Orion DVKT DVD Player

    With a RRP of $499, the Orion DVKT DVD player is targeted at the lower end of the DVD player marketplace. Indeed, I have seen this player advertised as low as $398, an unthinkable price for a DVD player even 6 months ago. A lot of things about this DVD player are clearly driven by cost considerations, but it mostly does a surprisingly good job of simply playing DVDs, with one major caveat which will be discussed later on.

What's In The Box

    Everything you need to get up and running is included with the Orion DVKT; a remote control, batteries for the remote control, a three-way composite video/analogue audio cable, an operating manual and a warranty card.

    The player itself is, well, let's not mince words here, it is ugly. Hide this one inside of a hi-fi cabinet or underneath a TV - I can assure you that you won't be showing this player's sleek lines off to your friends. It is not as wide as a typical DVD player and it is a little higher than most players. In fact, it looks more like a mid-mount VCR than a DVD player. Still, at this end of the market, aesthetics take a back seat to cost considerations. You can purchase this player in any colour you like, as long as you like black.

Front Panel

    The left side of the front panel carries the hard-wired power on-off switch.

    The center of the front panel carries the disc tray and the green fluorescent display. The disc open/close mechanism was very noisy and sounded very clunky and cheap. I expected springs to come flying out of the player every time I opened or closed the disc tray, but thankfully this never occurred. Fortunately, whilst actually playing DVDs, the mechanism is relatively quiet. The fluorescent display is reminiscent of a very old calculator display, with clearly visible green dots making up the characters on the display, and some unevenness in brightness across the digits. The fluorescent display cannot be dimmed or turned off. This whole area of the DVD player screams "cheap" and "budget".

    The right side of the front panel has the tray open/close button, and the basic DVD navigation buttons; chapter skip forwards and backwards, play, and stop. Pressing the tray open/close button resulted in the disc tray opening or closing appropriately, after a significant delay of almost a second. Pressing this button when the player is OFF will turn the player on and open the disc tray which is the way I like this particular button to work. The tray itself is slightly problematic in that it does not open fully and care must be taken to ensure that DVDs are inserted without scratching them.

Rear Panel

    The rear panel of this player is equipped with a basic selection of outputs. From left to right;

    The digital audio outputs consist of both a coaxial digital output and an optical digital output.

    The video outputs consist of an S-Video output and two composite video outputs. There is no component nor RGB video output available on this player.

    Audio outputs consist of a left and right analogue audio output.

    The 240V AC cable finishes off the rear panel.

Remote Control

    The big boys in DVD can learn something from Orion - this is one of the better remote controls that I have ever seen, and belies the asking price of this player. It is not perfect, but it sure is a lot better than any other DVD remote that I have suffered in the last few months. Where this remote excels is in the fact that the various buttons are of different shapes and sizes according to their functions. The most important DVD functions are represented by the largest keys. The least important DVD functions are represented by the smallest keys. For basic player operation, this remote is a dream to use, particularly in the dark, where you do not need to look at the remote to be able to tell which button you are about to press - a major plus for this DVD player.

    By far the biggest button on this remote control is the PLAY button which sits at the bottom of the remote, in the middle. At last someone has given this button the treatment it deserves! The PLAY button is by far the most often used button on a DVD remote control, so it is logical that it is the biggest and most readily accessible button on the entire remote control. In addition, the PLAY button has an embossed PLAY symbol on it. Very classy.

    Flanking the PLAY button, shaped and embossed appropriately, are the REWIND and FAST FORWARD buttons. Again, this is the logical place for these buttons and the layout of this remote control makes it easy to bounce from these buttons to the PLAY button. The REWIND and FAST FORWARD functions do not lock in at all and the player will return to PLAY mode as soon as these buttons are released. I found this to be easy to adapt to and quite a nice implementation of these functions.

    Above the REWIND and PLAY keys respectively are the PAUSE and STOP buttons. Once again, these are oversized and embossed making them easy to locate and operate. However, here I do have a minor quibble with the designers of this remote. The PAUSE button is on the left and the STOP button is in the middle of the remote. To me, a more logical layout for these controls would be for these buttons to be reversed. Having said that, both these buttons are large and so it is easy to get used to this positioning.

