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I am now the proud owner of a Panasonic XV10 DVD player which I recently picked up from Martin Dawes for absolutely zilch. We’ve rented our TV and Video for the last few years from Martin Dawes. £30 a month provides a high spec digital combination and the ability to upgrade at regular intervals without any hassle. I called into their shop in Shrewsbury a few weeks back on the off chance that there may be some offers on, but was told by the very helpful assistant that the Panasonic TV/Video package we were renting was the equal of anything that they currently had in stock and to change would mean either a higher rental or a lower specification albeit on a newer model. He asked me why I wanted to change and I told him that I quite fancied a DVD player and had noticed that the current packages had one included. “No problem sir, I’ll add one to your existing contract.” “Hold on a minute I said, how much is that going to cost me?” “Nothing” he said “as long as you sign up with us for another twelve months”. Five minutes later I’d signed the documents and was busy trying to explain to my wife in Marks and Spencer's why I was carrying this box full of expensive looking electrical equipment when I’d supposedly gone off to buy a pair of shoes. Neither of us are disappointed - the shoes can wait. Panasonic's DVD-XV10 is an extremely well designed DVD player. It is by far the best looking DVD player I’ve seen, exceptionally shiny and incredibly thin. Panasonic claim that at 52mm high, it's the world's slimmest DVD player. Its fabulous design does have one drawback though, in order to maintain its mirror-like status, there are no front-facing controls. All of the control buttons rest on the front top edge and if, as in my case, the DVD-XV10 is in a TV cabinet, you can’t actually see the script for the top-facing buttons.
One of its supposed selling points is that it has "Advanced Virtual Surround Sound" (AVSS), a method of simulating true Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound on a two-speaker setup. My understanding of 5.1 channel surround sound is that it is excellent because it uses multiple sound channels and speakers to create an entire enveloping sound environment. Panasonic’s AVSS does create something of this effect, but the overall sound quality does depend largely on the quality of the DVD being played through the system. More impressive on the audio front are features designed to enhance bass tones and particularly dialogue. The DVD-XV10 will send an enhanced audio signal to a separate subwoofer (if you have one) to enhance bass. Dialogue enhancement sends a boosted signal to the centre channel speaker to enhance dialogue over other noisy channels. I’ve not yet got a vast collection of DVD’s to play but even on those that I have tried it works incredibly well on most but not so well on some. Another major selling point of the DVD-XV10 is what it calls "Cinema Mode". This adjusts onscreen brightness in order to lessen glare and provide a more 'cinema like' experience. Once again this is a bit hit and miss, working very well on some DVD’s but making others appear rather dark and murky. It could be that with a bit more experience I can resolve this with the brightness control! The DVD-XV10 offers a 'zoom' feature for 16:9 widescreen movies to render them as though they were 4:3 pan and scan titles. This can take away a good part of the viewable image and it doesn't seem to work on every widescreen title. The DVD-XV10 can also be used as a sound system. It supports CD Audio and MP3 playback through a simple interface. I wasn’t particularly impressed by its random function; where a normal CD player would allow you to jump in between playback modes, the random selec
tion can only be set before you press play. However, leaving aside the additional functions, the DVD-XV10 is a really excellent playback system for DVD, CD, CD-R, CD-RW and DVD-R. It has a comprehensive remote which feels rather lightweight and cheap compared to the DVD player and an onscreen display, which is somewhat minimalist. It took me a while to get to grips with the controls but once you’ve mastered it there’s very little onscreen disruption. The Quick Replay function that jumps back seven seconds from any point is particularly useful, so that if you miss a line of dialogue you can quickly catch up without annoying the other people watching. I am pleased with my ‘bargain’ and would have been quite prepared to pay the £189.99 I’ve seen it advertised for, though I think the additional features do not warrant the standard selling price of £249.99, which is high compared to other DVD players on the market. All in all it is an excellent player, which really looks the business with additional features that are over rated. I would also recommend Martin Dawes – on this occasion it was a pleasure to do business with them. I'm about to take advantage of their mobile phone offer, so no doubt you'll be hearing about that soon!