So how much difference does XDE really make? To answer that we fired up The Departed DVD on a Toshiba 47ZV635D TV (with all its processing deactivated) and discovered that the technology does an excellent job of enhancing upscaled pictures. In fact, they're possibly the best we've seen from a DVD deck at this price.
Sharp Mode proves its worth right off the bat. In the 'Off' setting, pictures have a slightly hazy feel, but turn it on during shots of Leonardo Di Caprio being grilled in Martin Sheen's office and it strongly emphasises the clarity of background objects, such as diplomas hanging on the wall and books propped up on the drawers behind him. It also throws the texture and detail of Leo's face into sharper focus and gives edges more forceful definition, resulting in a beautifully clean and punchy picture.
We're also impressed by the improvements Colour Mode makes to the picture. It cleverly boosts the vibrancy and brightness of the blue sky through the windows as Mark Wahlberg addresses the FBI agents without upsetting the balance of the other colours, even delicate skin tones.
But our favourite by far is Contrast Mode, which gives images a cinematic kick up the rear as well as sharpening up detail. Its effects are positively revelatory during dimly-lit interior scenes - when Colin takes Madeleine to dinner, and when Frank and French search Billy at the back of the bar, XDE suddenly allows you to make out shadows and objects in the surrounding scenery, which makes these scenes more enjoyable to watch without compromising their filmic depth and solidity. Without it, the backgrounds look like one big black hole.
But brightly-lit scenes also benefit - creases and folds on the sharply tailored suit jackets are boldly defined, and the boosted black level gives panoramic shots of the Boston skyline terrific depth and definition.
If there's a weakness it's noise reduction - there's some grubby block noise on background walls, plus murky mosquito noise and a bright white halo is occasionally visible when dark objects are set against a light background. But these minor flaws don't detract greatly from the benefits elsewhere.
It even does a grand job with the Silicon Optix DVD - the processing makes moving diagonal lines look crisp and steady and renders the flag test sequence with minimal stepping. It also reproduces the Detail clip with pleasing precision and crispness.
Sound quality isn't a major consideration when buying a budget DVD deck but for the record the XDE600 isn't bad at playing CDs, giving music an enjoyable tone that should suit undemanding tastes.
The XDE600 is one of the most impressive budget DVD decks we've come across thanks to XDE processing, which definitely gives it an advantage over most rival players in terms of colour, contrast and sharpness. Add the reasonable price, ease-of-use and generous connections into the mix and you've got yourself a DVD deck that's well worth a punt - if you don't fancy Toshiba's forthcoming Blu-ray deck, that is…