With supermarkets selling DVD players for next to nothing (we spotted one in Tesco for just £15) it's getting harder to justify forking out for a more expensive spinner. But anyone with an ounce of common sense can see the benefits in splashing out on a good quality deck from a well-known brand - not only are you likely to get superior pictures and better build quality, but you'll also find features and format support that you probably won't at bargain basement prices. So with this in mind, we're taking a look at Yamaha's entry-level DVD-S661, which isn't cheap but boasts a healthy-looking feature list, and hopefully the company's wealth of AV experience will result in a strong performance.
The look is classic Yamaha. The angular lines and black finish are sleek and alluring, matching the company's range of AV receivers (it's also available in silver), while the slimline dimensions won't take up much of your precious shelf space. Yamaha has also abstained from packing the fascia with buttons, making it feel pleasantly uncluttered, while the info display is compact but legible. On the right hand side is a USB port, which accepts MP3 players and USB memory devices for playback of digital music, video and photos.
Around the back is a run-of-the-mill socket line-up. Chief among these is an HDMI output for digital transfer of pictures to a suitably equipped TV, and on the analogue side Yamaha keeps faith with RGB SCART, component, S-video and composite outputs. These are joined by stereo audio output and a single coaxial digital audio port for piping digital audio bitstreams to your amp, but if your amp only sports an optical input then you'll need a converter. The lack of 5.1-channel outputs suggests there's no hi-res audio or built-in Dolby Digital decoding, which is a shame for the money, but you will find remote control input and output, which enables you to start playing a DVD using the controls on a Yamaha receiver that boasts the SCENE feature.
The deck can boost DVDs to 720p or 1080i to match the resolution of an HD TV, but sadly it doesn't offer 1080p output, which puts it at a disadvantage to several similarly priced rivals.