Sony MV-700HR Dream Station
- Plays video, audio and FM radio, high quality audio, easy installation
- Average screen quality, lack of menu and navigation buttons
Sony are on to a good thing with the Dream Station, however, it definitely needs further development as there are display and design problems that hinder both performance and product enjoyment.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
Imagine a world where the endless barrage of "are we there yet?" is replaced by the silence of childhood contentment. The Sony MV-700HR Dream Station can make this a reality. An in-car multimedia system, the Dream Station can be attached to the headrest of the front seats, allowing passengers to view DVD Video, listen to MP3 or the bop away to the radio.
While Sony has touted this product as a portable DVD player, we think the portability of this unit is definitely possible but not terribly practical. There are far better and cheaper in-home DVD systems, so much so that this product should be aimed squarely at car users, as the in-car features are impressive and will keep passengers entertained for hours.
We find it curious that this product has been classified solely as a DVD player, as it possesses a handy range of features that extend beyond basic DVD functionality. The Dream Station can play Divx video, MP3 audio, FM Radio and is also able to read from quite a few formats, including (but not limited to) CD-R, DVD-R and the Sony Memory Stick. This opens up a world of entertainment for that long road trip because custom-burnt discs can be created for the kids with their favourite shows or music to keep them happy (and quiet).
The Dream Station is rather bulky and perhaps not the most attractive or well designed player we have seen. While the play controls are easily accessible on the top of the unit, there are no controls for menu selection and navigation. These are all handled by the remote control, which is problematic because if the remote is lost, then so is the function. When playing back a joint CD-R with video and MP3 we couldn't access the Mp3s on the disc without using the remote. Considering how small the remote is and how easily it could be lost or misplaced, we would have liked to have seen more controls on the unit itself.
The Dream Station has a 7" LCD display which performs reasonably well but has pixel crawl problems, a lack of sharp detail in the lower half of the screen and pixel draw inaccuracies resulting in aliased edges and curves. However, when viewed on an LCD TV using the AV out function, the same problems occur in the same places which suggests that the problems are inherent to the firmware or decoder and not to the screen. Alternatively, this could also be attributed to the RCA output from the device. Regardless of the cause, the result is a problematic display which detracts from the viewing experience. In a vehicular environment, image brightness becomes another factor to consider as the display tends to get lost in sunlight despite all our best efforts to counteract this via brightness and contrast adjustments.
The sound quality through the speakers is rather average, with both bass and treble missing from the mix at either end of the spectrum. While Sony claim that DTS is supported, the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" disc we tested in DTS produced no sound at all. We think Sony Dream Station performs best using headphones and the set of Sony DMR XD400 headphones we used for testing produced excellent sound quality for music, video and the FM radio.
A big plus for the Dream Station is the ease of the in-car installation. A provided bracket clips onto the unit and attaches to the head rest of a front seat with power supplied via the cigarette lighter socket. The power cable and player meet at a connection box which can be hidden under the seat and also allows for input and output of other RCA devices. Those that are concerned with security will be pleased to know the unit can be detached from the bracket with the press of a button and reattached firmly with ease. An optional rechargeable battery is also available for the unit which can be attached to the base as well.
If you are looking for something to keep the kids entertained in the back seat, this unit is perfect, but if image quality is important then you may want to look elsewhere, especially when considering the inflated price tag.
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