Friday, April 4, 2014

Pioneer DV-220V-K Upconverting DVD Player - 1080p over HDMI, MP3, DivX and USB

It is difficult to improve on a winning design. The Pioneer DV-220V-K changes a few things to supplement the larger Pioneer DV-420V-K. It lost an S-Video out, but shrunk in size and acquired some shiny front panel bits. It still is a 1080p-unconverting, mutli-format, DivX-playing, USB-accepting and now ultra-compact.

Despite the advent of the Blu-Ray, regular DVDs are plentiful, inexpensive to buy and to rent and the current crop of upconverting DVD players makes them (arguably) look close to Blu-Ray and definitely much better than older non-upconverting non-HDMI DVD players. After being a Panasonic DVD player fan for a long time, I discovered Pioneer DVD players. Panasonic DVD players are still good, but they wre getting more and more cheaply-made and their performance didn't seem to improve much. In fact, they regressed in some areas, e.g. responsiveness.

Panasonic players were also only semi- reliable. I saw "semi-" because I had at least two of them expire with a drive motor failure. Granted they were in severe use for over 3 years each, but still, when you shell out decent bucks (Panasonic DVD players were never exactly cheap), you expect the product to last.

So, in light of the above and for DivX, MPEG/AVI, PAL, etc. playback I switched to Philips players. They were pretty inexpensive and played the aforementioned formats well. But their ergonomics, menus, displays, remote controls were not exactly pleasing. And although they were improving in areas of ergonomics and remote control, they were getting a bit flimsy for my taste.

So thereafter, I discovered Pioneer DVD players. I have used the Pioneer DV-400V, the Pioneer DV-410V, the Pioneer Elite DV-48AV (which I currently use for DVD-Audio playback among other things) and the Pioneer DV-420V-K. To stay unbiased, I also tried out the Philips DVP5982, 5960 and DVP5990 (which my mother is currently using). Although Pioneer players are somewhat more expensive, it is easy to see why.

Philips DVD players still have some usability shortcomings, appear just a little bit flimsy and some previous models had stuttering and freezing when playing DivX files. At the same time, both the DV-400V and the DV-48AV were much better in some aspects than the contemporary Philips models. From there on, the trend continued.

I am comparing the latest model (Pioneer DV-220V, a.k.a. DV-220V-K, where K stands for black color, perhaps due to the word Kuro having it as a first letter) with my current Pioneer Elite DV-48AV and the Philips DVP5990.

My Philips usage started with the original king of DivX, a.k.a. Philips DVP642, and I still use it, albeit exclusively for CD playback. Considering its impressive feature list (including PAL playback on NTSC TV, DivX playback and progressive scan), I was relatively happy with it for $41 that I paid. And unlike my past Panasonic players, this Philips is still very much alive and if it died now I would note be disappointed with it, since it lasted so long.

As mentioned before, I was not happy with it overall however, and would not have paid its original price (my unit was Philips-refurbished). Things have improved significantly since then, Both Philips and competition produced numerous DVD player models with similar features and added even more to the mix: USB ports, HDMI outs, upconversion and better DivX playback, while retaining things like PAL playback on NTSC TVs.

I will not miss having to use the DVP642 for video playback much since there are so many great choices. And with large HDTVs and the widespread use of HDMI, I replaced my DVD players multiple times. I use the 50-inch 1080p Hitachi P50H401 plasma TV, and I tried to get a DVD player that would further improve on DivX playback, would have HDMI and upscaling to 1080p (or at least to 1080i) and, for the love of progress and file sharing, a USB port. In doing so I went through some Philips models and some Pioneer models as well.

I tried newer Philips DVD players, namely Philips DVP5982 and Philips DVP5960 and, although they were both improvements on the DVP 642 (and produced excellent image quality), they were not perfect. I got the Pioneer DV-400V-K and used it for quite some time. The Pioneer Elite DV-48AV replaced it since I like to listen to DVD-Audio, but I tried the new Pioneer DV-410V and DV-420V and found them remarkably similar to the DV-400 and not much worse than my Elite DV-48AV (sans DVD-Audio and SACD).

I am still using Philips DVP5990 that my mother has and it is more than satisfactory overall. It produces amazingly good picture and has a decent remote, but is just a little flimsy still. Having cool features of Philips players without ergonomics shortcomings or slight flimsiness thereof, Pioneer models are my current players of choice.


The Pioneer DV-220V-K is a DVD player with upconversion to 480p, 720p, 1080i or 1080p over HDMI. It can play DivX, Xvid and JPEG files, WMV, MP3 and WMA. You do not need to create a VCD disc structure, just copy the files to a CD-R/W disc or DVD and insert it into this player and it will play them. Same applies to the USB port that the player has: you can copy files onto a USB drive and the player will play them, albeit with some slight issues in that regard.

The DV-220 supports slow and fast scan, even in DivX files. Even though the manual does not say anything about it, it will play (and even upconvert) European PAL discs on an NTSC TV. It has a coaxial digital audio out, HDMI out, component video out and composite video out. There is no S-Video out, but nobody seems to be using it nowadays anyway.

