It does,however,have one glaring weakness,the lack of an RGB Scart input,which has brought down many a deck before. The design and construction of this model are both first class. Connectivity is excellent,aside from the aforementioned slip-up with the RGB input. At the front there is a DV socket great news for camcorder enthusiasts ,alongside S-video and regular backups. At the rear the highlight is the component video output,capable of delivering progressive scan signals to a compatible TV.
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Multi-format compatibility means you can record and playback using practically any disc format, while the informative menu system and intuitive remote make operation simple. High-quality recordings are impressively faithful to the original and the ES15 also performs admirably as a standalone DVD player, especially if your display can accept progressive scan video.
Design For a budget recorder, the ES15 appears more substantially constructed than you might expect. The bevelled front panel is simple with only a few basic controls, which have been arranged at an angle for easier access from above the unit. A stiff panel at the centre opens to reveal a set of equally accessible, basic AV connections, including a previously ignored DV input that provides a direct digital link for higher quality images from camcorders.
The remaining connections have been spaciously set across the rear panel where cut-price compromises are more apparent. You can use the accompanying standard Scart AV2 to input external devices like a digital TV receiver, but picture quality is slighted and recordings suffer as a result.
There are also component video inputs, which support progressive scan signals to produce smoother, flicker-free DVD images, provided you have a display with corresponding connections.
Audio ability is supplemented by a pair of typical stereo analogue outputs and a digital optical output. The digital audio output can be used to carry multi-channel sound formats, like Dolby Digital and DTS, to a home cinema receiver for surround sound set ups. There are also useful short-cut controls for vital functions like VideoPlus and Time Slip. Not only does this make shopping for software easier, but it also gives you extra versatility with recordings.
The list of playback formats is equally inclusive, stretching from standard DVD and CDs to encoded discs and even DVD-Audio, although playback is restricted to two channels only.
Less impressive is the inclusion of only an analogue TV tuner. This limits your choice of channels, affects overall image quality and makes recordings less easy to programme. You can still connect a separate digital receiver but, as mentioned, picture quality is compromised using the standard Scart input. Without an EPG to assist you, there are several ways to make recordings, ranging from simple one-touch functions to timer recordings and VideoPlus.
As usual, there are several recording modes each of which trade overall picture quality with recording capacity. The Disc Navigator menu system is expertly organised using thumbnail images to easily recognise recordings.
Performance The performance of recordings is always dictated by the quality of the integrated TV tuner, which acts as a master copy for recordings to recreate. Broadcast images appear stable and poised with relatively little interference from picture noise. Decent black levels expose sharply defined edges and contrast even in dimly lit scenes. Beautifully balanced colours are equally adept at realising the natural tones in daytime chat shows as they are depicting superficial effects in action films.
Recordings, especially using the two highest quality modes, are faithfully accurate to the original. Only the blurred, grainy images produced by the lowest quality EP mode should be ignored if possible. Progressive scan pictures in particular are impressively clean and cohesive with a tight grip on movement and digital disturbances in all but the most complex scenes, and colours appear more vibrant without losing any natural realism.
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