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Panasonic DVD-RV32 DVD player review

Recommended as a "Good Value" by TimeForDVD.com


Panasonic DVD-RV32 (silver chassis), click to see the photo gallery
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Manufacturer:

Panasonic
Model: DVD-RV32
Market
introduction:

February 2002
Warrantee: one year parts, 90-day labor
Retail/list price: $150 retail / $180 list
as low as
$74.99 online

Features: A- Video: A- Audio: A- Performance: A-
Ease of use: B+ Remote: B Build quality: B Value: A-


Summary: For 2002, Panasonic continues to lead the pack of entry-level DVD players with its solid-performing and high-value DVD-RV32.  For only $150 (or even less online), you get a brand-name DVD player with features like MP3 and WMA decoding, 4:3 TV zoom to remove those annoying letterbox black bars (if that bothers you), and other useful features.  If you're looking for a solid value in a basic DVD player, the Panasonic DVD-RV32 is definitely worth considering.  We recommend it as an "good value".

 

High Points:

> Good value

> Very smooth slow motion and fast scan modes

> Decoding for Windows Media Audio (WMA) files

> On-screen display navigation for MP3 and WMA files

> 4:3 TV zoom feature to remote letterbox black bars

 

Low Points:

> Below average remote control (small and crowded buttons)

> Occasional down-conversion artifacts when viewing anamorphic widescreen DVDs with a large 4:3 aspect ratio TV (40" and larger)

  


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Introduction

In 2001, we reviewed Panasonic's DVD-RV31 entry-level single-disc DVD player and gave it our recommendation as an "Excellent Value".  For 2002, Panasonic introduces the successor, the DVD-RV32.  This 2002 model carries over many good attributes of the DVD-RV31, adds a few more features such as Windows Media Audio (WMA) decoding, 4:3 TV zoom, and a higher-sampling 24-bit/192 kHz audio digital-to-analog converter (DAC), quick replay, sleep timer, and carries a lower price.  At $150, the DVD-RV32 is $30 less than last year's model.

Carried over from last year's DVD-RV31 are CD-R and CD-RW playback compatibility, 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.  To match the looks of your current set-up or furnishings, this model is available in either a black or silver chassis.  See pictures of this model in our photo gallery.

Key Features - Does it have the features I need?

The DVD-RV32 comes with just about all the features you could expect from an entry-level DVD player:

  • single-disc DVD player: plays back DVD-Video, DVD-R, video CD, audio CD, CD-R, CD-RW media

  • MP3 and WMA decoding: record your favorite music in MP3 and/or WMA file formats on CD-R and CD-RWs for hours of non-stop music entertainment

  • program play, random play, repeat play, A-B repeat play, and resume play

  • Dolby Digital and DTS output (via optical digital output): for outboard decoding by an A/V receiver for 5.1-channel home theater surround sound

  • dynamic range compression: makes the dynamic range between loud and soft sounds narrower which is more suitable for low volume playback (for late-night viewing)

  • 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-RV32 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.

  • Dialogue Enhancer: 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.

  • One-Touch Cinema Memory: recall your presets for AVSS, Bass Plus, Cinema Mode, and Dialogue Enhancer with just one touch

  • WMA decoding: record your favorite music in WMA (Windows Media Audio) file format on CD-R and CD-RWs for hours of non-stop music entertainment.

  • 4:3 TV zoom: this picture zoom feature enlarges the letterbox format picture to get rid of the black bars at the top and bottom of your TV screen.  Just like "full screen" DVD version of widescreen movies, you lose about 33% of the picture area due to cropping of the sides, but at least you will no longer have those black bars that can be annoying to some viewers.  This works well for DVD-Videos with 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but the 2.35 aspect ratio still would have some black bars.

  • 24-bit/192 kHz audio DAC: an audio digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that samples at 192 kHz for double sampling for improved sound quality.

  • 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 smoothest in the industry, with five speeds each in forward and reverse modes.

  • audio during search capability: selects whether you want to hear audio during scan searches.

  • sleep timer: set the DVD player to turn off after 60/90/120 minutes or 5 minutes after playback is completed.

  • quick replay: playback the last 8 seconds in case you missed some dialog.

