The AD-1200 certainly looks the part of an off-brand player. Its case is narrower and deeper than usual, forming a square that's 12.5 inches on each side when seen from above. This deck is also missing a display; in place of the standard front-panel readout, you'll find three lonely indicator lights, one each for DVD, CD/VCD, and Picture CD.
The plain, black face has only four buttons and a combination door/drawer that jerks open with a loud noise. Not much in the AD-1200's build inspires confidence; a circuit board is visible when the drawer is open, and the ultralight case seems hollow. This Apex often made unhealthy-sounding rattles during playback, but to its credit, the player did survive 48 straight hours of Ben Hur on Repeat during a vicious New York heat wave.
The remote incorporates a few controls that you've probably never heard of, such as the VCD-specific PBC Off and L/R for messing with the stereo mix. While the buttons are all crammed too tightly onto its small surface, their different shapes and sizes make navigating by feel a little easier. In practice, we found the remote slow to respond and often had to press keys repeatedly. The simple system menus lack frills such as icons and explanatory text, but nothing major goes missing.
Under the hood, there's more going on than you might expect. The AD-1200 handles MP3 CDs and comes complete with a menu that displays 10 characters of each filename, although it can't play MP3s at random. It handled DVD-Rs, DVD+Rs, and DVD+RWs--but not DVD-RWs. It even played one problematic DVD-R that many other decks wouldn't read. Other extras include a picture zoom and three levels of simulated surround sound. An Enhance menu offers two settings for brightness and three for sharpness.
The AD-1200 displays stills from Kodak Picture CDs and standard CD-Rs filled with JPEG images. We really like the slide-show feature, especially since a CD-R can hold hundreds of digital photos. You can rotate and zoom into images, but finding a particular picture on a disc is a pain.