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Hardware Review: Pioneer DV-F727 300+1 Multi-Disc DVD Changer

We've had our Pioneer DV-F727 300+1 Multi-Disc DVD Changer for over a couple years now, so I figured it's about time to give it a proper review. After about a month of use, I did a short review about it on Epinions.com, but even several months doesn't really give one the time needed to settle in with such a piece of hardware. It takes a lot of usage to learn all of the product's strength and weaknesses, and even now there is still some things about it that I don't completely understand. Still, I feel that at this point in time, I may be able to provide a good general overview of the device for all those out there looking to purchase a massively multi-disc DVD player. I'll say upfront that I did a lot of research before purchasing this model, and even though its far from perfect, it still seems like the best option out there.

The Pioneer DV-F727 300+1 Multi-Disc DVD Changer has one DVD slot for easy access, for when renting or borrowing movies, and 300 not-so-easy to access DVD slots, for storing your entire DVD library. Unlike traditional DVD players, here the DVDs are placed upright in the numbered slots, which are all part of a carousel-like device that spins around and loads whichever disc you happened to select. There isn't much space between the discs, and there is no eject mechanism, so removing a disc is not as easy as you've come to expect, but then that's really not much of an issue since the whole point here is to leave the discs in the player for easy playback at a moments notice. The one major flaw with this is that the player can only play one side of a disc, which makes playing the alternate side of a double-sided disc quite a pain. I've actually stopped putting in my double-sided disc, opting instead to just keep in the box on a nearby shelf.

One weird thing about this player is that it always thinks you have a widescreen television, so if you don't, you'll find yourself setting the mode back to 4:3 for each new disc you put in. I have no idea why it couldn't just remember this setting. The video and sound quality both seem to be quite good, though we don't really have a top-of-the-line entertainment setup like so many others. Still, on what we do have, it looks and sounds great. The player itself is also quieter than our other Sony DVD player, so much that we can't even hear the disc spinning up. Also, the Pioneer player seems to handle messed up discs much better than our Sony. Several times when a disc we rented from NetFlix skips or fails completely in our Sony player, we can move it to the single disc slot of the Pioneer and it plays without problem. On the down side of that, the fast-forward systems of the two players are different, which can get not just confusing, but annoying, because of the way the Pioneer implements its fast forward system.

I much prefer the Sony's fast forward system, where hitting the fast forward button will start the fast forward, and hitting it again will increase the fast forward speed, with a total of three available speeds. With the Pioneer, there is only one speed, and you have to actually hold down the fast forward button, at least until the "Scan" indicator stops blinking. If seems to take about five seconds for that to happen, so if you let go before that, then it returns to normal play speed. So basically, while you're trying to watch where you're at in scene (in fast forward, I might add) so you'll know when to stop, you're also at the same time trying to watch the little "Scan" indicator so you know whether you need to let go to stop the fast forward or whether you need to hit the Play button to stop it. Like I said, quite annoying.

The menu interface is another big factor here, since this is how you'll be accessing all of your discs. Even though it could definitely use some work, the Pioneer undoubtedly wins out here over any of the Sony multi-disc players. The menu displays only five titles at a time, and you either use the direction button to select a title from the current list, or use the Next Chapter/Previous Chapter buttons to get to the next/previous five titles. Although it might seem natural, pressing down on the directional pad when your at the bottom of the five listed titles, or up on the directional pad when your at the top of the five listed titles won't move the list to the next page. When you're at the top of the list and press up, the cursor moves into the column header, which then gives you the ability to sort. You can make it sort by slot number, disc title, artist, or format (DVD, VCD, CD), but it always defaults to slot number. It would have been nice if they would have made it remember your preference, but they didn't.

