Being a gadget freak I couldn't just review the discs, I had to have a go at the hardware. Putting my cash on the line and with help from DVDOG (for the loan of the Akira) I managed to churn out the following review.
The Box (first impressions):
The Digitor was packed very neatly, with everything in its place and overall looks like it is worth more than the meagre asking price. The unit is a lot smaller than your average DVD or CD player, so the box is quite compact (but only just smaller than the Akira). This is the first thing you notice when unpacking. First impressions are definitely of quality with this DVD player.
The Nintaus is definitely a little more no frills in the packaging department, but what it lacks there it makes up by including some component video cables. First impressions of the Nintaus are generally good, but it is certainly a cruder device.
The Akira is similar to the Nintaus, the box is on the minimalist side. The packaging is rather basic, but everything is secure. As a bonus, a composite video and stereo RCA audio cable is included.
Excess packaging is not required in this day and age. As long as the box adequately protects the product, that is the most important thing.
Another little thing of passing interest was the quality of the loading trays. Each unit had a basic tray load mechanism, similar to a PC CD/DVD drive. The quality of these didn’t instil much confidence, but I am sure they will do the job (at least for a couple of years). To start picking however, I was surprised to find the Nintaus units tray did not come out as far as the others, it seemed to be short by about 2cm, so this could be a little frustrating for those people (like me) who have difficulty remove DVD/CD’s from the tray. The Nintaus also suffered from a slow delay in the time it took the tray to open on pressing the eject button, sometimes resulting in pressing the button more than once and having the tray retract straight away.
Digitor - 4
Nintaus - 3
Akira - 3
(All Scores out of 5)
All three units are a doddle to connect. I have used the S-Video and Coax digital out connections (optical for the Akira as my amplifier ran out of coax connections).
The Digitor has a limited number of outputs and does not have onboard decoding, other than the connections I have used there is a composite video and stereo RCA connections. On power up, all I had to do was press the menu button on the remote, tell it my type of TV and set the sound so that digital out for dts and Dolby Digital was enabled, and that was it.
The Nintaus has quite a lot more connections on the rear, other than the connections used there is two composite video outs, a component video out (to match the included cables) and stereo RCA connections. This unit also does not feature on board decoding. On power up, all that was required was to define the type of TV in general setup, allow SPDIF to be enabled (odd as it only has Coax out) and that was it.
The Akira is easily the most comprehensive of the three, over the Nintaus it has 5.1 out, optical digital out and progressive on/off for component out. When plugged in the machine was as easy as the other two to setup. Using the remote ‘setup’ button, the user just has to select the type of TV being used.
Overall the Digitor is a bit more intuitive than the Nintaus or Akira, its setup menu/remote/manual is a lot clearer. The Nintaus’ manual is clear visually but the text is in Chinglish and is quite simply terrible, thankfully I didn’t need it, but for the average punter this is inexcusable. The Akira manual is also quite good and has many pages on the units operation, however there is no index and no page numbers, which is odd. The test is in fairly concise English, but not perfect.
Digitor - 4
Nintaus - 3
Akira - 3.5
The Digitor remote has the best layout, but the least amount of functions / buttons. It is also shaped nicely for comfortable holding. The buttons are different shapes and colours, making it easier to operate. The battery compartment on the Digitor does not hold the batteries very well and a couple of times during the review the remote was not working because the batteries where not making good contact. The only way to make it work again was to take the batteries out and reinsert them. It is a shame about the above problem as this remote looks like a quality unit, with a flat silver appearance compared to the shiny look of the others.
The Nintaus remote has considerably more functions on it, but good luck finding any of them quickly. It is not particularly well thought out, they have used different shapes and colours for some buttons, but the labelling is poor and you end up pressing the wrong button for the function you want. Points go the Nintaus for having glow in the dark navigation buttons. This remote is also a lot larger than the Digitor one.
The remote for the Akira is long and thin, quite different to the other two, but with similar size buttons to the Nintaus, this shape is pleasing/comfortable to hold. However it is good the navigation buttons are a different size, otherwise it would be impossible to use in a darkened room. This remote has labelling issues similar to the Nintaus. The silver colour is a little cheap looking, like the Nintaus again. I believe the shiny appearance marks too easily and the Akira remote has a couple of rub marks already.
Digitor - 2.5
Nintaus - 3
Akira - 3
On Screen Display:
The Nintaus’ display is fairly basic, although to its credit it has a nice little welcome screen with switchable screen saver. During audio playback the screen is a flat blue colour with white on black track and time displays.