    The arrow keys and select keys are small and located to the left of the remote control. This is probably the worst point of the remote control - these keys are a little too small and would have been better placed in the middle of the remote control.

    Another series of keys which are less than ideally placed are the AUDIO, ANGLE, and SUBTITLE buttons, which are relatively inconspicuously placed in the middle of the remote control. As well as being less than ideally placed, their functionality is less than ideal. To change subtitles or audio, you need to press the appropriate button first and then use the arrow keys to change the track. This is very unwieldy and runs counter to the more usual operation of these keys on other remote controls, which is to have the audio or subtitle track change with sequential presses of the same button.

    Finally, I would like to make specific mention of the numeric keys, which are round and located towards the top of the remote control. Once again, the different shape of these keys makes them easy to differentiate from their neighbours and makes them quite easy to use.

    The operating range and angle of operation of the remote control were excellent, and much better than a number of remotes that I have used recently.


    The manual is surprisingly decent. One of the first things I read in the manual was "The followings are the guide of the DVD." which made me shudder in anticipation of another "Chinglish" manual. Thankfully, the rest of the manual is in much better English and is clear and informative.

Set-Up Menu

    This DVD player redefines the definition of a basic "no-frills" setup screen. The only aspect of the setup screen that is of particular note is the Audio Output option, where you specifically set the DVD player up to output audio out of either its digital or its analogue audio outputs. This player cannot output analogue and digital audio simultaneously, which is most unusual.

Video Playback

    All video playback tests were performed with the player set to 16x9 output mode and using the S-Video output.

    Video was passably clear and crisp, but noticeably inferior to the video output of other DVD players that I have tested. In particular, I compared the video output of this DVD player directly with the video output of a Toshiba 2109 and found that the Toshiba 2109 looked significantly sharper and cleaner. Colour saturation was a little high compared with other DVD players as well as being less clear and clean, with visible chroma noise being inserted into the video signal at a low level.

    Something that was particularly problematic and disappointing for this DVD player was the skips it would produce in video and audio playback when watching high bitrate PAL DVDs. The transport mechanism and MPEG decoder were simply not up to the task of decoding the most demanding DVDs in real time. The two specific DVDs that exhibited this problem were The Magic Sword-Quest For Camelot and The Thomas Crown Affair (1999). This was a genuine shame, as this player was otherwise perfectly acceptable. This was not a problem which happened often, but by golly it was annoying when it did happen, with a sound similar to that produced by a severely scratched CD accompanied by rapidly stuttering video output. High bitrate NTSC source material (Video Essentials image montage) was not a problem.

    The player is marked as a Zone 4 player, and is marketed as such. The evaluation unit that I was supplied with would only play DVDs coded as Region 4 or Region 0.
[Addendum 31st March 2000 - One of my readers has advised that a specific key press sequence is able to render the Orion DVKT DVD player region-free.]
[Addendum 30th June 2000 - This information comes from the aus.dvd newsgroup. I have no knowledge of whether or not this actually works, so use it at your own risk.
"To bring up the secret menu on the Orion DVKT you press and hold the Stop, Open/Close, and Skip Forward buttons on the player for about 3 secs until the menu comes up. Do this from the blue screen (no disc in). Once you get the menu up you can choose Regions 1,2,3,4,5,6 or RegionFree.  Set it to RegionFree and it should work for 99% of discs. For those tricky ones that won't work you'll need to specifically fix your player to that region."]
[Addendum 18th April 2001 - I have had it confirmed by a reader that the above region hack works.]

    The fast forward and fast reverse functions are average in their smoothness and work only whilst the relevant button on the remote control is held down, with the function getting faster if the button is held down longer than five seconds. Personally, I quite liked this particular approach to the operation of this particular DVD function.

