Upconverting DVD Players - HDMI DVD Recorders

While prices on HDTV sets are coming down, HD-DVD players and Blu-ray DVD players are just hitting the market with price tags of $500-$1,800. At the lower figure, that is more than what a top of the range DVD recorder would cost. The higher figure is ten times the price of a quality DVD player.

At those prices, many consumers will wait the two years or more for the initial bugs to get worked out and prices to reach more common levels. If you are one of those, you can still get a great picture on your HDTV from a quality DVD player or DVD Recorder.

DVD recorders all record in 480i, for backwards compatibility with older discs and TVs. That means they all record at the level of resolution of standard TV, with 480 lines of resolution, interlaced. Then the signal is converted from digital to analog, if the TV display is an analog type.

Interlacing is a technique in which the image is formed by 'painting' the screen in two passes, even lines in one pass, odd the next. Progressive scan DVD players, which all good ones are these days, 'de-interlace' the picture before sending it to the display, if the TV can display a progressive scan picture. Traditionally, interlacing is performed by the TV circuitry.

When connected to an HDTV the DVD player and TV system has additional conversion to do. By definition, HDTV offers more than 480i resolution. 480p is an interim standard, sometimes called Enhanced Definition Television or EDTV. HDTV native resolutions vary. Some are 720p, some 1080i, some newer ones even offer 1080p.

Upconverting DVD Players

Whenever the source is one resolution, say 480p, and the display is another, more conversion has to take place. The system converts the 480 signal into either 720p or 1080i for display. How well that conversion, called upscaling or upconverting, is done plays a large role in the ultimate picture quality, no matter the contrast ratio and other specs.

Quality DVD players and/or recorders do a good job of producing a great picture even with all the conversion going on behind the scenes. Here are some units that offer that, plus some really useful additional features.

HDMI DVD Recorders

The Panasonic DMR-EH75 offers a DVD recorder that can use a single layer DVD-R or DVD-RAM disc to hold up to 8 hours of video.

It also houses an 80GB hard drive to record, time shift and play back material. That material can be from DVD for non-copyright blocked sources or directly from broadcasts. Depending on recording/playback quality, the hard drive can hold up to 142 hours of programming.

It provides a High Definition Multimedia Interface or HDMI interface for getting the maximum quality image out to the TV set. Price is currently in the $440 range for a unit that will display an excellent quality image on a good HDTV set.

For the really space hungry crowd, Toshiba offers their RD-XS52 DVD recorder, with 160GB hard drive that will hold up to 200 hours of video. Panasonic had larger units, from 120GB up to 400GB with an Ethernet connector. They may still be available from some merchants.

As with most Toshiba products, the quality is great and the price is stellar at around $350. But, for those less interested in recording than in the best possible playback, there's the new HD-A1. Retailing for around $500, it offers full high definition output at 1080i.