The Digitor is a little more polished with more pleasing looking graphics. It also has a blue screen display during playback, but with a nice DVD logo displayed and colour shading. The displayed text on the Digitor is blue within a green box on the blue background unlike the black box with white text of the Nintaus. For a machine that has no display on the unit the Digitor does not seem to have a way to keep the track/time displayed on screen, after 5 seconds it turns off. This is very annoying.
The Akira has a nice beach scene in the background during audio playback, with very similar time/track displays to the Nintaus, but slightly smaller and more polished. The Akira also has a screen saver if the unit is left idle and on.
All machines display a stable image.
Digitor - 3
Nintaus - 3.5
Akira - 4.5
For the purpose of testing I used the following:
DVD: R1 Superbit – The Fifth Element, R1 RCE – Auto Focus
R4 Action – Event Horizon
R4 Known Faulty DVD – Keeping the Faith (has video playback problem on Pioneer)
CD: Jeff Buckley – Grace, Pet Shop Boys – Discography, Yazoo – The Best Of
dts Audio CD: Queen – A Night at the Opera (DVD Audio with dts included), Sting – Brand New Day
WMA/MP3: I used two different CDs for this test. The first one, an EMTEC CDR, had all the songs in separate folders, the second, a Verbatim CDRW, had all the songs in the root directory, or more simply no folders.
Starting with ‘Event Horizon’, which I used for audio (this is by no means a reference title). I selected chapter 5, this has a good mix of action, music and special effects.
The Akira produced very good sound, plenty of defined surround effects, clear centre and thumping bass. The Digitor and Nintaus were exactly the same.
After being frustrated by the sameness of the performance of these machines I was relishing the use of my ‘dodgy’ DVD, ‘Keeping the Faith’. On the Pioneer this DVD has some passages where the image flickers to the point of being blurred and unpleasant to watch, this lasts for several seconds at a time. This is particularly bad at chapter 3 from 6:09 to 6:10 and chapter 6 14:21 to 14:30. On to testing and each machine played straight through these points with no obvious flaw at all, amazing.
Moving on to ‘The Fifth Element’ R1 superbit, I used chapter 5 again, to test video quality and frame smoothness.
At last there was a difference, the picture on the Digitor was slightly jerky during the space ship scenes and some of the other scenes where the camera was panning. The Nintaus and Akira were perfect during the same passage of film. Of note was the screen flicker during the menu screen, the Digitor and Nintaus had prominent flicker, but the Akira had a considerably more stable image.
Last but not least, I tested the R1 RCE disc of ‘Auto Focus’. This is a known problem for some older machines and I thought it would be perfect for testing.
The Digitor displayed the region coding map, which is a bad sign as it means the RCE is doing its job. However after using the multi zone crack for this DVD player (hidden menu), the RCE disc was played without any hassles. A funny thing with the Digitor is that it played the R1 title ok, but needed the multi zone crack for the R1 RCE. The Nintaus and Akira machines played the DVD without any changes, so these are true multi-zone out of the box.
I think a summary for the DVD side of these players, is that they are all good playback devices. Perfect for someone new to DVD or someone needing a second machine as a back up or for the kids.
Digitor - 3
Nintaus - 4
Akira - 4
All three units automatically start playing an inserted audio CD. Listening to Jeff Buckley, track 5, So Real as a starting point. All units sound very good, no chance of picking, if blind tested. The stereo imaging was spot on, the frequency range and detail was great for such cheap machines. Moving on to the Pet Shop Boys, I played track 5, It’s a Sin, once again there is nothing at all in it. Just for the record I have two copies of both the above CD’s (don’t ask) so testing was just a matter of pause and change device, no need to worry about audio memory!! I put on Yazoo next, track 2, Ode to Boy, has some serious bass. Once again there was no obvious difference and all three machines handled the low bass and high frequencies very well.
Digitor - 5
Nintaus - 5
Akira - 5
dts Audio CD:
Putting the Queen disc in the Nintaus achieved zip, it couldn’t understand what type of disc was inserted. The Digitor and Akira understood the disc without a problem, dts and PCM playback was not an issue. The Queen DVD-A/dts CD also has video, with lyrics and menus. The quality of the video from this title is fairly average, with a lot of flickering. The video quality in the menus and music video on the Akira was much better than on the Digitor. A change of CD and success for the Nintaus, playing the Sting dts audio CD, this unit had no issues. I used track 1, a Thousand Years. The channel separation, detail and surround channel use seemed to be very good. Over to the Digitor and on inserting the dts CD the player identifies it by name and type and begins playing. The Akira also played this title without an issue. There is no obvious sound difference between the three machines on the Sting CD.
Digitor - 4
Nintaus - 3.5
Akira - 5