    The reverse chapter skip function will return to the start of the current chapter rather than to the previous chapter. I prefer the other implementation of this function, which is for the player to skip to the previous chapter when this button is selected.

    RSDL layer changes were noticeable, but only just, with the typical layer change heralded by no perceptible pause in the audio and video bitstream and only a slight sound emanating from the DVD player to give away the layer change point. The very worst layer changes resulted in a barely perceptible pause in the audio and video streams. The player behaved somewhat oddly when rewinding over the RSDL point, and would insist upon jumping immediately to the next Chapter as soon as the rewind button was released. This was very strange considering that the video output exhibited by the DVD player whilst rewinding over the RSDL point was perfectly correct.

On Screen Display

    The on-screen display is extremely basic, with only a single screen of information available; Title, Chapter and Elapsed Time. You are able to jump to a specific point on the disc by editing this screen of information.

Standards Conversions

    This player does not perform any standards conversions for DVDs, only converting NTSC Video CDs to PAL automatically.

CDR & Video CD

    The manual states that this player is not capable of playing CDRs, however two CDRs that I tried in this machine played flawlessly (Mitsui Gold CDR media, burned audio data at x4 speed, one recorded disc-at-once, one recorded track-at-once). Considering that these sample CDRs were not created with playback compatibility in mind, this performance suggests that this player is actually capable of playing all types of CDRs, which is a nice bonus feature. Bear in mind, however, that this functionality is not officially stated to be present in this player.

    A single NTSC Video CD that I briefly tried in this machine played back converted automatically to PAL.

Audio Playback

    I only used this DVD player with its coaxial digital output, and had no specific problems.

    Subjectively, there were no audio sync problems. It was not possible to objectively measure the analogue vs digital delay on this DVD player since you could not output both types of audio at the same time.

    DTS digital output is supported by this DVD player, but I did not test this. Linear PCM audio output at 96kHz/24 bit sample depth is not supported by this player.

    MPEG bitstream conversion to Linear PCM is performed automatically when the digital audio output is selected. This is a reasonable choice given the target audience of this DVD player, though the very few DVDs out there with only MPEG audio on them will be played back downconverted mandatorily with no option of using an external MPEG decoder.

Disc Compatibility Tests

    I had two DVDs that had playback problems with the Orion DVKT.

    The Magic Sword-Quest For Camelot suffered from the occasional skip in the audio and video bitstream.

    The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) suffered badly from audio and video skips during playback. To confirm that it was not the DVD, I played this disc back in its entirety on a Toshiba 2109 with no errors exhibited.

    The Matrix Region 4 played back with no problem, even in White Rabbit mode, and neither did a variety of other discs that made their way through the Orion DVKT player.


The Good Points
The Average Points
The Bad Points

Features At A Glance

Video Component Output RGB Output
Audio DTS Output 96/24 Output
Plays CDRs The manual states that this player cannot play CDRs, but testing showed that it can.
Conversion None
Inbuilt Decoder None

In Closing

    The difficulty this DVD player has playing back high bitrate PAL DVDs makes it difficult to recommend this player. This fault was a real shame, as other than this the player was actually quite reasonable, especially given its pricing. Indeed, if this fault was rectified, this would be a fantastic value-for-money DVD player.

Ratings (out of 5)

Build Quality
Value For Money

Technical Specifications (Manufacturer Supplied)

Product Type: DVD-Video, Video CD and Audio CD player
Region: Zone 4 (Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America, Mexico).
Signal System: PAL / NTSC
Audio Frequency Response: 4Hz - 22kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio: 90dB
Dynamic Range: 96dB
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.01%
Dimensions: 380 (w) x 259 (d) x 96.5 (h)
Weight: 3.5 kg
Price: $499
Distributor: Castel Electronics Pty Ltd
103-119 Gipps Street
Collingwood  VIC  3066
Telephone: (03) 9416-3688
Facsimile: (03) 9416-3730
Email: general@castel.com.au

© Michael Demtschyna
19th February 2000
Amended 31st March 2000
Amended 30th June 2000
Amended 18th April 2001