When it comes to 1080p picture quality, the Philips does a solid, if not flawless job with movie material. First, we tried Toy Story and there's much to admire - the dazzling, dynamic colours being the most impressive aspect of the picture. The lively palette of Pixar's classic is delivered with the sort of richness and purity that's sure to win you over right from the outset. These colours are also smoothly rendered from light to dark without excessive banding or block noise.
The unit retrieves a lot of detail too, evidenced not only on a subjective level by Toy Story's reams of computer-created pixels, but also with a series of frequency response test patterns, which are reproduced with great stability and focus. It delivers deep blacks and does a reasonable job of picking out detail during the numerous dark scenes in Pan's Labyrinth, though some areas do merge into one another without a great deal of definition. It improves if you fiddle with the deck's contrast and brightness settings but you run the risk of compromising the image's cinematic feel.
We're also disappointed by the fidgety noise that surrounds some objects (such as the text that appears during Toy Story's opening sequence) and by the queasy juddering with camera pans, plus it failed the jaggies tests on our HQV test disc. These flaws probably won't have a massive impact on your overall enjoyment if you're viewing on a screen under 32in, but they will prevent the DVP3980/05 from meeting the needs of demanding large-screen displays.
We can have no complaints with audio though, as the analogue outputs deliver CD sound with a decent amount of detail and warmth, while Dolby Digital soundtracks via HDMI sound sensational.
For £50, you can't really expect the DVP3980/05 to match the sort of picture quality you get from the likes of Denon or OPPO, and sure enough the Philips falls short. However, there is a lot to admire about its image quality and elsewhere the range of appealing features make it a feel like good value, particularly if you want 1080p upscaling on a budget.