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Blu-ray Players

Denon DVD-1920

Denon DVD-1920

HDMI-equipped DVD players, like their DVI predecessors, can upscale a standard DVD's video output to 720p and 1080i resolutions for better compatibility with HDTV displays. This capability represents what's likely the highest evolution of the aging DVD format that we'll see before HD-DVD and Blu-ray players--which offer native high-def content--begin to appear in 2006. Not only does Denon's DVD-1920 ($380 list) offer the coveted upscaling feature, it's also capable of playing back both SACD and DVD-Audio discs.

Upside: In addition to the 480p progressive-scan output offered by all recent DVD players, the Denon DVD-1920 is capable of upconverting a DVD's image through its HDMI output to 720p or 1080i resolutions. While the resulting images can't be considered to be truly high-definition, the ability to exactly match the optimal resolutions of fixed-pixel (non-CRT) displays can often result in an image that's superior to the one you'd get from the display's internal video processor. The DVD-1920 is also a capable music player, with the ability to handle DVD-Audio, SACD, MP3, and WMA discs. It also plays most of the major recordable DVD formats: DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW but no DVD-RAM.

Downside: While the single HDMI connection is capable of passing video and multichannel surround sound audio, you'll still need to connect six separate analog audio cables if you want to hear SACDs light up your home theater. Don't blame Denon: Sony, which controls the SACD format, refuses to permit digital output. (All other disc formats--including DVD-Audio--should work just fine.) Likewise, the DVD-1920's upconversion magic will work only through its HDMI output, so those early adopters with older HDTVs limited to component connections will find little added value on the video front.

Outlook: HDMI-upscaling DVD players aren't available for $50 from your local drugstore--yet--but the Denon DVD-1920's high price is pretty rich, even for the high-end segment. The Samsung DVD-HD950, for instance, boasts exactly the same key features as the Denon but lists for about $100 less. That said, in an era of ever-plunging prices on nearly disposable products, Denon's name is one of the few that can demand and receive a premium based on its past reputation for delivering well-regarded A/V products. Expect the Denon DVD-1920 to do brisk business among the legions of enthusiasts who are already happy with their Denon receivers.

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