While HDMI with upconversion was a feature once reserved for cutting-edge products geared toward enthusiasts, it's now made its way to less expensive models, including DVD/VCR combo units such as the Samsung DVD-V9650 ($130). Upconversion by a DVD player isn't necessary since every HDTV can do it on its own, but one of the supposed benefits is that the video processing in the DVD player might give a superior picture compared to that of the TV. In practical terms, the single HDMI cable for both audio and video should make hookup more convenient too, but in the Samsung's case, it doesn't.
The DVD-V9650 looks pretty slick among its DVD/VCR combo brethren, which tend toward bulk and awkwardness. The front panel is all black with a thin, silver line running through its middle. We like the inclusion of several useful front panel controls, including an HD button to select output resolutions and a DVD/VCR key to toggle to between functions, as well as fast-forward and rewind buttons for when the remote goes missing. The average-size remote is also entirely black with white lettering, but it's still hard to see in the dark since it's not backlit. Most of the buttons are also small and similarly shaped, so it's difficult to navigate by feel.
Connectivity is highlighted by the aforementioned HDMI output, as well as a component output, two digital audio outputs (optical and coaxial), and an S-Video output. A significant drawback to the HDMI output is that it carries only DVD signals. This means you'll need to make a separate connection, either via RF or composite video, to view material from the VCR. This isn't a deal-breaker, but it would have been nice to have one-cable connectivity for both DVD and VHS.
Also, we did have a problem with the component-video output of our review sample; the Pb jack, which carries half of the color information, was not working, severely discoloring the image. This may have just been a problem with our review sample, but make sure you're aware of your vendor's return policy if you're looking to use the component output, just to be safe. Also note that the DVD-V9650 does not have a memory-card slot, although several Internet stores incorrectly list this as a feature. Our review sample did not have one, and there was no mention of it in the manual.