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Home Entertainment

What HD disc player should I buy?

What kind of DVD player can you recommend for our LCD 1080p TV?

We are looking at buying a new DVD player for our new LCD 1080p TV and are looking for recommendations on a model that would provide all of the following:

- HDMI Output
- 1080 capability / upscaling capability
- All regions playing capability (NTSC/PAL)
- Will work on European power (220V)
- Card-Reader (SD or CF) for digital camera/computer files
- DivX format support
- Great sound support (Dolby/THX/SRS WOW)
- Blu-Ray / HD DVD support

Could you please provide us with some choices that will not break the bank but are of good quality?

Benoit

Simply put, there isn't a single device on the market that does all of the things you are looking for. The closest thing is a Samsung DVD-HD860, which will do everything you need except read files from memory cards and play HD DVD or Blu-ray.  It also costs under £100.

Almost all HD DVD and Blu-ray players have 1080p output. Many will upscale DVDs to 1080p too, and those that don't will pump out a 1080i signal. There is pretty much no major difference between the two, especially in terms upscaled quality.

When we come to DVD playback, we hit the first hurdle. It's very hard to get an HD DVD or Blu-ray player that can play DVDs from all regions. While this was really simple on regular DVD players, the next generation machines seem to have taken a step backwards and enforced that ridiculous and pointless region coding system that every consumer despises.

A card reader is unlikely. Some DVD players and media streamers can accept photos and MP3s from USB memory cards, but if I'm honest, it's pretty rare.

DivX and XviD/MPEG-4 support is common on most modern DVD players, but is non-existent on HD DVD and Blu-ray players at the moment. It's somewhat of a surprise that this feature isn't included, as it wouldn't add much cost to next generation players.

The good news is you'll get amazing sound quality from all HD DVD and Blu-ray players. Look out for DTS MA and Dolby TrueHD support for the best possible sound.

For Blu-ray and HD DVD support, you either have to pick a format, or get a dual format player. I'd say that your needs would be best served by the upcoming Samsung BD-UP5000, which will play both formats and allow you to take advantage of all the interactivity, but still won't offer DivX support. It's supposed to be hitting the shops in December for around £500 or so.

That only solves half the problem, though. There is only one way you can get everything in your list and that's by building a media centre PC. Were you to do that, you would get playback of every possible format, potential support for both Blu-ray and HD DVD and support for DivX and XviD/MPEG-4 -- but they don't come especially cheap.