Although I prefer Pioneer DVD players nowadays to Panasonic ones, I have always like Panasonic models for their ease of use and, lately, price. They used to have some of the best performing models for price, but gradually they have gotten cheaper than at least some of their competition and the performance has gotten a little less than stellar (if you are as picky as I am).
This goes for flimsiness as well as for responsiveness. Still, since DVD players are so cheap now, one cannot expect them to last forever, be built like a tank or be a marvel of engineering. As for picture quality, I have been using the AVIA DVD to evaluate the resolution of DVD players objectively and my eyes to do so subjectively.
Some time back, the AVIA DVD helped me objectively confirm what I suspected subjectively for a while. Namely that one of my DVD players produced slightly soft images. The DVD player in question was the Craig DVD player, and now I know objectively that very cheap DVD players are cheap for a reason. It was not up to par with my other DVD players in terms of resolution, since I checked it using resolution patterns using the AVIA disc. It had some other problems too.
Which brings us to the following point: although you can get a cheap DVD player with all the right specs, it does not necessarily mean you are going to get full advantage of the technology or specs that it supposedly provides. You can get a cheap DVD player and it might work for a while and satisfy you with its performance. E.g. my Craig DVD player had fast response and nice user interface. But its resolution was lower than that of a high-quality machine. And, unlike most other decent players, it couldn't play Audio CD without clicks.
The new Panasonic DVD-S58 (or, if we choose to use its full designation, the DVD-S58K, where K stands for Kuro, which means "black") is a new model and I evaluated it as a successor to the DVD-S54 (which I used and reviewed before). I and my family members have had and used a variety of DVD players, including (just to name a few latest models) Sony DVP-NS710H/B, Pioneer DV-220V-K , Pioneer DV-420V-K, Philips DVP5992 , Pioneer Elite DV-48AV and Philips DVP5990 . The list above does not include BluRay players.
What is Panasonic DVD-S58?
The Panasonic DVD-S58 is a single-disc DVD player with progressive scan, HDMI, 1080p upconversion, CD-R/W, DVD-R/W, DVD+R/W, MP3, DVD+R Dual Layer and JPEG playback.
The jacks include progressive/interlaced component video out, composite video out, 2-channel analog audio out, coaxial digital audio out as well as a HDMI out with VIERA Link Control. It also upconverts 480i DVD discs to 720p, 1080i or 1080p.
It can play MP3, SVCD in addition to various types of CD and DVD. One feature that the S58 lacks in comparison to its predecessor, the S54, is DVD-Audio playback.
The S58K features an HDMI out (up to 1080p), which is a virtual necessity in this day and age of HDTV. It also has a coaxial digital audio out, but no optical out. A progressive/interlaced component video out in addition to a composite out is also prsent. The S58 also features an analog audio stereo out. The coaxial digital out supports PCM, Dolby Digital and DTS formats. The HDMI supports PCM, DD and DTS for audio and 720p/1080i/1080p upconversion (provided the TV support the resolution in question).
The S58's front panel is not only devoid of the useless shuttle knob, it is very Spartan overall. A couple of buttons and simple plastic is all you can see. The player is cheap and it shows. The remote control is simple-looking and less elegant than that of the S54 as well.
The disc tray is a bit flimsy. The player has a slim profile and looks rather simple. It is compact and lightweight, as is the majority of modern DVD players. The rear panel is well-organized and clearly labeled. The front has a simple display, which is worse than that of the previous model, but is unlike some cheaper models that have none. Still, the overall look is that of a value player.
1080p, Progressive Scan and Upconversion
Obviously, you can use progressive scan only if your TV is a High-Definition (HDTV) or EDTV, if you connect the player to your TV using the component video out or use the HDMI out (preferred). The Progressive scan produces more stable picture with less flicker. In any case, this player also provides excellent picture quality in standard (interlaced) mode - the mode some people will use it in for the lack of appropriate TV.
If you have an HDTV (be it CRT, rear-projection, LCD or plasma), I highly recommend progressive scan or, better yet, upconversion to your HDTV set's native (or highest supported) resolution: 720p, 1080i or 1080p through the S58's HDMI out. You can connect the HDMI out directly to your TV or through a compatible receiver. My receiver only supports up to 1080i passthrough, so this is what I mostly used with this player.
