Helios HVD2085 review: Helios HVD2085

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The Good Upconversion over HDMI and component-video outputs; upconverts to 11 different resolutions; VGA output; supports HDCD; includes HDMI cable.

The Bad Subpar video processing; average design; somewhat expensive.

The Bottom Line The Helios HVD2085's generous connectivity and upconversion capabilities can't make up for its below-average HDMI performance.

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6.1 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 5

Upconverting DVD players tout their abilities to make your DVDs look even better on your HDTV. But if you bought your HDTV a few years ago and have only component-video inputs, you're probably out of luck. Because of Hollywood's aversion to delivering high-def via analog, DVD players that are allowed to bear the HDMI logo can upscale only over copyright-protected ports, such as HDMI or HDCP-enabled DVI ports. How does NeoDigits' Helios HVD2085 fit into this mess? Well, the HVD2085 has somehow gotten around the restriction (hint: it doesn't have the logo) and offers upconversion over both its HDMI and component-video outputs.

The HVD2085 won't win any design awards, but it's not particularly offensive. It has a black chassis with a silver faceplate that has five front-panel buttons, most notably missing a stop button. There's also a small display on the front, which is useful if you're skipping around a DVD and want to know elapsed or remaining time. The remote is not backlit, and while it's not a great design, it's decent. We have a couple of gripes, too, such as the menu button being located pretty far away from the remote's directional pad. The other problem we found is that most of the buttons are similarly shaped, so it's difficult to navigate by touch.

Connectivity for the HVD2085 is excellent, featuring an HDMI output, a VGA port, two digital outputs (optical and coaxial), and a component-video out. Other outputs include 5.1 analog audio, S-Video, and a traditional composite-video out. We like the fact that, unlike other manufacturers, NeoDigits throws in a free 5-foot HDMI cable--a $15 to $25 value online.

The player can upconvert through its HDMI and component-video outputs to an impressive 11 total output formats, including the important ones: 720p and 1080i. While all HDTVs can perform this upconversion on their own internally, the supposed benefit of upconverting DVDs players is that their circuitry produces a better-scaled picture. Interestingly, Helios also claims that the player can upconvert to 1080p via its component-video output, but since TVs that accept 1080p via component are rare, we were not able to test whether or not it actually worked.

The Helios HVD2085's disc compatibility was solid, and the player choked on only a couple of the most difficult discs from our test suite. The HVD2085 can also handle a range of file formats, including MP3, WMA, and JPEG, as well as HDCD discs. It handled DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW formats and can play MP3s stored on a DVD.

For a DVD player costing $200, the HVD2085 turned in slightly disappointing image quality via HDMI. While its performance was passable at 1080i on HQV's resolution test, there was significant flickering in 720p mode. In fact, the HVD2085 struggled with most of the tests on Silicon Image's HQV test suite, while the Sony DVP-NS70H had trouble with only a few. Particularly troublesome tests included scrolling text, which revealed significant artifacts in the background, as well as the text itself being fuzzy. The HDV2085 also did not pass the 2:3 pull-down test in 720p mode, with moiré being seen in the grandstands as the racing car drives past.

Further HDMI testing revealed more of the same. On the Windows DVD Test Annex in 1080i mode, the HVD2085 failed a chroma bug test that could show up on poorly authored DVDs. Also in 1080i mode, a long panning shot in Star Trek: Insurrection evinced extreme judder, which looked like a stuttering motion shaking the frame. Luckily, the judder was significantly less in 720p mode. Using Digital Video Essentials Pro, we also noticed that the HVD2085 cannot pass blacker-than-black or whiter-than-white content. While most DVD players can do this, it's more of a nitpick, since it doesn't effect that many movies, and the average viewer probably won't notice this shortcoming.

It wasn't all bad news, though. We watched a few scenes from the Vertical Limit Superbit DVD, which looked great in both 720p and 1080i modes. The level of detail on the characters' frozen faces and the impact of the avalanche were not significantly affected by its mediocre video processing. While enthusiasts will probably want a player with better performance, if you need upconversion over component-video outputs, the Helios HVD2058 is the only game in town. Otherwise, there are better bargains if you plan on using HDMI.

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