Despite the growing popularity of Blu-ray, there are still a huge number of people who have no interest whatsoever in upgrading to hi-def, preferring instead to make the most of their existing DVD collections. If you're one of those people then there's a wide selection of 1080p all-in-one systems to choose from, which get you an upscaling DVD deck, amplifier and 5.1-channel speaker system in one fell swoop for a rock-bottom price. But while they're affordable and hugely convenient, all too often they cut corners when it comes to performance - here's hoping Sony's sub-£200 DAV-DZ280 can defy our expectations.
Inside the surprisingly compact box is a main control unit, which features the DVD player, FM radio tuner and 850W S-Master digital amplifier (which supplies 142W to each of the five sats and 140W to the sub). It's interestingly styled with a sharp, angular front panel that slopes inward at both ends, a prominent volume dial on the right and a display panel with small digits that make it a little difficult to read. It's tasteful enough, but won't dazzle onlookers in the same way as a Samsung or LG system and the build quality is on the hollow, plasticky side - but at this price we didn't expect Bang and Olufsen levels of opulence.
The unit's front panel boasts a smattering of sockets, including minijack ports for headphones and the auto calibration setup mic. There's also a USB port, which not only facilitates playback of digital media content but also lets you rip tracks from CD onto a USB flash drive in MP3 format. This is a potentially handy feature for anyone who hates relying on their PC for ripping, but the lack of automatic tagging makes it more hassle than it's worth.
Anyone hoping to use this system as a switching centre for the rest of their AV kit should look elsewhere - the rear panel is disappointingly barren, sporting no audio inputs whatsoever and only a couple of video outputs. There's an HDMI output for passing on all-digital video (regular or upscaled) to your TV and an RGB-capable SCART output, but that's yer lot. There is, however, a DM Port connection that allows you to connect the supplied iPod/iPhone dock (or other optional adapters for MP3 players, Bluetooth devices and mobile phones) and listen to your digital music library through the system. Completing the connections are an FM antenna and colour-coded speaker terminals.
Also in the box are four bookshelf-style front/rear satellites, which are nothing special to look at and boast undesirable springclip terminals, but a hands-on inspection reveals better build quality than many similarly-priced systems. They're joined by a horizontal centre speaker and a small passive subwoofer, which again is plain-looking but can be tucked out of sight.