DVDs may have led the drive to higher quality television screens, but ironically DVDs themselves are now the laggards for the next generation of TVs. As high definition screens are becoming more affordable – such as LCD and plasma televisions that can handle resolutions out to 1,366 x 768 resolution – we’re now forced to view our DVDs at the old 480i interlaced resolution. Progressive scan DVD players go some way towards improving the quality of DVDs to match the capabilities of our new high resolution screens, although the next step is upscaling the DVD output to high definition (HD).
The Samsung DVD-HD850 does just that, and its special Hypervision chip can output a regular DVD at HD resolutions of either 576p, 720p or 1080i. This is ideal if you have a high definition capable television, as it will improve the quality of the DVD to match.
This is not quite the same as having a native high definition DVD, such as the future HD-DVD and Blu-ray technologies. With upscaling the DVD output is strictly still 480i, and has been specially deinterlaced and interpolated by Samsung’s Hypervision chip in order to up the resolution to HD levels. However, the quality is still improved over regular DVDs, especially if you have a screen of 32 inch (81cm) or larger.
In order to use the upscaling feature of the DVD-HD850 you need to use the DVD player’s other main feature: the HDMI connector. This is a digital audio and video output that is becoming increasingly common on high-end LCD and plasma televisions. Because HDMI is entirely digital, it means the audio and video signals don’t get converted to analog before they reaches the screen, which means no quality is lost.
The HDMI connector also supports the new HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) standard, which is a digital rights management system that should be used on future media. Having HDCP will ensure an element of futureproofing in case you buy HDCP-protected movies in a few years time.
The HD upscaling and progressive scan features can also be used on the analog component video connectors, but the composite and S-Video outputs are restricted to conventional interlaced DVD resolutions.
Features and design
Other features are in line with most contemporary DVD players, such as an on-screen display, optical and coaxial digital audio ouputs, and support for MP3, WMA and JPEG files on burnt CDs or DVDs. The remote can be set up to control most popular brand TVs, and the player can also be region unlocked with an appropriate combination of button presses.
The design of the unit is slick, with a brushed metallic facia that is punctuated by only a couple of blue backlist buttons and the LED display. The price for this ascetic look is a lack of controls on the front of the unit itself, so just make sure you don’t lose the remote.
Ultimately HD upscaling is a stop gap measure until true high definition DVDs arrive, but it does deliver an improvement in image quality if you have a big screen that can handle HD resolutions – especially if you have an HDMI connector. And at $299, the DVD-HD850 is also excellent value for money.