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The DVP725U uses retro styling to stand out from other DVD players on the shelf. Its three-inch height cuts a streamlined profile on any rack. A chrome strip adorns the disc drawer, and below that sits a rectangular mirror that lights up with the blue LED. A false jog dial offers menu access, though it seems to exist more for cosmetic purposes than for function, like the fins on an old Caddy.
The rating and/or Editors' Choice designation for this product has been altered since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer products.
Speaking of retro, Hitachi chose to include a 1/4-inch headphone jack complete with a volume-control dial. The remote deserves kudos, too; its well-laid-out buttons are centered on a big cursor control. Users with smaller hands may have to stretch to reach the Play button, but we found the remote's size nearly ideal.
The menu system delivers its information without frills, icons, or explanatory text, which may confuse some new users. We were also a bit disappointed in the mirrored front-panel display. Though it looks cool, the old-school LED doesn't convey much important information, such as the current chapter or the sound format.
Just enough extras
The DVP725U's feature set is relatively modest. It won't accept DVD-Audio discs or Super Audio CDs, although it did play our test DVD-Rs, DVD+Rs, and DVD+RWs--but not DVD-RWs. This Hitachi can play MP3 CDs efficiently, with quick loads and fast response time, and it incorporates an onscreen menu that shows up to 27 characters of the filename. You can set the DVP725U to play an entire CD's worth of MP3 tracks at random.
The DVP725U can also zoom, complete with a nifty visual aid that helps you control which section of the image gets magnified. Unfortunately, the player doesn't include aspect-ratio control. Therefore, owners of some older wide-screen sets--which can't resize progressive-scan sources--should probably choose a different player.
The back panel includes A/V and S-Video outputs, optical and coaxial digital-audio outputs, a component-video output, and a switch to select between progressive-scan and interlaced picture modes. Naturally, progressive-scan images aren't viewable without a progressive-scan-capable TV.
Smooth video, too
In progressive-scan mode, the DVP725U looked great with just about every source we tried. Its Sage DCDi chip beats many of the other progressive-scan circuits in use today, especially when dealing with sources that originated on video. For example, a waving flag from the Video Essentials test disc looked smooth-edged, where some other decks render it with slightly jagged edges.
We watched the Memento (Limited Edition) DVD on a TV, and the home-theater experience backed up the test results. The image was razor-sharp and lifelike, down to the subtle grades of shadow sliding across bartender Carrie-Anne Moss's face as she convinces the protagonist that they've never met. Deinterlacing was superb, with very few motion artifacts despite some difficult moving camera work.
The most visible difference we noticed between this deck and the high-end had to do with video-noise levels. Since it lacks noise reduction, the Hitachi let in some dancing pixels in shadows (behind the bar) and some deeper colors (the azure booths) in Memento. Like many DVD players, the DVP725U doesn't do a good job of converting anamorphic discs for play on nonwide-screen, nonprogressive-scan TVs.
All told, this is one of the best-performing progressive-scan decks we've reviewed at this price--$190--and we find it easy to recommend. Some may pooh-pooh the cosmetics or find the remote a bit of a stretch, but nobody can complain about the progressive-scan image. Though it lacks some of the fancy features found on other decks, the DVP725U is still a good value.