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Sony DVP-NS70H review: Sony DVP-NS70H

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The Good Relatively inexpensive; solid performance upconverting to 720p and 1080i resolutions via HDMI output; impressive disc compatibility.

The Bad Glitch displays small, black bars on full-screen DVDs; no DVD-Audio or SACD support.

The Bottom Line The Sony DVP-NS70H is a good deal as long as you don't mind a slim, black bar at the top of your screen.

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6.4 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6

HD-DVD and Blu-ray players are still a way from being mainstream, so upconverting DVD players currently provide the closest thing to a high-def DVD experience. Upconverting DVD players don't magically make DVDs high-definition--there's no high-def picture data on the disc--but they scale the available picture to fit HDTV resolutions. And while all HDTVs can scale on their own, upconverting DVD players such as the Sony DVP-NS70H may do a better job than the TV itself, improving the DVD picture quality somewhat. More often, though, the image looks better simply because it comes in through the HDMI input; many digital flat-panel and microdisplay sets deliver superior image quality via HDMI than through component video, regardless of the source's resolution.

The Sony DVP-NS70H is slim and relatively stylish, with a silver chassis and faceplate and a large, black display in the center of the unit. There are several front-panel buttons, including playback and power controls and a progressive-scan toggle (which affects only the component-video output). There's also a bright, blue light that indicates a working HDMI connection; unfortunately, it can't be turned off. The remote is standard Sony fare, which means it's not backlit but does include dedicated buttons for several functions.

Connectivity is highlighted by an HDMI output, a component-video output, and two digital audio outputs (coaxial and optical). As mentioned before, the Sony DVP-NS70H can upscale video over its HDMI output to 720p and 1080i. Unlike with some upconverting DVD players, you'll need to go into the menu to select a resolution. Also, the Sony can't upscale video over its component-video output to resolutions higher than 480p. It also lacks the specialty HDMI output resolutions found on some units, such as 1,024x768 or 1,366x768, which exactly match the resolutions of many plasmas and LCDs.

In CNET Labs' tests, we found the Sony DVP-NS70H's disc compatibility to be very good, and it played even some of our more difficult test discs. It can handle a range of file formats, including MP3, WMA, and JPEG, but it can't play DivX files, nor does it claim to. It also handled DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW formats and played MP3 files from CDs and DVDs.

Our testing with Silicon Image's HQV test was mostly positive. The DVP-NS70H passed the resolution tests without a hitch and fared well on the jaggy tests, outpacing the majority of upscaling DVD players we've tested. It did hit a major snag on the 2:3-detection test, introducing moiré in the grandstands as the race car goes by. The 2:3 pull-down worked flawlessly, however, during the opening of Star Trek: Insurrection, rendering the bridge and the boats without any jaggies. The Sony had some problems with the chroma-bug test from the Windows Test Annex disc, but this would show up only on poorly authored DVDs.

While we really liked the DVP-NS70H's image quality, we experienced an annoying bug when we upscaled the picture to 1080i or 720p. In 1080i mode, a small black bar a few pixels wide would appear at the top of the picture, even when we watched 1.77:1-aspect-ratio, full-screen DVDs. The problem also appeared in 720p mode, though here the black bar on top was slightly smaller, and a bar also appeared on the bottom. To ensure that the issue wasn't with our display, we hooked it up to both the Dell W3706MC and the Vizio P42HDTV and confirmed that the DVP-NS70H was indeed causing the problem. We wouldn't say it had a huge effect on the viewing experience, as it took us several viewings to confirm the bug existed, but it is annoying nonetheless. We wouldn't consider it a deal breaker, especially since the glitch would be invisible with common 2.35:1 discs, which display black bars already. But if you're the type of person who can't stand black bars anywhere on the screen, you might want to see them for yourself before buying. Even better, check out Sony's recent update to this player, the DVP-NS75H, which may have fixed the problem (we'll know when we get our hands on a sample).

While we're not always convinced that upconverting DVD players are the best place to spend your extra home-theater cash, we were impressed with the Sony DVP-NS70H and would wholeheartedly recommend it if it weren't for that annoying black-bar bug. In any case, it's still a decent performer available at a very good price.

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