Onto the deck's features, and it's pleasing to see full DivX compatibility at this price. Files can be played from CD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW or DVD-R/RW and it supports all versions up to 6.0, plus Video on Demand (there's a code in the setup menu for the latter). Playback of these files is smooth and problem free, with the deck making some quite scruffily encoded files look half decent on a 42in plasma. You can also view JPEG photos on your TV and play MP3 files, but it won't accept WMA.
The setup menu reveals a couple more features you may not have expected: a choice of four picture presets that either make the image brighter (Vivid) or softer (Cool) and a choice of view modes, which make the picture fit your screen in a variety of different ways depending on the aspect ratio of the source material. On the audio side you'll find a night mode, which boosts the quiet bits and dampens the noisy bits so you can watch late night movies without waking anyone up. There's also a pointless ‘3D Effect' virtual surround mode from the analogue output.
There are plenty of DVD playback tricks like a three-stage zoom mode; up to 16x search speeds; 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 slow motion modes; repeat A-B; and subtitles.
As you'd expect from a player at the budget end of the market, it's easy to use. The remote is small and compact with sensibly placed (and separately coloured) menu and playback controls. You could argue that the size of the remote makes the rest of the buttons too small and fiddly, but on the whole this is a decent zapper.
The onscreen menus are charming, with a bright and breezy colour scheme, large text and a structure that's very simple to follow. DVD novices and youngsters should have absolutely no trouble installing and operating this player.
Despite its bargain basement price, the SD-280E turns in a very competent performance, producing pictures that look equally at home on a 42in plasma and a 20in LCD. We're not talking about world beating, ultra-refined images that'll have Pioneer or Denon heading for the hills - just bright, colourful and mostly noise-free pictures that should suffice for everyday DVD playback.