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Appeared on: Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Grundig GDP-3550

1. Introduction

Grundig is a well known manufacturer of Consumer Electronics equipment and has been producing players for many formats. Being at the forefront of technology, it was among the first manufactures to support the Nero Digital format. We test their first Nero Digital compatible player, the GDP-3550.

- Grundig GDP-3550

The Grundig GDP-3550 is a high level DVD player, supporting playback of Nero Digital and DivX coded discs. Its main features are:

The main chipset comes from ESS (ES6698 Vibrato II) and is quite powerful:

- Full specifications

Playable disc formats 12/8 cm
DVD–R / Audio-CD / CD-R / CD-RW /
Video CD (2.0) / S-VCD / MP3 / JPEG /
Kodak Picture CD / WMA
Nero digital
DivX (Home Theater certificated)
Picture Viewer
• /JPEG- / Kodak-Picture-CD
Laser scan
2 Laser (1 x CD, 1 x DVD)
PAL / NTSC- playback
Video D/A converter
27 MHz
Horizontal resolution (DVD) SD / HD
576i, 576p / –
Progressive Scan PAL / NTSC
Digital video optimizing for still picture /
Block noise reduction
D/A converter
96 kHz / 24 Bit
Frequency range DVD 48 kHz / 96 kHz
4 Hz – 22 kHz /
4 Hz – 44 kHz
Frequency range CD 44.1 kHz
4 Hz – 20 kHz
Dynamic range (1 kHz) / Signal noise (1 kHz) dB
80 / 90
Dynamic adjustment
Audio down sampling
Digital sound decoder
Dolby Digital AC3, MPEG 2, MP3, WMA
Digital outputs
Dolby Digital AC3, MPEG, DTS, PCM
Dolby ProLogic
Virtual Dolby Surround
Playback Features
Fast picture search (forward and reverse)
2x / 4x / 8x /20x
Title / chapter skip
Direct chapter selection with 10 key keypad
Perfect still picture / Picture by picture playback
Slow motion (forward and reverse)
1/2, 1/4, 1/8
Quick Replay
Title/chapter/sequence A – B
Random Play / Programme Play (CD, MP3)
Child lock
Language choice (dialog, subtitle)
Multi-angle choice)
CD text
Operating features
Infrared remote control
TP 81 D, remote control with
elementary functions for Grundig TV
On Screen Display
Card reader (CF, MS, SD, SM, MMC) / Edit function
YUV-sockets (Progressive Scan; 3 x Cinch)
Euro-AV, Scart
1 x (RGB)
Cinch video-out (CVBS) / Cinch audio stereo downmix
S-video socket (Y/C) out
Digital audio output coaxial / optical
Mains unit
Mains voltage V~
100 – 240, 50 – 60 Hz
Power consumption max. / standby approx. W
10 / < 1
Weight kg
Dimensions (W x H x D) cm
43 x 4.3 x 25.7

Looking at the specs and compared with the newer GDP-3560/3570, the only differences we can see are that GDP-3560 supports HDMI output and upscaling up to 1080p, while the GDP-3570 supports Card Reader/Edit function.

2. A Closer Look

The player is quite compact. The front pane includes the main operations screen, the load/eject tray and five basic button controls. The brushed aluminium adds to the players overall appearance:

At top left, there are several logos, illustrating the player's capabilities:

Removing the mounting screws, we can access the player's internal layout (not recommended, as it voids the warranty). The design is simple, with the power supply circuitry on the left as we look at the photo below, the optical drive at centre, the I/O circuit at top right and the main controller board at right.

The ESS chip is shown in the following image:

On the back, there are several connectors, which can be seen in the image below.

The remote is a little out of the ordinary, compared with other manufacturers remotes, following in Grundig's tradition. It is small and probably the biggest problem would be familiarity with the button functions, since there is no description provided.

3. Operation

After powering up the device and inserted a disc, you will see the navigation screen on your display device. Up to 20 characters can be displayed without any problem:

Pressing the "i" button, you enter the menu's five basic categories, each shown in the snapshots below:

There's also a "trick" to making your GDP-3550 region free:

  1. press "i" (shows the menu)
  2. press the "next track" button
  3. press the "fast reverse" button
  4. press the "fast forward" button

A line appears underneath the menu window prompting with: "please input region code ()". Press "0" for code free or any other number for a specific region (i.e. 1 for region 1 etc.) It then displays: "region control changed to ... (whatever code you entered)". Press "i" again.

