With all the bluster about HD DVD and Blu-ray, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was the end of the road for the humble DVD player. In reality, however, the DVD player has plenty of life left in it yet.
Slow sales of the high-definition disc formats prove that people aren't in any particular rush to ditch DVD, but the ageing format is not without its downsides. It was never really designed for today's large-screen televisions and, as such, picture performance can sometimes be a little lacklustre.
Upscaling DVD players like Samsung's DVD-HD870 try to offer a solution, by squeezing the best possible picture quality out of DVD.
The player itself is pretty funky. It's around half the depth of a standard DVD player, which is a mixed blessing really -- its smaller size means stacking anything on top of it isn't ideal, but it does take up a lot less space on your shelf or TV stand.
There is a simple display on the front of the player, but it doesn't provide much information and looks fairly basic. The rest of the front panel is dedicated to a little four-way controller for play, pause, previous and next track navigation, and of course the disc tray.
The remote control is the usual Samsung style -- it's around half as long as the remotes that come with its televisions, but the same shape, with the chunky bottom end. It's not the most attractive design and it's not brilliantly ergonomic, but let's face it -- you won't be conducting an orchestra with it, so it's not the end of the world.
The key feature on any DVD player that will be connected to an HD Ready TV is the ability to output a progressive scan signal. If a DVD player can do a decent job of creating a 576p image out of a 576i one, then the LCD can take that and stretch it to fit the high-resolution screen.
The Samsung DVD-HD870 will happily generate a progressive signal, but it also has scaling hardware that will create a high-definition picture up to 1080i. The difference between 576p, 720p and 1080i was negligible. The improvement in quality comes from the progressive scan option. We think this player will be best left at 576p, unless you have an older TV with poor quality video scaling, in which case bump it up to 720p.
DivX support is also included, which is always welcome. It enables you to download video from the Internet, burn it to disc and watch via this player. There is also support for DivX on demand, a service that allows you to 'rent' movies or buy them online. This is a nice idea, but in reality there isn't that much content available. We think it would be great if movie studios did allow content to be purchased in this way, as it offers all the advantages of DVD rental with all the immediacy of Internet delivery.