Elsewhere there are few standout features, but you do get the standard array of DVD playback tricks – four search speeds, frame-by-frame advance, slow motion, repeat A-B, bookmarks and a two-stage zoom mode that enlarges the picture by 400 and 1600 per cent. Also handy is the Last Scene Memory, which remembers the point where you left off, even if you remove a disc – a feature we wish more Blu-ray players offered. But those who like to tinker with the picture before watching a movie may be disappointed to learn that there are no image adjustments on board, apart from a Black Level Expansion mode that makes very little difference. You can, however, set the deck to output 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i or 1080p output using a single button on the remote.
Using the player is a breeze. We’ve seen the setup menu layout a hundred times before but it’s a neat, comprehensible design with a pleasingly responsive cursor, and if you hit Setup during playback it stops the movie and jumps to the menu, resuming playback as soon as you exit. There’s also an onscreen display that shows the key information as playback continues, making up for the microscopic display on the front panel. What’s more, discs load very quickly and layer changes are nigh-on instantaneous – all of which makes the business of watching movies a hassle-free experience.
If only we could say the same about the remote, which is a bit of a let-down. First off, it’s far too small for its own good, making most of the buttons too fiddly and close together – those with a clumsy thumb might find themselves hitting the wrong option far too frequently.
But all is forgiven once you clap eyes on the player’s pictures. A run-through of ”King Kong” demonstrates its superb 1080p upscaling, with this tricky movie looking clean and artefact-free throughout – a fact made all the more remarkable by the player’s low price tag. Detail-packed scenes such as the Kong/T-Rex face-off or shots of Kong perched on his cliff-top bachelor pad are rendered with impressive clarity, while edges are crisply defined and untroubled by excessive jaggies, ringing or colour bleed.
Decent handling of dark scenes keeps the movie’s creepy caves from looking like black holes, enabling you to pick out those creepy crawlies in horrible detail. Its ability to muster deep, powerful shades of red, green and blue without making nuanced skin tones look unnatural should also be applauded, as should its satisfyingly solid black reproduction, which lends punch and authority to the picture. It lacks the thrilling three-dimensionality of a true hi-def image, and our reference OPPO DVD deck offers a touch more sharpness and depth, but as budget DVD pictures go this is up there with the best.