4. The Tests - Page 1

The player has been tested with several test files and different formats. All tests were carried out with the DVD player connected to a Samsung 32R51B 32" HDTV, either with AV or Component cables.

Disc Compatibility: The player recognized DVD±R/±RW/±R DL discs without any problem.

Audio compatibility: The player recognizes the following formats: .AC3, .WAV, .MP2, .MP3, .MP4, .AAC and WMA files.

Video Tests:

The player supports .AVI, .DIVX, .MPG and .MP4 files. It also supports progressive scan but doesn't offer any HDTV upscale mode (720p/1080p). If you want this feature, you should opt for the newer GDP-3560. The player left us with a good overall impression regarding picture quality.

There is an function available to display some basic information about each folder/file, such as format and creation date.

During playback, some basic info is also available, like Audio channels, subs, format, resolution and time elapsed/remaining:

Looking at the tests results, we were satisfied with the performance of the ESS 6698 chipset, despite the fact that it doesn't support Qpel, like its older brother, the ESS 8380 Phoenix.

The player is being advertised as DivX Home Theater certified. We confirmed this claim, since we didn't have any problems playing back DivX encoded files, even up to 8Mbit rates. DivX format is supported, in terms of Audio tracks and Subtitles, but there is no menu support, while .DivX slideshow files, won't be displayed. DivX encoded tracks with two Audio tracks (VBR Mp3 and AC3) are also not a problem for the GDP-3550. Lastly, DivX HD files cannot be displayed, due to chipset limitations.

Xvid files are also not a problem for the player. 8Mbit, and GMC 3 way points are supported perfectly, QPel isn't.

When trying Mpeg files, we noticed some glitches, at least in what the "info" tab showed: wrong resolution and bitrate. With FF/RW, you have to rotate the function from 2X~8X, before being able to see the movie at normal speed again, whereas with other players, you just press play. The ESS 6698 chipset can handle up to 12Mbit encoded Mpeg2 files, which is typical for this category.

Subtitles are supported, both in SRT and IFO/Sub formats. However, there are some problems. SRT subtitle characters are way too small for someone to read at a distance, and there is no option available to change this. Moreover, with IFO/Sub formats, only English language was available.

Non-latin based character sets are not supported (e.g. Greek), either for filenames or subtitles. You can still play the files, but subtitles show up as garbage characters. Pictures can be displayed as long as they are Jpeg, at up to 2272x1704 pixels in size.

5. The Tests - Page 2

One of the major advantages of the player is its Nero Digital support. The player is advertised as Nero Digital Standard profile certified. Below we can view the major specs for each Nero Digital profile:

For our tests, we used several files, both encoded and downloaded from the www.nerodigital.com website. For our encoding, we used as source, the movie Gladiator, chapter 19. We used the latest Nero package, that includes the latest Nero Recode version. Using all available ASP profiles, we created several test files, with default settings. That included files with two Audio tracks (Main and Commentary) and two subtitles (English/Greek). This is valid of course, only for the Standard profile.

All tested files were playable on the Grundig GDP-3550, the Audio tracks switchable and the Subtitles were displayed perfectly. Both English and Greek characters were recognized, so this might be the only way to view subtitles in case your language is not officially supported.

The downloaded trailers from www.nerodigital.com also played perfectly. Please note that only ASP profile files are supported, not AVC.

6. Conclusion

The Grundig GDP-3550 is a DVD player that is based on the ESS 6698chipset, providing good performance and many features. The player is advertised as DivX Home Theater and NeroDigital Standard format certified. We confirmed these claims, so you can be sure that your encoded files will play back without any problems. Unfortunately, an advanced feature of the Mpeg4 format (QPel) is not supported, so be careful when encoding your files. The Xvid format is supported too (GMC 3 WP) and of course Mpeg1/2 formats as well.out

What is missing and its obvious, is a digital output port (DVI/HDMI), but if you are looking for this, the next model up may interest you (GDP-3560). Lastly, we have a few complaints with the remote control: too small, hard to learn, especially after having tested many other devices with a more standard remote. The device is priced around €75, which isn't the lowest price on the market...

- The Good

- The Bad

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