Video Features & Performance - How good is the picture?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (widescreen edition), click to read our reviewPicture Quality.  The picture quality is marvelous on my 27" Sony direct-view TV, using the S-video connection.  The colors are accurate and saturated.  Skin tones are good and realistic.  Watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, we verified that shadow details are well rendered.  We then connected the DVD-RV32 to my 61" Sony rear projection TV (with conventional 4:3 aspect ratio).  Details that were not resolved by the 27" TV are revealed with startling clarity on the 61" rear projection set.  In addition to the added visual details, we can see 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.  Compared to last year's DVD-RV31, the DVD-RV32 showed some improvement in this area.  On the 27" TV, these down-conversion and motion artifacts are hardly 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.  So the performance of 4:3 aspect ratio down-conversion processing varies, depending on the material.  Though we didn't test the DVD-RV32 with a widescreen 16x9 aspect ratio TV, I expect the picture quality to be much better when viewing anamorphic 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 picture artifacts.

Chroma Upsampling Error.  To check to see if the DVD-RV32 suffers from the chroma upsampling error, we put the Toy Story and Fifth Element (Superbit) DVDs in and watched for the tell-tale signs.  Nothing.  We are happy to report that the DVD-RV32's MPEG2 decoder is free of this bug.  For more information about this subject, visit this site.

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 I 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 200x.  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 players, the "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, I 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-RV32 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.  As with last year's DVD-RV31, we were pleased with the surround sound performance of the DVD-RV32.

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, I was quite pleased with the audio quality of the DVD-RV32.  It serves well as a single-disc CD player.

CD-R, CD-RW with MP3 and WMA files. On top of everything we had just mentioned, the DVD-RV32 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.  New for this year, the DVD-RV32 adds a graphical user interface (GUI) for MP3 and WMA files.  This GUI goes a long way in making MP3 and WMA playback user friendly.

Disc Performance - How well does it handle the discs?

a disc with a clamping area sticker, click to enlarge The DVD-RV32 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.  Even discs with rental clamping area stickers (i.e., bar code stickers) are mostly playable (see picture).  Sometimes these stickers causes some DVD players to lose grip of the disc, resulting in difficulty with play back (dropouts) and even loss of play back capability.  Other times, the stickers can be applied unevenly, throwing the disc's balance off.  The DVD-RV32's disc stabilizer feature handles these cases with little difficulty.  It certainly does much better than my aging Sony DVP-S7700 DVD player.  Kudos to Panasonic.

Navigation. When navigating through the various DVD menus, the DVD-RV32 is fairly 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 most DVD players.  Like many DVD players, the picture is momentarily paused for about a split second as the DVD-RV32'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 average for DVD players in the price range.

Ease of Use - Is it easy to set-up & use everyday?

The DVD-RV32 is very 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 "Setup" 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.

shuttle dial for fast scansThe 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 sleek, huh?

Remote Control

remote controlThe 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.  Except for the cursor control and enter buttons, many of the buttons are too small and too tightly packed together for comfortable operation.  In this respect, the DVD-RV32's remote control is a step down from last year's DVD-RV31.  Additionally, 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 otherwise).  While it's not the worst remote that I've encountered, Panasonic could have done a better job.

Video & Audio Outputs - Does it have all the outputs I need?

The DVD-RV32 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 connection.

  • composite video output: use this if your TV does not have any of the above types of video inputs.

  • optical digital audio output (Toslink): use this to connect the DVD-RV32 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 compare?

Panasonic did a good job of packing a rich set of features and solid performance into this $150 DVD player.  And while it's some $30 cheaper than last year's model, the competition has gotten quite stiff in the entry-level DVD player market.  But even in that light, we still think the DVD-RV32 is a very good buy in terms of value.  It's not quite the "excellent value" the DVD-RV31 earned in its day, but DVD-RV32 seems to be holding its own quite well.  It's amazing how much prices have come down for DVD players since its May 1997 introduction.  Compared to its brand-name competitors (e.g., Sony DVP-NS315, JVC XV-S300 , Toshiba SD2800, Pioneer DV-353), the Panasonic DVD-RV32 seems to be the most well-rounded player, offering a rich set of features and rock-solid performance.  For example, it's the only one with WMA decoding.  Check out the differences using our DVD player comparison chart for yourself here.  At only $150, we don't think that buying a no-name or small-brand DVD player is necessarily a better deal.  

