The deck's video processing comes courtesy of Faroudja's DCDi chip, which offers progressive scan, film mode detection, motion adaptive noise reduction and TrueLife enhancement. It analyses the picture on a single pixel basis to detect angled lines or edges, then the processing reduces the appearance of ‘jaggies'.
Dip into the setup menu and you'll find a range of picture and sound tweaks that goes beyond what most budget DVD players offer. Video options include sharpness, brightness, contrast and colour adjustments to polish the pictures before they reach your screen, plus there's a choice of colour space settings and noise reduction modes.
For audio, you can set an audio delay to cure lip sync problems, trim the levels of each audio channel to find a suitable sonic balance and punch in the size of your speakers to find the right bass crossover point. Also on board is a range of Sound Field and EQ modes that apply effects to the sound output, though quite why you'd want a movie to sound like it was being watched in a cave or bathroom is beyond us.
So far so good, but the player's operating system is disappointing. The onscreen menus are basic, blocky and not always logical - sometimes you get trapped in a submenu with no obvious way of going back to the previous menu. The remote is also cumbersome, sporting big, spongy buttons that don't feel very responsive. On the plus side, the buttons glow in the dark and most of the important functions are given dedicated buttons. There are a couple of nice touches elsewhere, such as the onscreen virtual playback controls and graphic equaliser that shows you the sound levels as the film plays.
Owners of the DV-981HD in the States have had nothing but praise for the deck's performance, and having seen its pictures first hand we can see why. First up, the upscaling is absolutely flawless, with the picture remaining free from ugly artefacts such as pixellation or smudgy noise around edges. With the deck set to 1080p, its processing does a great job at filling in the extra pixels, resulting in picture quality that really shines.