Sorting by disc title, unfortunately, isn't truly alphabetical, as it only uses the first character of the titles. So if you have Spider-Man in slot 1, Spider-Man 2 in slot 150, and 20 other titles starting with an "S" between those two movies, then those two films will be several pages apart. The only way to get them next to each other would be to physically place them in adjacent slots. Oh, and what if instead of Spider-Man, it was The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions? Since you're only allowed 12 characters, both of those movies would show up as "The Matrix R", so you would either have to know where in the list you were in relation to the other title, or do what we did and use the Artist field to fill in the rest of the information. Normally in situations like that, we would just abbreviate the title to something like "Matrix 2" and "Matrix 3", problem is the Matrix discs contain a built in title, which takes precedence over a user inputted title. How stupid is that? What moron made that decision?

Maybe I'm off here. Maybe it's just my twisted way of thinking... but if a user inputs a title for a disc that has a built in title, then it seems to me that the user obviously wants their title to be used instead of the default title. But nope, somebody in charge who probably has no clue what their doing decided that if a DVD has a built in title, then there's absolutely no need to store the user's title, and so the player will delete it whenever the player is turned off. Someone must have pointed out how dumb this was, because they did put in a way to get around this: make the first character of the title a space. Oh yeah, brilliant! Now not only do I have one less character I can use in the already too restrictive title length, but now when I sort by title it will always show up at the top of the list! And on top of that, I have a stupid looking space in front of the title!

One of the more positive points on this player is the ease of which you can enter the titles of your discs. You can use the remote to selected a nice range of characters from a list, or you can plug in a PS/2 keyboard and just type them in directly. Apparently you could also plug in a PS/2 mouse if you didn't have a keyboard, but I doubt that'd be much more useful that the remote's directional pad. It would have been fantastic if they let you select genres for your discs, as there have been many times when we wanted to see an action movie or a comedy, but this feature is no where to be found. I don't know if any massively multi-disc DVD player offer this. Another good thing about this player is that, unlike Sony multi-disc players, it doesn't have to scan every single disc after you add just one new title. It can if you want it to, but it can also just scan the carousel and look for any slots that are no longer empty and any empty slots that previously contained a disc. Very nice feature to have!

The remote seems decent enough, but I really cannot comment on it too much as I use the Home Theater Master MX-500 universal learning universal remote, which is the best remote I have ever used. It's true that the Mx-500 remote lacks the jog wheel of Pioneer's remote, but I was able to program two of my buttons to move the carousel right and left, so I still have that functionality even if it isn't as convenient as a dial. One thing that I will point out about their remote is that, as far as I'm able to tell, you can't access the single-disc slot with it. If the single-disc slot is already selected, then you can use the remote to do all the normal functions, such as play, pause, and fast forward, but if one of the other 300 slots is currently selected, then you can't just jump to the easy access slot. We don't use that slot very much anyway, so hasn't been that big of a concern for us.

The last thing I'll mention is that, if you plan to move the player, they recommend that you remove all the discs from it first. And I concur... even if you're just moving it up one slot in your stereo cabinet... trust me on this. Yes, it's a pain, but the discs just sit in their slots, there's nothing holding them in place other than gravity, so slight tilts of any direction can cause the discs to easily fall out of their slots, thus causing a huge mess inside. Besides, the player will still remember the titles you entered for your discs, even if you put them back in a different order. Yeah, you have to wait for it to scan each and every disc, but you'll pretty much have to do that anyway if you try moving it without first removing the discs. So you've been warned!

This player could definitely use some improvements, and I would in no way recommend paying full price for it, but it does still seem to be the best option out there for massively multi-disc DVD players, and if you keep your eyes open you can usually find one for a really good price on eBay. Plus, if you run out of space, you can connect up a second player to give a total capacity of 600+1 discs (they don't let you use the single disc slot on the slave machine). We've done this, and it works pretty good for the most part. A few times it forgot all the titles in the second player for some reason, which was extremely annoying! Also, when watching something on the second player and then turning the machines off, the next time you turn them on it will default to whatever you were watching in the first player, not to whatever you were watching last. It's a minor issue, but figured I'd mention it nonetheless. Most people probably won't need a second player anyway, so these issues shouldn't be too big of a consideration.

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