How to buy the best DVD player Important DVD player features
This article, How to buy the best DVD player, was last updated on 29 August 2009 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Technology articles.
DVD players can be awash with features but some are more important than others. These are the ones that are worth looking for.
All DVD players will play pre-recorded DVDs, either those you rent or buy.
DVD players will also play back discs that have been recorded on other DVD recorders.
However, not all DVD discs are the same.
There are several different recording formats – DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD Ram – each with slightly different features and capabilities, and not all DVD players will play back all formats.
For more, see our guide to DVD formats.
Other types of disc
Most players can also play standard CDs. Some can also play newer types of audio disc (DVD-Audio and SA-CD), which claim to offer better sound quality.
Some models can also play discs containing MP3 files, or those containing Jpeg picture files, so you can show your holiday snaps on your TV screen, for example.
DivX is a format commonly used when copying video footage from a computer onto a disc.
USB ports and SD card slots
Some of the latest DVD players are equipped with memory card slots that let you plug a card from your digital camera into machine directly and view pictures on your TV.
More common are USB ports for connecting USB memory sticks or digital equipment.
Either way, the picture quality is typically excellent when viewed on a modern high resolution LCD, LED or plasma TV.
As an added bonus, the USB option sometimes allows playback of MP3 music files or digital video formats.
Models with bookmarking let you mark favourite scenes or places in a disc so you can find them again quickly.
More sophisticated DVD players let you bookmark several discs, and will remember your bookmarks even when the disc is removed.
This means that the player will start the disc where you stopped it (instead of at the beginning each time) but you normally have to leave the disc in the player.
Some models with multi-disc resume remember where to start playing the disc even after you’ve removed it and reinserted it.
All DVD players with a digital output can be connected to external surround-sound decoders (such as Dolby Digital 5.1), amplifiers and speakers, so you can experience cinema-like surround sound.
Virtually all DVDs have the surround-sound tracks on them. If you intend to use the player with a surround-sound system, you’ll need one with a digital output that’s compatible with the surround-sound amplifier.
There are two types of output, coaxial (wire) and optical (fibre optic) so make sure you get the correct type.
Black level control
This adjusts the picture's black level, which is useful for watching movies with particularly dark sequences, such as the film The Matrix.
LCD TV pictures can often look a bit washed out, so any boost from the DVD player can be helpful.
Auto power-off If you leave your player switched on when not in use, this handy energy-saving feature will switch it into standby after a given period of idleness.
This is a high-definition video socket that connects your player to a HDTV designed to enhance standard DVD pictures when connected to a HDTV.
However, we've rarely witnessed many picture quality improvements when compared with a standard Scart RGB connection.