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The deck's dazzling colour reproduction also helps deliver the necessary wow factor, best demonstrated during the kaleidoscopic Quidditch World Cup sequence, where the bright costumes, flags and lights inside the CG stadium look crisp and vibrant. Subtle colours like skin tones are also adeptly handled, rounding off a superb hi-def picture performance.
As a DVD upscaler, the HD-EP30 is impressive if not perfect. Cranked up to 1080p, Spider-Man 2's detail and colour levels are high, generating a picture that's solid and sharp enough to fool casual onlookers into thinking it's hi-def - but there are some jaggies and areas of pixel noise that slightly compromise the overall clarity.
If you want to take advantage of Dolby True HD or Dolby Digital Plus soundtracks, then you'll need an amp with HDMI input and support for LPCM signals. But those of you without the necessary hardware rest assured that the deck offers superb Dolby Digital and DTS playback through a decent home cinema system, while two-channel playback of CDs sounds lively and musical.
There's no question that the HD-EP30 represents superb value for money, boasting a killer feature list and awesome hi-def picture quality for around the £200 mark. The only question is whether you should opt for the pricier HD-EP35 or hold out for one of the forthcoming Profile 1.1 Blu-ray decks.
To be honest we don't think there's much call for Deep Color or HD audio bitstream output at present due to the dearth of compatible hardware, leaving 5.1 analogue output as the only real advantage of buying the HD-EP35 (besides any performance improvements it may offer).
And waiting for a Blu-ray Profile 1.1 player could be pointless, as the new specifications add nothing that you can't already find on the HD-EP30. In fact, a LAN/Internet connection still isn't mandatory! What's more, none of these new Blu-ray decks is likely be half as affordable as the HD-EP30 - all of which makes Toshiba's deck a much better bet.
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