Unlike so many recent DVD players, it has a very intuitive remote control. Its compact size might be an advantage if you value space. But it can also be a slight disadvantage if you stack components, unless you put it topmost in the stack.


The Pioneer DV-220V is compact-sized. The player features a display that is bright and informative. The onscreen displays are excellent and are very well designed. They are very similar to the ones of the other recent Pioneer DVD players and are better than the ones on recent Philips models.

As is the usual practice, adjustments were required for the best image quality. Fortunately, Philips provides a wide range of adjustments. I had to switch the DV-220's sharpness mode to "Soft" to get rid of oversharpening. There are a lot of other settings to play with, or leave alone. I did the latter.


When unpacking the player I was pleasantly surprised that unlike the older Pioneer models (e.g. DV-400 and the DV-48AV), this model has a detachable power cord. This makes it easier to replace it if it is broken and easier to unplug if the unit is placed into or removed from an entertainment center. I know I appreciate detachable cords since I have so many DVD players, a VCR and a receiver, which results in a tangled mess of cords.

The usually-impressive (for Pioneer), convenient and informative menus and onscreen displays are used in this model. From colors to presentation, the menus are among the best I have seen. For example, the onscreen display shows at the same time the total time of the current chapter, remaining time and running time. It also can show bit rate in real time, which is not always useful (DVD), but interesting nonetheless.

And another impressive asset in this player is how Resume functionality is implemented. In some DVD players you have to jump through the hoops to ensure the movie starts playing from where you left off last time. This Pioneer just does it seamlessly and it has resume functionality even in the MPEG or DivX files! This is very convenient. I wish my DV-48AV had this functionality within DVD-Audio discs. In fact, I wish my Sherwood Blu-Ray player could do this when playing a Blu-Ray disc. It cannot.

Remote Control 

Whereas most DVD players have remote controls you have to look at when using or struggle to remember the button locations, the DV-220V-K has one that is pretty close to perfection. The buttons have excellent tactile response. They do not require high effort yet have good positive feedback.

The buttons are located in intuitive order and the most frequently used buttons are larger than secondary ones. The remote is almost perfect.

Picture Quality 

I tested the player with my 50-inch Hitachi plasma (P50H401). The 1080p output over HDMI is excellent: razor sharp and clear. It does not quite have the smallest detail of the HD DVD or Blu-Ray, but it is rather good and definitely better than that of the non-upconverting player over an analog connection.

I saw definite improvement over passing 480p signal from my old Philips DVP642 over component out to my TV. The latter looked foggy by comparison and generated significant artifacts in scenes with motion, especially when the camera panned.

The in-player 1080p upconversion of the DV-220V is very good. It is not perfect though. You can see the stairstep artifacts, especially obvious when watching "South Park" - the diagonal lines are not smooth but resemble steps. But what can we expect at this price point? Since I have not expected it to rival an HD DVD disc in my Toshiba HD-A3 or a Blu-Ray disc in my Sherwood Blu-Ray player, I am very happy with the image quality. Still, I tried a comparison with the upconversion of regular DVDs by my Toshiba HD-A3 and the A3 does have a small, but distinctive advantage.

The sound is excellent as well (using either coaxial digital connection or HDMI to my Panasonic XR57 receiver). The player plays most of my MPEG and AVI computer files flawlessly.  Well, make it semi-flawlessly. It doesn't play some DivX files that my mother's Philips DVP5990 plays fine. Still, the DivX playback is very good overall.

The files can be burned on a CD-R/W disc just as a regular data CD with no VCD structure needed. I say most, because although it stutters on fewer files than my Philips did, it still has issues with some files, which it refuses to play completely.

The front USB port is a great feature and lets you use a USB drive or any similar device, provided it does not require much power. USB-powered hard drive will most likely not work. Still, it is a great feature as I can copy over a bunch of MP3 or WMA files onto a USB drive, plug it into the USB port of this player and play it through my receiver and speakers. Ditto the video files.


I like the player's looks, build quality, low price for feature set, its connectivity options, features, computer video file playback, USB, 1080p, excellent video and sound, great remote control, menus and responsiveness.


Slightly long startup time, possibly caused by having to load the extensive menu system. At least it is nowhere near as bad as the startup times of HD DVD or Blu-Ray players.


If you want a full-sized DVD player (for stack-ability with other components) that also has more controls on the front panel (including menu control buttons and DVD/USB switch button) and an S-Video out, the Pioneer DV-420V-K fits the bill. Other alternatives include the Philips DVP5990 or DVP5992. Although they are slightly flimsier, they are solid DVD players with very similar features and excellent image quality.

Bottom Line 

There is no need to sacrifice usability for DivX playback anymore. Unlike the Philips DVP5990 or DVP5992, the Pioneer DV-220V excels in all areas. This Pioneer is a very good 1080p upconverting DVD player with a USB port, DivX playback and compact design. It is also an excellent choice for regular DVD playback and I highly recommend it.

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