In case you haven't heard, HDMI is the future of AV connections. HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) allows the direct transfer of both digital video and audio signals using only a single cable. Unlike typical analogue connections there's no need for any conversion so there's no signal degradation or noise. This pure signal produces images with outstanding resolution and clarity while stereo or multichannel DVD-Audio signals sound more detailed and dynamic.
Provided you have a high-resolution screen with compatible connectivity you can watch upscaled images with resolutions as high as 720p and 1080i. More and more players and screens are arriving equipped with an HDMI future-proof specification. And we've collected four of the latest DVD players ranging from budget to high-end models to find where your money is best spent.
Denon has improved the specification and enhanced the all-round performance of its entry-level HDMI equipped player - without substantially increasing the cost. There are still less expensive alternatives but none that can equal the DVD 1920's outstanding ability.
Among the improvements is universal compatibility including DVD-A/SACD multichannel music and DiVX playback. There's also a better quality 216MHz/11-bit video DAC, the latest Faroujda progressive scan processor and the DVI digital output has been replaced by the more widely accepted HDMI.
The thickset construction, attractively finished in brushed aluminum, reflects the Denon's superior specification and build quality. On-screen menus and the oversized remote favour functionality over flair, using simple icons to effortlessly guide you through various Quick and Custom set-up options.
Picture quality from its predecessor, the DVD 1910, was slighted by the average performance from its analogue connections. But that issue has been addressed and performance across all outputs is nothing short of sensational. Of course, it's the player's digital HDMI-induced images that deserve most plaudits featuring immaculately clean pictures with incredible detail, density and fluid movement. And sound isn't ignored as an afterthought with Denon's traditionally warm delivery stoking both multichannel DVD-A and stereo soundtracks.
Denon's impressive specification and peerless performance means the DVD 1920 is one of the finest digital players around - at any price.
Universal specification, superb build quality, outstanding performance from every output
Despite the emergence of low-cost, digitally-equipped players, Pioneer's only current HDMI player is reserved for the high-end market. At £800 the flagship DV-989AV-S is undeniably expensive, but do you get your money's worth?
Well, the incredibly weighty construction is loaded with an arsenal of high-performance components that competitively priced models can't claim. The universal specification is supported by complete digital connectivity including both HDMI and i.Link (Firewire) interfaces. And there's also dual progressive scan, integrated Dolby Digital and DTS decoders including advanced speaker management and bass management for DVD-A.
With so many features the set-up procedure is protracted with an exhaustive range of sophisticated audio and video options assisted by an intuitive menu system and intelligent jog-wheel remote.
At this price, it's little surprise that performance is unrivalled in this test. Bright images are defined by intricate detail, clarity and depth-defining contrast with exceptional movement. And there are few players that can equal the DV-989's audio expertise. But, the laws of diminishing returns play a part and the subtle improvements in performance don't realistically reflect the more significant difference in cost.
If you're not limited by budget then Pioneer's DV-989 offers an all-inclusive specification and incomparable quality at a cost - but you don't have to spend this much to achieve similar results.
Excellent build quality, high-end specification and features, unequalled picture and sound performance
Samsung's DVD-HD950 sits somewhere between the budget and midrange price bands, sharing features with more expensive models without equaling the same levels of picture performance.
Nonetheless, the Samsung's universal disc compatibility including multichannel music and impressive connectivity mean it's excellent value for money. And the HD90 is also one of the best sounding affordable players we've heard.
The super-slim design and classic black finish give the Samsung an individual sense of style, while the more conservative remote is comfortable to use and responsive. Samsung has included an HDMI cable in the box and set-up is a cinch with a beautifully displayed menu system to guide you through a relatively basic range of functions.
In action, both the progressive scan and upscaled digital images are commendable with plenty of realism, balanced natural colours and very few disturbances. But there's a discernable difference in detail when compared to players like the Denon. Where the HD950 can compete with more expensive rivals is with sound performance - whether you're listening to multichannel or stereo soundtracks the far-reaching dynamics and expressive midrange will excite your experience.
Samsung's DVD-HD950 is great value, especially with its universal specification and outstanding audio quality, even if the picture falls just short of class-leading status.
Universal specification; stylish design; excellent sound
Lacks class-leading detail
Price: £99 More info:Toshiba Size (WxHxD): 43x3x20cm Weight: 1.6kg Disc compatibility: DVD, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, VCD, SVCD, DVD-R, DVD-RW, JPEG, MP3, DiVX Video outputs: Composite, RGB Scart, component, HDMI Progressive scan: PAL Audio outputs: Phonos, coaxial digital Integrated decoder: No
Toshiba's range of budget DVD players has revolutionised the market's pricing strategy. And the arrival of the SD-350E, a superb player with HDMI digital connectivity that costs less than £100, will have competing manufacturers sweating again.
Cutting costs usually means accepting compromises and disc compatibility and connectivity are comparatively limited in this basic design. But you can still play most standard disc formats, watch progressive scan video and high definition images via the HDMI output with integrated scaler. And the slimline styling and neat remote do well to disguise the Toshiba's budget beginnings.
With fewer frills included, setting up the system is exceptionally easy. However, while overall performance at this price is exceptional, the digital picture is disappointing. Analogue-induced images, especially using progressive scan, show amazing detail and depth with beautifully balanced, natural colours. But the expected improvement using HDMI never arrives and digital images display surprisingly less definition than their component understudies. Sonically speaking, the Toshiba has more success with a dynamic and balanced delivery that suits most soundtracks.
Even without an HDMI connection, the SD-350E represents great value for money but while the inclusion of digital video looks good on paper, it fails to perform in practice.
Value for money; ease of use; exceptional analogue pictures
Disappointing digital pictures
Group test verdict
There is a significant difference in prices between these HDMI-equipped DVD players and generally spending more offers additional features and better performance.
The specification and image quality of Denon's DVD 1920 and Pioneer's DV-989 unsurprisingly exceed their lower priced rivals - but it's the Denon that triumphs in this test. Although the Pioneer is capable of unrivalled performance the difference doesn't necessarily justify spending over £500 more. Whereas, the Denon shares a similar specification and offers outstanding all-round ability for a reasonable price.
You can't escape the value of budget models like the Toshiba SD-350E and Samsung's DVD-HD90. But the Samsung's superior digital pictures, sound performance and universal compatibility mean that if you're looking for a budget model with HDMI connectivity, it's your best bet.
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Posted: 05/02/06 10:28:37 37
I have a DVD-1920 on order and have two Audio Radius 90 and three Audio radius 180 speakers. Can anyone recommend me a suitable amplifier that will enable both digital comms from the DVD 1920 and also future HDMI input from a plasma TV?
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