Lately our DVD category has been dominated by, but not everyone is getting caught up in the fervent format war. Yamaha, who has yet to announce an affiliation with either disc type, is currently content with releasing HDMI DVD players that upscale to 1080i or 1080p while other manufacturers squabble over which next-gen format is superior.
The latest two progressive scan models are the lower-end DVD-S659B (available now for $299), and the 1080p-capable DVD-S1700B, which costs $799 and will hit Australia in December.
Swivel the S1700B around and you'll see it's got more connections than a mafia boss. In addition to the HDMI, component/composite video, S-Video and 2-channel audio also found on the S659B, the player sports an optical output, 5.1-channel and coaxial audio connections, and for the techier among us, an RS-232C interface that allows the unit to be controlled by computer as part of a custom installation.
Befitting Yamaha's philosophy that it's all about the sound, the S1700B also sports a wealth of audio enhancements, including 192kHz/24-bit audio DAC and bass management Audio Direct mode. This last feature diverts the signal path away from the video circuitry and shuts down the LCD in order to prevent noise interference.
The players are compatible with DVD, SVCD, VCD, CD, MP3, JPEG, WMA and DixV formats. For the S1700B, SACD and DVD-Audio are tacked on to the compatibility list.
With the focus on audio, pretty menus aren't high on the priorities list. The graphical user interface (GUI) that pops up on your TV is plain-looking, but the no-frills layout makes navigating menus with the remote control very easy.
Yamaha's plan to sit out the high-def DVD war for now seems logical given the lack of commercial titles available on both next-gen formats, but some buyers of Blu-ray/HD DVD-ready components may be wishing the company would take a stance.
Yamaha's HDMI players offer a good compromise for those who want high-quality audio and video but see no end in sight to the next-gen DVD war. With upscaling, DivX certification and compatibility with multiple disc formats, these models won't fade into obsolescence any time soon.