The price of upscaling DVD players is falling faster than the Prime Minister's popularity, which means you can now get near-HD picture quality for a quarter of the price of a high-definition deck. So if you've got a big DVD collection and don't fancy re-mortgaging the house to replace them all on Blu-ray, then a DVD upscaler could be the most cost-effective option.
One of the manufacturers driving this DVD price dive is Philips, and with the DVP5980 (launched last year but still going strong online) it brings 1080p upscaling to a truly mass market price point - which is a real boon considering the growing number of households with Full HD TVs that need a suitable movie source to go with it.
In terms of design, the DVP5980 is one of those effortlessly classy products that Philips seems to churn out in its sleep these days. Its sleek black finish gives it plenty of 21st century chic and at 38mm high it's one of the slimmest decks you're likely to come across. Philips has been canny enough to keep the fascia uncluttered, fitting it with just five buttons and a minimal display panel, which draws your eye towards a USB port for your memory devices, card readers and digital cameras.
This USB port makes it possible to play music, video and photo files through your TV and home cinema system without having to load up a disc. Supported formats include DivX (the unit is Ultra certified), MP3, WMA and JPEG, and with the latter the unit will display them in high-definition via the HDMI output. Any of these formats can also be played back from CD or DVD. And in terms of disc formats, the unit will play every type of recordable platter except for DVD-RAM, which means your collection of home-burned discs should be in safe hands.
On the back of the deck is an HDMI output, the conduit for video upscaled to 720p, 1080i or 1080p, plus a set of progressive scan capable component outputs and an RGB-capable SCART. Meanwhile, the coaxial audio socket lets you send Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks to your AV receiver.
Elsewhere you'll find a run-of-the-mill feature set, though picture perfectionists might get excited by the Personal mode, which enables you to set your own levels of brightness, contrast, colour and sharpness - but there's also a couple of presets if you can't be bothered with all that. On the audio side you'll find 12 different audio effects that mimic a variety of listening environments and movie genres.
For playback the DVP5980 performs all the tricks you'd expect from a DVD player, such as slow motion, zoom, fast search and a slideshow for JPEGs. In fact, the only real omission from a features perspective is SACD playback but that's hardly surprising at this price.