Home-theater enthusiasts are always looking for ways to squeeze more performance out of their current systems. One of the more confusing performance enhancers touted by the consumer electronics industry are HDMI-equipped, upconverting DVD players, which claim to deliver quasi-HD picture quality without having to break the bank for HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. How much one of these players can improve video quality over nonupconverting units depends on how well your HDTV scales DVDs itself--for some TVs, the improvement will be nominal, while for others, it will make a big difference. With solid-performing units such as the Sony DVP-NS75H, however, chances are you'll see some improvement, even if it's due more to the digital HDMI connection than to the upconversion itself.
We found the design of the DVP-NS75H stylish and attractive--definitely a notch above standard budget DVD players. It stands just 1.6 inches tall, which is a hair higher than the Philips DVP5960/37 but still incredibly short. The faceplate is silver with a long black strip in the center containing the display and the drawer. A front-panel LED lights up indicating an HDMI connection has been made, and we like the numerous front-panel buttons, including the handy chapter-forward/backward buttons for when the remote goes missing. A button labeled Progressive Scan affects only the component-video output, toggling between 480i and 480p resolutions. The remote is well laid out, with buttons for most of the functions you'll usually want to use. It can also be used to control most brands of TVs.
The highlight of the DVP-NS75H's connectivity suite is its HDMI output. Through the HDMI connection, the player is able to upconvert DVD's 480i resolution to 480p, 720p, and 1080i. As we mentioned before, this conversion won't magically make standard DVDs look like high-def, but it can improve the image quality somewhat, depending on how well your TV performs scaling itself. The rest of the jack pack is solid, with a component-video output, an S-Video output, two digital audio outputs (one optical, one coaxial), and a standard A/V output.
Disc compatibility was decent, with the Sony DVP-NS75H handling all but the most difficult home-burned discs in our suite. It recognized a range of file formats, including MP3, WMA, and JPEG, and it played MP3 files from CDs and DVDs. It couldn't play back any discs with DivX files on them, but of course, Sony doesn't claim DivX compatibility.
Overall, we were pretty impressed by the image quality of the DVP-NS75H, which surpasses that of the aforementioned Philips DVP5690/37 by a nose. Unlike many other upconverting DVD players we've tested, the DVP-NS75H did a relatively good job with the resolution test from the Silicon Optics HQV test suite. In both 1080i and 720p, we would say it barely passed, with the finest detail not being perfectly resolved. However, in 480p, everything was extremely sharp with none of the flickering that we've become accustomed to seeing on similar upconverting players. We were also pleased by its performance on both the "rotating line" and "three shifting lines" jaggies tests. It aced both of these tests in all the resolutions, something we usually see only on more expensive units, such as our Denon DVD-3910 reference player. We were similarly reminded of the Denon when watching footage of a waving flag, which was rendered smoothly despite its reputation as a torture test for video processing.