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Picture quality is excellent on the whole. Keeping it in the family, we rigged up the SD-370E to a Toshiba 42C3030D LCD TV, set it to 576p output (DVD’s native resolution) and let it rip with the Region 2 King Kong disc. In this setting, the TV does the upscaling work, and generally the results are very enjoyable. Images seem rich and cinematic, with dynamic colour reproduction and a pleasing amount of detail in the picture.
These elements combine to thrilling effect in the CG-heavy Kong Vs T-Rex scrap. The different shades of green in the surrounding jungle look strong yet natural, while fine details like Kong’s fur or the T-Rex’s textured skin are sharply rendered.
Switch to 720p and the difference isn’t immediately apparent – you get the same levels of detail and forceful colour tones. But what we did notice upon close inspection is that pictures seem fractionally cleaner and less ‘processed’ using the player’s upscaling chip compared with the TV’s. As Ann backs away from the T-Rex after tumbling down the precipice, the densely detailed jungle background seems a touch more stable than the 576p setting. However, the difference is minimal – pictures are impressive either way.
1080i pictures show no real signs of strain despite being upscaled by the player then downscaled by the TV. Don’t go expecting miracles though – the results are nowhere near as mind-blowing as true high-definition sources like Blu-ray, HD DVD or Sky HD.
DivX files play back smoothly without any glitches or stuttering, but the quality depends on the encoding. High-resolution JPEGs don’t fare so well on our LCD screen – they look grainy and suffer from jagged edges and indistinct detail reproduction. We suggest sticking with your PC.
As for audio, the quality of Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks largely depends on your sound system, but the deck transfers the digital bitstream with all the bits intact. Stereo sound playback from the analogue stereo phonos is also hugely enjoyable with a wide range of material.
It may lack 1080p upscaling and DVD-A/SACD playback, and obviously it’s not multiregion from the box, but on the whole the SD-370 is an excellent little player. Terrific picture quality, including solid upscaling, makes it a surprisingly accomplished performer, while the sleek, slimline design is a bonus. But the best part is that you get all this for a wallet-friendly price tag, giving hi-def refuseniks a cost-effective way to prolong the life of their DVD collection.
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