Before you decide to go with the Panasonic DVD-RV32, there are others features to consider that the DVD-RV32 doesn't have, in case these features are important to you:

  • Coaxial digital audio output: though you can use the optical digital audio output, if you still insist on the coaxial connection, consider the Sony DVP-NS315, Toshiba SD2800, Pioneer DV-353, and JVC XV-S300 models.  Except for the Sony (which only has the coaxial digital output), these other models have both types of digital audio connections.

  • Headphone jack: very few entry-level and mid-range DVD players come with a headphone jack these days.  A couple of years ago when manufacturers started producing cheaper and cheaper DVD players, they did away with this feature as a cost savings.  As a result, you'll have to fork out more money for a more expensive model if you need this feature.

As a final note, if you want the convenience of a 5-disc DVD/CD carousel changer, take a look at the Panasonic DVD-CV52.  It has the same features as the DVD-RV32, 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 $30 more ($180 average retail).  Even if you don't go with the DVD-RV32, pick a brand-name model.

Conclusion

Since the Panasonic DVD-RV32 delivers a winning combination of features, performance, and value, we are giving the Panasonic DVD-RV32 my emphatic nod of approval and putting it on our list of recommended DVD players as a DVD player with "good value".

Availability & Price - Where can I buy this model & for how much?

This model is available in either a black (DVD-RV32K) or silver (DVD-RV32S) chassis, and can be bought just about anywhere for about $150.  If you buy online, please consider supporting this site by starting here and clicking through one of our links below:

> $74.99 @ BestBuy.com (black) - after $20.00 mail-in rebate, rebate expires 3/31
> $79.88 @ JandR.com (black or silver) - after $20.00 mail-in rebate, rebate expires 3/31
> $89.99 @ Amazon.com (black) - after $20.00 mail-in rebate, rebate expires 3/31

Other Information

Summary of Features: single-disc DVD player; plays DVD-Video, DVD-R, audio CD, video CD, CD-R, CD-RW, MP3 (does not support ID3 tags) and WMA decoding; Dolby Digital and DTS output; virtual surround sound mode; dialogue enhancer; 10-bit/27 MHz video DAC; Cinema mode (for enhancing shadow detail); black level mode (when using component video outputs), 4:3 TV zoom, fast scan (forward and reverse); slow motion (forward and reverse); resume play, repeat play, A-B repeat play, quick replay, random play, and program play modes; 24-bit/192 kHz audio DAC; dynamic range compression; PCM down conversion; audio during search; parental lock-out feature; sleep timer; 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 2 15/16" (H); weight 5.31 pounds; warrantee one year parts, 90-day labor; made in China.

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, four B&W CDM 9NTs as left/right main speakers and left/right surrounds, B&W CDM CNT center channel speaker, Monster Cable M-series S-Video cable MSV-500, Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 100 (Toslink) optical cable, Monster Cable Original speaker wires with Monster Cable twist-on gold-plated banana plug connectors, Lovan Sovereign T HiFi audio rack, and Sony MDR-V600 studio monitor headphones.  Our home theater equipment was calibrated with the Video Essentials DVD.

DVD movies and audio CDs used in testingGladiator 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" DVD, Gloria Estefan's "Destiny" CD, and Music from the Motion Picture Titanic CD.

Review originally posted on July 2, 2002.  Last updated February 2, 2003.

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In This Review:

 

> Photo Gallery

> Introduction

> Key Features

> Video Features & Performance

> Audio Features & Performance

> Disc Performance

> Ease of Use

> Remote Control

> Video & Audio Outputs

> Build Quality

> Competitive Models & Value

> Conclusion

> Availability &  Price

> Other Information

 


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> B&W CDM 9NT & CNT loudspeaker system

> Lovan "Sovereign" audio rack

 

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DVD & Blu-ray Release Dates

 

> August 2010

> September 2010

> October 2010

> November 2010

> December 2010

> January 2011

more >>   

 




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