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At the heart of the DVD-3800BD's video capabilities is Silicon Optix's sophisticated Realta chip, which makes its debut inside a Blu-ray player. This chip's HQV technology handles all of the key video duties like detail enhancement, noise reduction, multi-direction diagonal filtering, video upscaling, 1080i to 1080p deinterlacing and film/video cadence detection on a per pixel rather than per frame basis. The 10-bit data processing and 4:4:4 colour sampling allow it to render over 1 billion colours in 1,024 'steps' and there's also a 297MHz/12-bit video DAC on board.
Elsewhere on the spec sheet are several other performance-enhancing technologies, such as Denon Pixel Image Correction (DPIC) and Noise Shaped Video (NSV), which reduce picture artefacts and signal noise respectively, and a newly-developed Dynamic Discrete Surround Circuit - High Definition (DDSC-HD) that uses 192kHz/24-bit Burr Brown DACs for all channels and Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio decoders. That means the deck can output these HD audio formats from its multichannel analogue outputs, which is great news if your receiver doesn't sport HDMI inputs or you simply prefer to transfer them in the analogue domain. You can also transfer any audio format as a bitstream or multichannel PCM.
The decent feature list doesn't stop there. We're pleased to see multimedia support includes DivX, MP3, WMA and JPEG, which can be played back from disc or SD cards using the slot on the front panel. But despite its otherwise generous feature list, there is one disappointment - the DVD-3800BD is Profile 1.1, which isn't great at this price and means that you can't (and never will be able to) access BD Live features.
In the box is a superb remote, which isn't cluttered up with labels like many Blu-ray zappers. It features sensibly-placed menu direction keys and provides clear easy access to most of the regularly used functions. But compared with the latest generation of Blu-ray players from the likes of LG and Samsung the Denon feels decidedly cumbersome, with remote commands taking slightly too long to register on menus and discs taking well over a minute to load up.
That said, on-screen design is impressive, with a clear setup menu that's split into Quick and Custom modes, the latter going into a lot more detail than the former. It uses crisp graphics (including a diagram showing which remote buttons you need to press) and within the Custom menu you can easily alter all the important settings. Hit the Mode button during playback and a separate on-screen banner appears, which lets you make all the crucial tweaks that cinephiles need to get the image just right. It goes into meticulous detail, with the Gamma Correction menu even using a graph to illustrate the results of your tweaking.