DVD players have been around for over a decade now, and inevitably manufacturers are struggling to sex up a technology that's slowly being usurped by Blu-ray and digital downloads. There aren't many technological avenues left to explore, but one way to keep people interested is to dream up unusual and alluring designs, and that's something Samsung excels at. The DVD-H1080 perfectly demonstrates the Korean company's ability to make a bog-standard product look beautiful, and as a result this affordably-priced deck really stands out from the crowd.
Veering away from the rectangular box approach of most DVD players, the DVD-H1080 sports a distinctive 'pebble' design - the type you'd use for skimming across a pond judging by the round shape and slim dimensions. And as is customary for Samsung products these days, it's styled in a deep gloss black finish that'll take a lot of maintenance to keep fingerprint-free - but the swanky looks are worth the effort.
We're a sucker for touch-sensitive buttons so it's great to see three of them at the front of the unit covering play/pause, eject and power. The disc tray below is so slim you barely notice it, while on the back the connection line-up is understandably limited given the unit's compact size.
On offer is an HDMI output, which will deliver 720p, 1080i and 1080p pictures to a suitably equipped HDTV, as well as component and composite video outs for lower-tech TVs. Audio outputs are of the coaxial digital and analogue stereo varieties but those who need optical are out of luck. There's no SCART output either, so check your connection needs carefully before buying.
Samsung has also tucked a USB 2.0 port around the back, which means you won't spoil the aesthetic with a flash drive plugged in. This makes it possible to play MP3, WMA, JPEG, DivX and XviD files without the need to burn them onto CD or DVD first - but it will also play them back from disc if need be. And disc support is solid too, with a compatibility list that includes DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW, CD and CD-R/-RW.
The other benefit of that USB port is that you can rip tracks from CD straight onto a portable music player in MP3 format (128 or 192kbps), saving you the need to get your PC involved. But here's the rub - there's no Gracenote so you'll need to tag tracks on your PC later.