The esoteric world of home-theater video has so many niche products, concepts, and acronyms that you almost have to make a full-time hobby (or a full-time job) out of understanding any of it. One good example is the breed of upscaling DVD players with digital outputs, such as Sony's DVP-NS975V. Having digital output means it can deliver a digital video signal via an HDMI jack, which can definitely improve image quality on certain types of HDTVs. Upscaling means that it processes the standard-definition video present on DVD discs to your choice of 1080i or 720p HDTV resolutions, which has a dubious impact on image quality and can border on pure marketing hype. The DVP-NS975V, along with Samsung's DVD-HD941, Toshiba's SD-5970, and Panasonic's DVD-S97S, represent the newest generation of these kinds of players and use an HDMI output as opposed to the larger all-digital DVI jack found on earlier models. At $299 list, the NS975V is more expensive than standard progressive-scan players, but its cleaner picture quality, as well as its superior design compared to current digital decks such as the , will be worth it for owners of fixed-pixel displays such as plasma, DLP, and LCD. Unfortunately, inaccurate color decoding makes its overall video quality inferior to the Bravo's. This silver box has a more substantial look than today's typical player, thanks to the single solid chunk of burnished aluminum that comprises its faceplate. Set into the metal are indicators for multichannel, SACD, and HDMI, while the right side of the unit has a lit-up button labeled Progressive. Despite the solid look, this 17-by-2.25-by-9-inch (WHD) player weighs a mere 5 pounds.
With one exception, everything about the DVP-NS975V's simple, intuitive menu system will be familiar to anyone who's set up a Sony DVD player. That exception is an option, buried in the menu system, to switch between 1080i, 720p, 480p, and 480i output resolutions for the HDMI jack. We would prefer to have a dedicated button on the remote for changing resolutions (the Bravo D2 has one), but in reality, most users will set the output to the best resolution for their TV and never touch it again.
The simple, functional remote lacks backlighting but includes dedicated buttons for lots of functions, including frame-by-frame step-through. It can control other brands of TV.In addition to the standard outputs--one component video, two A/V with composite and S-Video, one 5.1-channel analog audio, and one each optical and coaxial digital audio--the DVP-NS975V has a USB-looking HDMI output that delivers digital video and audio to HDMI-equipped displays. If you buy a DVI-to-HDMI adapter (starting around $30), you can connect the DVP-NS975V to DVI-equipped displays as well without any loss of video quality.
As noted, this player can also deliver HDTV resolutions over its HDMI output, although it can't send 1080i or 720p signals over any other video output. Unlike the Bravo D2, which with some careful tweaking and a lot of information about your display you can get to output "custom" resolutions that exactly match the native resolutions of fixed-pixel displays, the NS975V offers only the industry standard 1,920x1,080 interlaced or 1,280x720 progressive resolutions. The HDMI jack can also be set to 480i or 480p, as can the component-video output.
The DVP-NS975V also includes multichannel SACD playback via its analog 5.1-channel outputs. Separate bass management setup screens are provided for SACD as well as for Dolby Digital/DTS sources. You can control the contrast, brightness, color, and hue of the picture. Another notable feature is the adjustable audio delay (0 to 100 milliseconds), designed to establish sync in systems where video lags behind the audio. Unfortunately, the delay doesn't work with Dolby Digital or DTS over the digital audio or HDMI outputs.To test the Sony DVP-NS975V's video quality, we connected it to a few of the TVs in our A/V testing facility and compared the images to those of the DVI-based player. We primarily used Sharp's , since it has both an HDMI and a DVI input and can provide a level playing field.