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Recent research in the US showed that the biggest challenge faced by Blu-ray manufacturers is not hi-def digital downloads or high hardware prices but the fact that people are perfectly happy with the picture quality from their upscaling DVD players. And judging by some of the upscaling decks we've tested recently, we can understand why - they might not be hi-def, but the pictures are sharp enough to make anyone think twice about paying £300 upwards for a hi-def deck.
Despite this, the wisdom of putting 1080p upscaling into a DVD player is still a subject of much debate, given that Full HD TVs do the same job anyway, but if the player's upscaling is better than your TV's then it's worth making it do the donkey work. As the model number suggests 1080p upscaling is the key feature of Samsung's latest DVD player, which makes it a cost-effective movie source for a Full HD TV or projector.
On the outside the DVD-1080P8 is a real stunner, fitting in beautifully with Samsung's flatpanel TVs and Blu-ray players. Its clean lines, sleek black finish and minimal, uncluttered fascia make it look more esoteric than your average budget player, though the deck's slimline dimensions make the display panel hard to read. Also disappointing is that the front is devoid of a USB port, which means the only way of playing digital media files is from DVD or CD.
On the rear panel you'll find a sparse but functional set of sockets, which includes the all-important HDMI port (which delivers upscaled video to your display), an RGB-capable SCART and composite video output. Interestingly there's no component video output, but with the HDMI output offering progressive scan it's no great loss. For audio Samsung offers a choice of optical and coaxial digital outputs for piping Dolby Digital, DTS and MPEG-2 bitstreams to your amp, plus stereo audio output for connection to a two-channel system.
Aside from 1080p upscaling, there aren't many other features to get excited about. Perhaps the most appealing is the deck's ability to play back MP3, WMA, JPEG, XviD and DivX files. For the latter, there's a code in the setup menu that allows you to register your player and watch Video-on-demand content.
Otherwise it boasts all the usual trickplay functions, such as a two-stage zoom mode, bookmarks, an unusually fast 128x search speed, slow motion, Instant Replay and Skip functions that enable you to skip forward or back by 10 seconds. EZ View makes the picture fit the screen in different ways depending on the aspect ratio of your TV and the source material. The deck also supports Samsung's Anynet+, the HDMI CEC mode that allows it to be controlled by the remote from a compatible Samsung TV.
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