Facing pressure from Google on the search, maps, and e-mail front, Yahoo has decided to strike back withÂ…a DVD player? While the $100 YDP-530 bears the Yahoo brand, it's actually manufactured by Diamond Electronics, a company that, as its press release states, "supplied the DVD player that Forbes Magazine (September 2003) referenced as Wal-Mart de Mexico's single largest dollar volume product in the entire country." Regardless of its origin, the YDP-530 stands out with a unique design that includes dual analog meters on the front as well as a strong mix of practical features such as DivX support, a four-in-one card reader, a wireless headphone transmitter, and a USB port.
The first thing you notice about the Yahoo YDP-530 is its pair of analog meters, which look like widely spaced eyes on the player's face. One monitors VU (audio volume), and the other tracks video bit rate, and while they look pretty nifty and even light up, we can't really imagine any practical purpose for them. Unfortunately for the geek who wants to know how many bits that last chase sequence averaged, the bit-rate meter is wildly inaccurate; it kind of just bounces up and down, even on still images. Standard OSD meters are much better for actually showing video bit rates.
Above the DVD tray are the four-in-one card reader and the USB drive, while from the extreme left and right sides of the face sprout two bullet-shaped, clear plastic stubs--the power button and the IR receiver. The included remote is smallish and missing the crucial open/close key. We were also annoyed to discover that the forward- and reverse-skip buttons double as fast-forward and rewind; we always prefer separate keys for these functions.
Despite its cool design, the most attractive aspect of the YDP-530 is its extensive feature set. Using an old pair of Sony wireless infrared (IR) headphones that are similar to the Sony MDR-IF8000s, we were able to listen to music and movies using the wireless headphone transmitter. The sound was clear, although as with all IR devices, you need to make sure you have a line of sight to the transmitter or it will cut out. Yahoo claims the player works with all IR headphones.
We were similarly pleased with the functionality of the USB drive and the four-in-one card reader; it handles Memory Stick, Smart Media, Secure Digital, and MultiMediaCard formats but not CompactFlash. We tested a USB key drive, an MMC card, and a Memory Stick with MP3s, DivX movies, and JPEG photos; the YDP-530 worked with all of them. Our only gripe with playback is that we experienced some stuttering with DivX files when using the USB drive, which leads us to believe the interface uses USB 1.0. On the audio side, the YDP-530 can output Dolby Digital surround sound through its digital coaxial output, although some may be dissatisfied with the lack of both DTS support and an optical digital jack.
We tested the YDP-530 for disc compatibility with DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-R, MP3 CDs, and discs with images on them. It handled almost everything we threw at it, including DVDs filled with MP3 files, although it stumbled on a few of our most difficult discs. DivX playback on CD-Rs and DVD-Rs was superior to the Norcent DP-220, as it had none of audio dropouts or distortions that were present on the DP-220.
Having recently been impressed by the picture quality of the Norcent, we were a little disappointed in the YDP-530. Using our favorite Star Trek: Insurrection DVD to test, we found the 2:3 pull-down processing in progressive mode to be subpar. During the opening sequence, what should have been smooth, curved lines on the boats' hulls were displayed as jagged diagonal lines. There was also very noticeable judder when the camera panned across the village, which resulted in what looked like jerky camera movement when it should have been smooth. Anamorphic downconversion, which is important for anyone with a non-wide-screen TV, was also subpar as the picture exhibited undulation during camera pans.
If you're a stickler for video quality, you'll better off with the cheaper Norcent DP-220 or the Panasonic DVD-S47S. However, the YDP-530 offers an impressive set of features that work well, and don't forget that pair of bobbing, conversation-starting analog meters.