We loved the EZ View button on the remote that let us cycle through three different aspect ratios. This was particularly helpful on nonanamorphic wide-screen DVDs, as the Screen Fit mode let us properly fill the screen while maintaining the correct aspect ratio, even when switched to HD outputs. That's a big bonus to those who have HDTVs that lack aspect ratio control on HD sources. While it's not quite as flexible as on the Oppo, it is considerably easier to operate since you just need to hit the EZ View button a few times.
The jack pack on the DVD-HD960 is highlighted by its HDMI output, which is able to upconvert DVDs to 720p, 1080i and 1080p resolutions. While almost all recent HDTVs can do this upconversion on their own, it's possible that the picture quality can benefit if the upconversion processing in the DVD player is superior to the processing in your TV. As we mentioned, this effect on image quality is very dependent on the display used, so it's worthwhile to try one of these units on your TV before buying. The rest of the connectivity suite is made up of the component-video output, standard A/V output with S-Video, and both digital and optical digital audio outputs.
For the most part, the DVD-HD960 performs admirably. We ran the DVD-HD960 through the Silicon Optix's HQV test disc, and it passed most tests easily in every resolution, although 480p seemed a little worse than the others overall. Resolution was sharp in every resolution but 480p, and it was mostly jaggy-free on test patterns with a rotating line and three shifting lines. It also demonstrated fine 2:3 pull-down processing on the race car test, kicking in about a half-second after the car starts to zoom by. We put it head-to-head with the Oppo DV-970HD and watched several scenes from Serenity. It was very difficult to spot any big differences between the two players, although we'd give the nod to the DVD-HD960 as it seemed to do a better job of noise reduction.
Although performance was overall pretty good, there is a significant issue that videophiles should be aware of: ghosting, which looks like trailing colors or smudging and is particularly apparent on high-contrast scenes with a lot of motion. We initially discovered this behavior while checking for the chroma bug error on the Windows DVD Test Annex. While it passed the chroma bug test, the animated fish left trails of color as they moved across the screen. While many of the nitpicks we have over video performance are subtle, the ghosting was obvious enough in this scene that we think most people would notice it.