV or if you
want to re-configure the options, simply press the
"Action" button on the remote control and the graphical, icon-based menu helps guide
you through the configuration of of the DVD player. Settings such as TV aspect ratio, parental lock setting, desired audio track setting, the default
subtitle selection, menu language selection can be set using this menu. Once you've
completed this initial configuration, you shouldn't
have to do it again.
Everyday Use. In everyday use, you can change most settings
and navigate directly
using the dedicated buttons on the remote control. As an alternative to using
the dedicated buttons on the remote, you can bring up the icon-based on-screen
display by pressing the "Display"
button, view the status of various settings, and change them using the
cursor (e.g., up/down and right/left) control buttons. Yet another option is to use the front-panel
buttons. In any case, the method is simple and straightforward, thanks to the
intuitive icons and user-friendly on-screen menu system.
The front panel sports a fair number of buttons (e.g., play, pause, stop, skip/search,
Advanced Virtual Surround Sound (AVSS), Bass Plus, Cinema Mode, and Dialogue
Enhancer) making it easier to operate the unit without
the remote. The shuttle dial button can be used to perform fast scan
searches easily. The more you turn the knob in either direction, the
faster the scan search is performed in that direction. The circular
knob is spring loaded so that the dial returns to its center and neutral
position when you let go, and playback resumes at normal speed. Pretty
One thing to watch out for is the front-panel's
wedge-shaped LED display. While it adds style to what would have been
a boring front panel, this design feature
difficult to see the LED display when the DVD player is placed well above eye
level, since the display shows through the upper half of the bevel. If you have a
large rear projection TV and you stack your components high on top of the
TV, it may be hard to read the front-panel display if the unit sits higher than eye level.
Fortunately though, the remote control
works fine from any angle.
Speaking of which, the remote control is medium in size and has logical
button groupings. The remote's frequently-used disc transport buttons (e.g.,
play, stop, pause) and menu navigation buttons (e.g., arrow and enter
buttons) are located on the upper half of the remote and are easily operated
with just one finger. The buttons are marked with only one color, white.
The only exception is the power button which is marked in red. Some competitive models' remote controls
use multi color-coded buttons to clearly designate different groupings of
buttons which enhances readability. Lastly, the remote control can't be used to control other
audio or video components (such as a receiver or TV, Panasonic or
Video & Audio Outputs - Does it have all the
outputs I need?
The DVD-RV31 comes with just about all the different outputs you could need:
component video output: for the best picture
quality, use these if your TV has
component video inputs.
S-video output: your second choice for a good video
composite video output: use this if your TV does not
have any of the above types of video inputs.
audio output (Toslink): use this to connect the DVD-RV31 to an A/V receiver
with Dolby Digital and/or DTS decoding.
stereo audio analog output: use this to connect to
your TV or Dolby Pro-Logic surround sound receiver.
subwoofer output: an RCA output used to connecting an active subwoofer
directly from this DVD player.
Though it lacks a coaxial digital audio
output, you should
be able to use the optical digital audio output instead.
Build Quality - How well is it made?
The build quality appears to be about average for a
product in this price range. The unit comes with a one year parts and
90-day labor warrantee, which is comparable to other models in this price range.
Competitive Models & Value - How does this model
We're pretty impressed with the overall feature,
performance, and value combination of the Panasonic DVD-RV31. And we
believe that you'll have to look pretty hard to find a better value. Unless you demand
the very best in picture quality that DVD has to offer and other bells
and whistles, with this Panasonic you're
getting a brand-name model loaded with the features you can use at an unbeatable
"entry-level" price. But so you
would know, this unit compares price-wise to the Sony
Pioneer DV-343, Toshiba
SD-2700, and JVC XV-S45GD/JVC
All of these units retail for about $180. The Sony
DVP-NS300 does not feature CD-R/CD-RW and MP3 compatibility. You
would have to step up to the Sony
($250 retail) for CD-R/CD-RW capability but would still not have the MP3
decoding capability. The Pioneer DV-343
does offer CD-R/CD-RW compatibility but (again) no MP3 decoding. See why we
think the DVD-RV31 is such a terrific value?
Before you decide to go with the Panasonic DVD-RV31, there are others
features to consider that the DVD-RV31 doesn't have, in case these features
are important to you:
As a final note, if you want
the convenience of a 5-disc DVD/CD carousel changer, take a look at the Panasonic DVD-CV51.
It has the same features as the DVD-RV31, but adds the convenience of a
5-disc carousel changer so you can put in 5 DVDs and audio CDs (in any
combination), for only about $50 more ($230 retail).
The Panasonic DVD-RV31 proves to be a solid entry-level
performer and an excellent value. You'll have to look pretty hard to find another model
to beat this one's winning combination of features, performance, and value. We are giving the Panasonic DVD-RV31 our emphatic nod of
approval and putting it on our list of
recommended DVD players as a DVD player with "excellent value".
Availability & Price - Where
can I buy this model & for how much?
This model is available in either a black or silver chassis, and can be
bought just about anywhere for about $180. If you buy online, please
consider supporting this site by starting here and clicking through one of our
@ Amazon.com & free shipping (black), free
@ Amazon.com & free shipping (silver), free
> $169.99 @
Summary of Features: single-disc DVD player; plays
DVD-Video, audio CD, video CD, CD-R, CD-RW, MP3 decoding; Dolby Digital and DTS
output; virtual surround sound mode; dialogue enhancer; Cinema mode (for
enhancing shadow detail); black level mode (when using component video
outputs); fast scan (forward and reverse); slow motion (forward and
reverse); resume play, repeat play, A-B repeat play, random play, and
program play modes; dynamic range compression; PCM down conversion; audio
during search; parental lock-out feature; interlaced video via component
video, S-video, and composite video outputs; optical digital audio output;
stereo analog audio output; (active) subwoofer output.
Specifications: frequency response 4 Hz - 22 kHz
(48 kHz sampling) and 4 Hz - 44 kHz (96 kHz sampling) for DVD PCM audio, for
CD audio 4 Hz - 20 kHz; signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio 115 dB for CD audio; dynamic range
102 dB for DVD with PCM audio, 98 dB
for CD audio; total harmonic distortion (THD) 0.0025% for CD audio; power
consumption 14 Watts (2 Watts standby mode); dimensions 16 15/16" (W) x
9 3/4" (D) x 3 1/4" (H); weight 5.7 pounds; warrantee one year
parts, 90-day labor; made in Japan.
Contact Information: Panasonic Consumer Electronics
Company, One Panasonic Way, Secaucus, NJ 07094. Call toll-free
1-800-211-PANA (7262). Panasonic DVD web site.
Associated equipment used in evaluation: Sony
KP-61V45 61" rear projection TV (4:3 screen aspect ratio), Sony KV-27V66
27" TV (4:3 screen aspect ratio), Sony
STR-V444ES A/V receiver, NHT 2.1 as left/right main speakers, NHT 1.1C center channel speaker, NHT
SuperZero as surround speakers, Monster Cable M-series S-Video cable MSV-500, Monster
Cable Interlink LightSpeed 100 (Toslink) optical cable, and Monster Cable XP speaker
wires. Our home theater equipment was calibrated
with the Video
DVD movies and audio CDs used in testing: Gladiator
DVD, Mission: Impossible 2
DVD, Men In Black DVD, Meet Joe
Black DVD, Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace soundtrack
CD, Celine Dion's "The Colour of My Love"
"Destiny" CD, and Music
from the Motion Picture Titanic CD.
Review originally posted on July 11,
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