Home cinema systems buying guide

An essential part of any home entertainment system, DVD players offer extremely sharp pictures with crystal clear sound, as well as a whole range of extra features.

You can buy several different types of DVD player, from portable DVD players to DVD recorders with integrated Freeview. So which kind of machine is right for you? Our DVD player buying guide can help you understand the differences.

How does a DVD player work?

A DVD (which stands for Digital Versatile Disc) works on a similar principle to CDs. However, DVDs are able to hold both audio and video information and have a capacity up to twelve times larger than a CD. The data is compressed and stored in MPEG-2 format, which is then turned into a video signal by the DVD player itself. Because of the compressed files and the amount of available space a DVD is able to contain lots of other information, from subtitles and commentaries to special features and menu screens.

What to look for in a DVD player

All DVD players should be able to access any special extras and language options on a DVD disc, play audio CDs and have digital audio output. Here are some other general questions that you should ask when looking for a new DVD player:

  • Is it easy to use?

    The buttons on both the remote control and the front-panel should be clearly marked and user-friendly.

  • Is it well made?

    Avoid flimsy players. Even cheap machines should be sturdy and not too lightweight.

  • What kinds of connectors does it have?

    The machine should have a SCART socket as a minimum. Most have SCART and composite video connectors. It may even come with component video, S-video or HDMI, great for HDTV connections.

  • And the audio connectors?

    Players may have optical or coaxial digital outputs, or sometimes both. It's worth checking your equipment to see what's required - especially if you have a home cinema system, so that you get surround sound.

  • What widescreen options does it have?

    Some players have better widescreen functions than others, offering several different viewing options.

DVD player extra features

DVD players come with a variety of additional features, depending on the make and price, including:

  • DVD formats: There are several different types of DVD formats, including DVD-RAM and DVD+R/RW. These are not compatible with all players, so it is worth checking which format your player uses.
  • Regional compatibility: All DVDs are encoded with a regional number. For example, the UK is in region 2, while the USA is in region 1. DVD players from Tesco.com are compatible with region 2, but it is important to note that a region 1 player cannot play discs from region 2.
  • DVD Jukebox: These multi-disc machines can load several DVDs at a time, usually up to 30.
  • MP3/MP4 playback and photo display: Some models can play your music and video files, while others are able to display digital photos or other media stored on a compatible disc.
  • HD quality: (upscaling). Some DVD players, when connected to an HD-ready TV with an HDMI cable, can show films at up to 1080i quality, allowing for much better pictures and a real cinematic experience.
  • Computer data access: A few players are able to read information created on your computer and transferred to CD-R, DVD-R, or other disc formats. This is another good function for viewing digital photos.

Other types of DVD player:

  • Digital recorders: Digital DVD recorders have taken over from VCRs as a way to record your favourite TV programmes and movies. You can watch normal DVDs, listen to audio CDs, and play back your recorded discs. Some also have a built-in hard drive, pause and rewind live TV, and allow you to transfer information to and from DVDs.
  • Portable DVD players: These lightweight units can usually be stored safely in a shoulder bag or briefcase - ready for use on a long train journey or during a quiet moment. Some can be mounted on the back of a car seat, giving passengers a screen to watch on a road trip. It's worth looking into battery life for portable DVD players, as some models last longer than others.

    Also consider what accessories are included; most Tesco Portable DVD players come with an accessory bag/car mounting, plus AV cables and headphones.

  • Home cinema and Dolby surround sound:Home cinema brings the full sound and big-screen experience of the movie theatre into your living room. Most DVD players have a Dolby Digital output but you need a separate decoder and amplifier plus compatible speakers to use the system. Dolby Digital surround sound allows you to immerse yourself in the action, bringing you the excitement of the cinema, from the comfort of your sofa.
  • Blu-ray players: Blu-ray is the next level up from an ordinary DVD. Blu-ray discs hold up to five-times as much content as a conventional DVD. If you have an HDTV you can watch films in superb HD quality. It's even possible to improve the picture quality of a conventional DVD by upscaling the picture.

Did you know?

Tesco offers a huge range of DVDs, with nearly 40,000 titles available to buy, and some 56,000 available to rent. For full detail visit our entertainment site.