The 9 Best DVD Players
This wiki has been updated 19 times since it was first published in December of 2015. If you're looking for a low-cost way to view your movie collection and other media, one of these DVD players ought to do the trick. We've included modular units for connecting to a TV as well as models with integrated screens that are good for travel use, all ranked here by durability, available features, and playback quality. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best dvd player on Amazon.
Layers Of Technology
Four major components of a DVD player include a disc drive mechanism, optical system, tracking system, and a printed circuit board.
I can still recall the days when people figured that the VHS format was the pinnacle of video playback technology and that nothing would ever top it. Heck, I still remember being at the local Sam Goody video store on February 28, 1995 in anticipation of the release of Disney's The Lion King on VHS tape. For a kid, the opportunity to own and record movies and television programming using tapes was supremely exciting. That said, so was watching the technology evolve into the DVD and Blu Ray devices we know today. Both can play back standard definition digital video content from something no larger than a CD. By eliminating the concern for rapidly-degrading analog magnetic tape in favor of long-term digital data preservation, CD player technology ultimately helped set the stage for the development of the DVD player.
The DVD player is a device specifically-designed for the playback of various optical disc media, including the digital video disc. Many of these units are compatible with audio CDs as well. Depending on your preferences, DVD players are available as either self-contained, portable units with built-in LCD screens and speakers, or as hardware devices connected directly to a television for video playback on a big screen.
Before we jump into the parts of a DVD player and how they work, it's important to understand the general makeup of a DVD itself and how the player will utilize its overall construction. A typical DVD is made from several layers of clear polycarbonate plastic that add up to a thickness of around 1.2 millimeters. The DVD production process results in the formation of microscopic pits (or bumps) on the surface of each disc arranged together in a single, continuous, and extremely long spiral track of data from the center of the media. This is similar in design to a traditional vinyl record. A DVD player's job is to ultimately find these pits and "read" the data for playback.
Four major components of a DVD player include a disc drive mechanism, optical system, tracking system, and a printed circuit board. The disc drive mechanism includes a loading tray, used to accept a disc, and a precisely-controlled spindle motor that rotates the disc at a rate of between 200 and 500 revolutions per minute, depending on the data track being read. The optical system consists of a red laser diode, lenses, a prism, photodetectors, and mirrors, all of which work in tandem to focus on the small pits on the DVD disc throughout the data track. The tracking system allows the entire laser assembly to move so that the laser beam can follow this data track. The laser beam hits the pits and bumps on a disc's surface, while also being reflected in a manner dependent on the arrangement of the pits. This reflected laser light is ultimately collected by the photodetectors, which convert the signal into a binary code. The printed circuit board is equipped with a digital to analog converter, which translates this binary code into analog audio and video signals that are amplified for playback on a television.
Choosing A DVD Player
If you want to experience as close to high-definition entertainment as possible without making the plunge for a Blu-ray device, consider a model with the ability to upscale your DVD media. One capable of progressive scanning will certainly help make that easier.
Think about the available connections on the back of your unit of choice. A DVD player with a component video output allows both the luminance and color signals to be delivered through separate wires, minimizing signal degradation during the transfer from the player to a television. Also, a USB input is a great addition to your device when you want to view JPEG photos or play back a variety of video files on a larger screen.
If you still have a lot of VHS tapes in your collection, consider a 2-in-1 option capable of both playing and recording your tapes to blank DVD media. Additionally, a unit that can play back homemade CDs and MP3 files can come in handy if you don't have a dedicated CD player at your disposal.
A Brief History Of DVD Players
The world’s first DVD player was the Toshiba SD-3000 released in November 1996. It was considered a revolutionary breakthrough in home video entertainment. The compatible discs made for this unit were approximately 12 centimeters in diameter and could store both digital audio and video content for playback.
By the end of the year 2000, the cost for DVD player hardware dropped dramatically from over $1,000 to around $100.
DVD players were introduced to the United States consumer market beginning in 1997 with distribution limited to only several major cities at first. By the end of the year 2000, the cost for DVD player hardware dropped dramatically from over $1,000 to around $100. That same year, the Sony Corporation released the PlayStation 2 gaming console, which could play games developed specifically for the system along with retail DVD media, making it a big selling point for the masses. By the end of 2003, nearly 1,000 different models of DVD player existed from over 100 electronic manufacturers.
Following the success of the DVD player, the first prototype high-definition Blu-ray player was released in 2003 with continued development until 2006. This fueled the beginning of the HD format war between Sony's Blu-ray disc technology and Toshiba's HD-DVD format. Blu-ray ultimately prevailed and became the high-definition optical disc format of choice by 2008. Today's Blu-ray player advantage is its backward compatibility with the DVD format, giving consumers the ability to use their Blu-ray players as standard and high-definition playback devices at the same time.
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