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Aiwa DX-DW1 Portable DVD Player Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 June 2000
ImageThe Aiwa DX-DW1 is a portable DVD/CD player that measures six-and-one-half inches wide by seven-and-one-eighth inches deep by two-and-one-eighth inches high. This baby bear of a DVD player lists at $1,000.00.

$1,000 you might say … come on! The $200.00 DVD price barrier was broken months ago. I know – I know, that's a lot of porridge. Read on.

Our story begins with the features of the DX-DW1. First, the unit contains a five-and-four-fifths inch active matrix color TFT (thin film transistor) display that can adjust 180° from the closed position. Located below the screen are the manual set-up, brightness, color and mode controls buttons. The first three of these controls are self-explanatory. The mode control allows you to switch between screen aspect ratios: full screen, which displays 16 x 9 or widescreen; normal, which leaves left and right black borders; zoom, which enlarges the picture from the center point of the display to fill the screen; off, which is convenient if you hook the unit up to an exterior monitor. This leads us to grandmother’s house … whoops, wrong story. This leads us to the input/output section of the unit. There is a composite video output, including RCA right and left audio outs, S-video and a headphone jack. Additionally, there is a digital audio out (optical), which makes this unit Dolby Digital and DTS compatible for those of you with a stand-alone decoder or a Dolby Digital / DTS ready receiver. There is also an in/out switch. With the switch in the out position, you can send composite or S-video and audio signals to an external monitor. The in position allows you to receive these signals from an external source, such as a camcorder, to view on the XD-DW-1’s display. The top/front panel includes a menu, title and return button. There is also two joystick-style controls. One of the joysticks controls play, pause, fast-forward and reverse, while the other allows you to scroll through menu selections. Some mama bear-type attributes include a 96kHz/24-bit audio D/A converter, a 10-bit video D/A converter, complete onscreen display, chapter and time search (DVD), and even a mark function that gives you the ability to bookmark a movie you haven't finished or to make your own favorite scene selection points. The Aiwa XD-DW1 also has included a feature called Q-Surround, which is designed to simulate a surround sound feel through the built-in stereo speakers. The XD-DW1 comes with a full functioning remote control, battery, AC adapter (that doubles as a battery charger), composite video/audio cables and ferrite cores for attaching to an S-video cable (not supplied) and headphone cable (not supplied).

Our story continues as I get to play with the XD-DW1. I first set this unit in what I call the baby bear placement – all by itself.

First, active matrix TFT displays traditionally act a little contrasty. The XD-DW1 behaved accordingly - the screen was a little "hot," particularly with the high-contrast title ‘Three Kings’ (Warner Bros.). I made a slight adjustment to the brightness control and got the display dialed in pretty well. Don't get me wrong, the display is suprisingly sharp and fairly natural; just don't expect it to respond like HDTV. The sound, with the Q Surround in the off position, was a little thin – in the on position, the sound was a bit more full. You can't expect tremendous imaging from tiny speakers set about four inches apart. I was actually surprised, given the physical parameters, of how enveloping the sound actually was. To really put the soundstage through its paces, I loaded ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (DreamWorks). The XD-DW1 kept up step for step, both in video and audio, as the soldiers stormed the Dog Green Sector of Omaha Beach – bombs bursting red glare, the whole enchilada.

On the CD side of things, forget about it. Playing CDs without headphones is a waste. Therefore, I threw on some headphones and loaded up Macy Gray's ‘On How Life Is’ (Sony/Epic). From the funky syncopation on the cut "Why Didn't You Call Me" to the ever-popular ballad "I Try," the XD-DW1 performed as well as any portable CD player I've heard. I also took a listen to Pearl Jam's latest, ‘Binaural’ (Sony/Epic). The ghost-like rhythm on the cut "Haunting As It Seemed" gave me the chills.

The mama bear set-up: I used the supplied RCA cable and hooked the XD-DW1 up to my Sony production monitor that I use for video editing. For audio, I plugged into a pair of powered Sony desktop speakers. I stuck with the same software described above. What a difference. The Q Surround was much more apparent; this emulated surround sound does indeed work.

Okay, papa bear, what's up: I broke everything down and took it into the living room to hook it up to my main system, which includes a Rotel RSX-965 for my receiver and decoder, Energy e:XL-28Ps and e:XL-C for the main and center channels, respectively. For rear surround and subwoofer signals, I used the Mirage AVS Series. Everything was strung together using high-quality Camelot cables. It felt kind of weird, hooking up this little unit to my main system. Well, it played like the big boys. Tonal qualities were warm and natural and the sound was true to form.

The flexibility of the XD-DW1 is one its greatest selling points. The last scenario in our tale is one of late-night viewing. My wife is a make-up artist in the film industry. Many times, our work hours conflict. She'll need to go to sleep by 8:00 PM on some nights, so that she can make a 3:30 AM call time. Instead of staring at the ceiling, I brought the XD-DW1 and a set of headphones to bed and viewed ‘Mystery, Alaska’ (Buena Vista Home Entertainment). My wife was able to rest easy without the TV glow from our bedroom set, and I was able to see a movie that she had no interest in watching … and, they all lived happily ever after.

The Downside
Although I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing this unit, I do have a few pet peeves. First, all cables require these somewhat clunky ferrite core collars to avoid electromagnetic discharge. Now, Aiwa was nice enough to include a few extra ferrite core collars to place on your S-video and headphone cables. However, it would have been even better to build them right into the cable from the get-go. Next, the remote is too big. I would have liked to have seen a smaller, perhaps credit card-sized remote control. Last, I could only access the onscreen display from the remote control. Some of you might think I'm being a little picky. Well, I gotta tell you, I felt a little silly using a remote control when the unit was 18 inches away.

This story has a happy ending. After all is said and done, the Aiwa XD-DW1 and other portable DVD players definitely have a place in the A/V market place. It really comes down to your specific needs, taste and the question: do I need the portability? If the answer is "yes," do your homework. This is a highly competitive market, features that vary from product to product. The XD-DW1 might end up being just right. The End.

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