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The Many Benefits of an Upconverting DVD Player

Apr 25, 2006 12:00 PM, Scott Taves

Squeeze the best image quality out of your DVDs

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Let's face it. On the eve of the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray deathmatch—surely the bloodiest format war since the VHS-vs.-Betamax debacle—any self-respecting technophile is going to watch and wait. A costly, obsolete paperweight is the last thing any of us wants to get stuck with. While you're waiting, I have a few things for you to ponder. Because you're reading Connected Home Express, as opposed to, say, Home & Garden, you probably have an HDTV—likely a big one—and have sunk thousands of dollars into an expansive DVD collection. (Remember when bookshelves were used for books?) Sure, you'll catch the odd first-run movie at the theater, but as you're being bumped and annoyed by strangers in the dark, you're probably thinking about how much better the movie will be on DVD, with you nestled comfortably in your home theater.

The joys of the home theater are multifaceted. A home theater should assault the senses with glorious sights and sounds. But if you still have a formerly cutting-edge progressive-scan DVD player, the sights might not be quite as glorious as the sounds anymore. Thankfully, there's a great way to squeeze every last pixel of fidelity out of those hundreds of DVDs lining your shelves. An upconverting DVD player, for the uninitiated, is like a supercharger for home theaters. The player takes the DVD's meager 720x480 (480i) resolution and jacks it up to 720p or 1080i. This jump doesn't rival the one you experienced when you upgraded from VHS to DVD, but on a big HD display, the results can be stunning.

The reasons to buy an upconverting DVD player are compelling. Consider cost and performance. Are you really in a hurry to start a new HD-DVD or Blu-ray library at $30 to $40 a pop? Also, remember that you're facing a minimum $500 price tag for Toshiba’s entry-level player and a Blu-ray price of twice that amount. You can buy excellent upconverting players for $200 and breathe new life into your existing DVDs. The most crucial factor in the upconverting player’s favor is proven performance. HD players will have backward compatibility with standard DVDs, but who knows how well they’ll upscale? The best upconverting players have been fine-tuned and fulfill their specific role exceptionally well. But are all upconverting players created equal? What are the essential features you need to look for when you're deciding on one of the dozens of players on the market? Read on—we’ve got you covered.

Deinterlacing: Transforming Interlaced to Progressive Scan

Mom used to say, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” Upscalers are no exception. The single most crucial component (i.e., the “brain” of the player) is the video-processing chip. The task of ensuring that what you see on the HDTV screen accurately depicts the source material of what’s on the DVD is incredibly complex. Lesser chips need not apply.

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