Samsung's DVD-HD931 (listed at $299) is one of the new wave of DVD players with a digital-video output, or digital visual interface (DVI) jack. If you're familiar with the technology, you probably know that the HD931 can transmit high-definition resolutions to certain types of televisions. If you don't know about DVI, however, you may have gotten the impression that this deck turns DVD into HDTV. That's simply not true. No matter how good a player is, it cannot provide more picture information than is present on the disc. Nonetheless, the HD931 is pretty impressive. It displays great video on the right TV, and its stylish, silver exterior beats that of its prime competitor, the more feature-laden and less-expensive V Bravo D1.
An angled piece of mirrored plastic dominates the HD931's face and completely conceals the screen when the power is off. A circle of bright and unfortunately undimmable blue light surrounds the jog dial on the right, and a string of same-size keys enables control of display formats and disc transport. The front panel doesn't offer menu access, however.
One button changes color according to the DVI jack's output format: red is for 480p, blue is for 720p, and green is for 1080i. We prefer the way the Bravo D1 simply states the resolution on the display.
With its finger-friendly layout and its ability to control some TVs, the HD931's remote is a darn sight better than the Bravo D1's. But forward and reverse scanning is annoying; in the absence of dedicated buttons, you have to hold down one of the Chapter Skip keys instead. We also sometimes confused Menu, which provides access to the setup and other settings, with Disc Menu.
This Samsung's chief claim to fame is its DVI output. Unlike with analog component-video and RGB connections, the DVI-transmitted video signal travels directly from the DVD player to the display, bypassing the typical digital-to-analog conversion and much of the processing in the TV or the monitor. The result is reduced video noise and artifacts.
Unlike the Bravo D1's DVI jack, the HD931's is equipped with high-bandwidth digital-content protection (HDCP). Unless your TV's DVI input also has HDCP, the Samsung cannot send a picture. Hollywood counts this feature a blessing, but it's a curse in terms of display compatibility.
Providing you have the required TV hookup, the HD931 can convert the resolution of wide-screen DVD (852x480 pixels) to standard 480p, as well as the HDTV resolutions 720p (1,280x720) and 1080i (1,920x1,080). The DVI output works best when feeding fixed-pixel displays that use plasma, LCOS, LCD, or DLP technology. With CRT-based tube or rear-projection sets, the DVI connection is unlikely to deliver a noticeably better picture than component video would.