Philips DVP 642 Review
By André Gordirro on August 18, 2005
The latest trend in DVD players is being able to read DivX and Xvid files. Both are codecs that compress video files to manageable sizes – working just as MP3 does for music. The Phillips DVP 642 recognizes not only DivX and Xvid files (movies) but also MP3s (music) and JPEG (photo) extensions and disc formats like VCDs, SVCDs and DVDs – it’s like having your PC plugged to your TV and sound system. Thin and stylish, the player far exceeds the user’s expectations especially considering how information-challenged its manual is. If you are a consummated downloader of movies, TV shows and music, this is the DVD player for you.
Setting it up is pretty simple. The DVP 642 has all the obligatory connections on its back:
We strongly recommend using the video component and optical digital audio connections for the best performance possible.
The DVP 642 supports the following disc formats: CD-R, CD-RW, DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD+RW and DVD-RW although the manual doesn’t mention the –R and –RW types. There’s a reason behind this omission: DVD-R and DVD-RW were created by a consortium led by Pioneer while Phillips is one of the companies responsible for the development of DVD+R and DVD+RW technologies.
The player is DivX certified by DivX Networks. It underwent a hardware-compatibility and testing program by the DivX Team to ensure that its claim to support and play DivX video would meet a certain minimum quality and interoperability standards. It’s also compatible with the rival Xvid codec – another piece of information the manual doesn’t provide – although the DVP 642 doesn’t read files encoded in high resolutions.
The DVP 642 has a DTS digital out – which means you have to have a DTS ready receiver to execute the conversion of the sound signal. The player just reads and then sends the DTS signal out to be decoded by another device in your home theater setup. It can't play DTS soundtracks on DivX files though.
Image wise the DVP 642 is a progressive scan DVD player. Progressive scan is the technology behind computer monitors. It actually doubles the vertical resolution of the image resulting in a noticeably sharper picture. This technology is vastly superior over traditional interlaced scan which handles analog television signals like those from TV stations, cable companies and VCRs. Interlaced scan displays the image on a screen by scanning each line of pixels in an alternate order while progressive scan does it by scanning them in a sequential order. Thus a flicker-free high resolution image is created delivering the best viewing. But beware: a progressive scan DVD player needs a progressive scan-ready TV. If you turn the progressive scan feature on while connected to a regular TV set it will display two similar images side-by-side.
The DVP 642 has many strong points – but menu selection is definitely not one of them. It features graphically boring setup menus. File naming is limited by 11 characters which are way too few to index MP3s, personal pictures and DivX movies. At least it handles multiple file types in the same CD/DVD with ease: you can throw music, image and video files in the same disc and the player will index them correctly even if the file extension was mislabeled. The display feature is pretty useless: it doesn’t display the name of the file being played and it only leads to the Time Search feature.
The remote control is another low point. It’s non-intuitive, poorly laid out and sorely lacks a backlight. Since the buttons are pretty much the same size trying to find, say, the pause button in the dark is an adventure in itself. If they were of different sizes the finger recognition would be quicker. You can rewind and fast forward the DivX and XVid files up to 8X speed with the remote, as well as browse through the files in the disc with the Skip Next button. If you got stuck with a poorly played Xvid file (usually because of an encoding process gone wrong) you can press twice the System Menu button to bypass this – there’s little guaranty it will work in all cases but it did in some files we used to write this review.
Picture-CD & MP3-CD functionality
Connections - Video
Connections - Audio