Most DVD's will give you great picture quality as you view commercial DVD movies or superior sound as you listen to your favorite audio CD. If you own a standard TV, and want a DVD player for basic use, go for the best price, most likely under $100. The higher quality your TV (digital HDTV or projection system) the more sophisticated your DVD requirements. Here are some factors to consider as you shop.
Single or Multi-disc
If all you plan to do is watch DVD movies, a single disc unit is the least expensive and more than adequate. If you also intend to listen to CDs on your system, then look for a more expensive multidisc model with 2,3,5 and 6 disc capacity all the way up to 400, to enjoy CD's back to back without hopping up to change the CD. By the way, if you are playing home recorded music discs, make sure that the DVD you are considering can play them. Prices range from $150 to $1,000 for the personal jukebox.
Whether you want to pay more for Progressive Scan DVD technology depends on the type of TV you will be watching. If you own a high definition or HD ready TV look for a DVD with progressive scan. Most of us watch TV with interlaced scanning, where each TV frame of about 400 horizontal lines is drawn once for the even numbered lines and once for odd numbered lines in a 30 frame per second signal. Our eyes see the image as one solid picture, not two separate half pictures. This image, although very viewable, can produce distortion and flickering. With progressive scan, the horizontal lines (500 with DVD) are drawn from top to bottom in progression, one frame at a time so you get better resolution and brightness, with less distortion. If you have a high definition TV or are thinking of upgrading soon, include progressive scan in your list of must haves.
It is important to know your audio requirements before you buy your DVD player. For some people it will be enough to hook up the DVD player's stereo connections to their TV or receiver with RCA-type cables for right and left stereo outputs. Almost all DVD players produce Dolby Digital surround sound reliably. If you have more sophisticated tastes, either purchase an audio receiver with processors for Digital Theater Systems (DTS) and Dolby Digital sound to decode the digital audio or look into a DVD player with its own DTS processor. Also check out players with optical and coaxial digital outputs that will match your home entertainment system for optimum results. These state of the art audio features, including built in decoders are found in higher end models.
Each year new technologies, competition among manufacturers, and a "why not" attitude produce more and more options for the DVD buyer. From compatibility with computer generated files like MP3s, JPEGs and WMA files to built-in karaoke these features strengthen the versatility of a DVD player. Don't pay for what you don't need but be open to options that will make your life easier and more enjoyable.
Easy to Use?
You shouldn't have to read a fifty-page manual to figure out the controls on your DVD player. Look for clearly labeled buttons on the control panel that are large enough for you to press easily, and readable in the dark. Onscreen menus should be easy to follow. If you have to resort to the manual, look for clear layout and straightforward directions in easily understood language.