HDMI and Upconversoin
The S58 can upconvert at 720p, 1080i and 1080p, which is the highest resolution available. Its HDMI out also features the technology to deal with the lip-sync problems of the earlier HDMI versions and can control compatible Panasonic TVs using VIERA Link. Of course, HDMI is an all-digital interface and carries all video, data and audio signals in one cable, saving you the hassle of dealing with multiple cables.
I have watched this player using its HDMI out and the 1080i upconverted resolution through my Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver as well as its 1080p resolution directly. The image quality was very good and on par with most moderately priced models, although not quite as good as the upconversion I get from my Toshiba HD-A3 HD DVD player. It was virtually the same as that of the Pioneer DV420.
Using it over the component video out, I was not disappointed with the image quality either, especially comparing to Philips DVP642 (which I still use as a CD player) and the Craig DVD player. The picture is crisp and noise-free with vivid colors and well-defined object edges. The detail level is high, even in dark areas. Still, comparing to the excellent upconversion you get from the Toshiba HD-A3, there is some stairstep appearance to the diagonal lines and the whole image is less sharp.
In more formal testing, the resolution patterns on AVIA DVD were crisp all the way to the end, unlike the Craig DVD player that would make them undistinguishable even before you hit 400 lines. On some of my DVDs with high MPEG compression, the player did rather well suppressing mosquito noise, despite the S58's Spartan looks and bargain-basement price.
The Pioneer Elite DV-48AV DVD player I use for DVD-Audio playback and general movie watching when the best possible upconversion is not required had more video adjustability resulting in slightly more life-like video reproduction when adjusted. Still, this Panasonic was quite close and in now way compromised.
Ease of Use
The S58 is easier to use than Philips models and pretty close to Pioneer DVD players. It has well-designed menus, onscreen icons and the remote control, although Spartan and not entirely appealing, worked well. The player's response times were ok for its price and the icons were well-recognizable. Still, the Pioneer models have better remotes, response times and overall user experience. But then, they are more expensive.
In addition to DVD-Video and Audio CD, the player can also play MP3 compressed audio files as well as display JPEG images (somewhat slow) on your TV, play burned CD-R, CD-RW and DVD-R/W as well as DVD+R/W and even DVD+R DL and DVD-R DL. There is sadly no DVD-Audio playback, but the adoption rate for this format is very low. People prefer convenience of crape-sounding MP3s to superior sound of the DVD-Audio or Super Audio CD (SACD). I have a small DVD-Audio collection and use my Pioneer Elite DV-48AV to play DVD-Audio discs.
The player plays MP3 files well. The MP3 playback interface is easy to use and shows file names and directory tree structure. The sound quality is very good, depending on bit rate.
The sound quality from the analog outs is good enough if you don't have a receiver ar have one of the very old models that have no coaxial digital audio input or an HDMI input. I would not use them anyway since I have a receiver and a 5.1 speaker system. I used the HDMI out and therefore the sound quality depended solely on my receiver and speakers. Needless to say, I got excellent sound from my Athena AS-P400 subwoofer, Athena AS-F1 floorstanding mains, C.5 center, S.5 surrounds powered by Panasonic XR57 digital receiver. One minor disappointment was the player's lack of an optical digital audio connection, but it is understandable that the manufacturer thinks it is unnecessary now in the era of HDMI. Plus coaxial cables (and inputs in receivers) are cheaper.
Unlike my cheap Craig DVD player, this player does not skip during CD playback. The player also plays MP3, but not DVD-Audio.
What It Lacks
There is no USB port, which is something you need to consider if you intend to use it to play MP3 files. It would be much easier to transfer them using a USB drive than buringin then onto CDs or DVDs.
Pros: Price, solid basic feature set, good playback quality, MP3, HDMI with upconversion up to 1080p
Cons: No USB, simple appearance and remote, Spartan front panel display
The Panasonic S58 is a very good inexpensive DVD player with HDMI, progressive scan, 1080p upconversion and other useful features. It is a rather good performer for the price. For all basic purposes, I recommend it for its low price and solid basic set of features.