Denon backs up the high ease-of-use factor with top-notch picture performance, handling even the most difficult discs with the carefree confidence of a more expensive player. Lady In The Water is an unconventional but suitably challenging test disc, and thankfully it gets a respectful treatment at the hands of the DVD-1740.
What jumps out first is the strength and depth of the colours during the movie's brighter moments, giving the picture the sort of vibrancy that the DVD format is famous for. Edge definition is razor-sharp and detail levels are high, displaying a great deal of movie minutiae such as pockmarks and hair follicles during facial close-ups. But when the light dims, the quality of those pictures doesn't; the deck retains a lot of detail in the darkness, which gives the image a wonderful sense of depth at all times - check the scene where Paul Giamatti squares up to a Scrunt at night for proof.
Also impressive is the lack of noise. Even on a large hi-def display, it's very difficult to spot any upscaling artefacts, jaggies or block noise. There are a couple of slight twitches here and there but no more than you'd expect from any other similarly priced player. Motion is also smooth and flicker-free, whether you're using the HDMI output or the prog scan enabled component ports.
The deck also turns in a very strong audio performance, but we can't help but wish DVD-Audio and SACD playback were on the agenda. Nevertheless, CDs sound crisp and colourful thanks to the deck's terrific frequency range and lack of distortion. We're also impressed by the quality of compressed music files, which sound clean provided the encoding is up to scratch.
We can't deny that the DVD-1740 is a very competent deck, but even taking its excellent performance into consideration we can't help but feel that you can get more for your money elsewhere - the Pioneer DV-600AV, for example, adds DVD-A, SACD, WMV and AAC playback plus a USB port for the same price, putting the Denon's feature list to shame. The Denon's pictures are possibly better, but not enough to make up for the lack of these features - most people would choose extra bells and whistles over fractionally better pictures any day of the week.
But judged on its own merits, the DVD-1740 is a solid player, once again demonstrating the Japanese brand's uncanny ability to wring the very best performance out of a player within the limitations of its price point. Build quality is superb, the rich, cinematic quality of the images it produces are ideal for movie fans - even those with demanding bigscreen displays - while the smooth audio playback means you can ditch your old CD player with confidence.