Build and construction
Small and sleek. Those are the only words for this DVD player. The front
controls on the right are nice buttons with a good feel. (But who uses these anyways?) The DVD tray is kind of flimsy
and somewhat cheap looking. On the other hand, it is smooth and quiet. Lastly, the LCD screen is small and crisp; there
is nothing worse than a dark media room being lit up by a bright LCD display.
The real gem of
this player is the back. This player has every jack for any type of situation it might be needed for. Check it out.
Audio options: standard two channel, 5.1 analog outputs, optical and digital. Video options: composite, s-video,
component, VGA, and HDCP compliant HDMI. It is nice to have all these options even though the single HDMI cable can
take the place of most of these connections.
Well the remote looks familiar. It seems to come from the same mold as many
older Hitachi's. This is O.K. with us though 'cause if it is good enough for their TVs, it is good enough for a DVD
player. The remote has direct buttons for different resolutions. There is no need to go into the menu in order to
change from the component jacks to the VGA option. While this is nice to have, it would be very convenient to have them
on the player itself. All the buttons tend to be a little small though and while my eye sight is fine, I can see some
people having an issue with them. Backlighting would be helpful with smaller buttons.
I am in love with this menu. There is nothing worse than a slow, bloated menu. (besides a bright LCD
display in a dark room of course) This menu is very quick and simple. It gives just enough info without consuming the
entire screen. I have a feeling that it might be a love it or hate it thing though. Some people like the menus that
give you all sorts of options and looks a little more fancy, but the cool thing about doing a review is that it is my
call and I love it.
The content is more important about the looks
though. The menu system lets you quickly change everything from the resolution to "Smart Play." (almost to
the explanation) Did I mention it is very quick?
Video playback and picture
This is what you came here fort; you want to know if this DVD player will look better on your HDTV, right?
Well, my friend, I have good news. But before we get to the details, lets explain one of the coolest feature of this
player. "Smart Play" is an option that allows the player to skip all the previews and menus and go right to
the movie. It's cool.
Back to the picture quality. Many of you are skeptical about how much an
up-scaler can do for you and so was one of my best friends, Dan
. He was kind enough to let me use his 51-inch Hitachi
while my 36-inch Sony was being serviced. (doesn't accept any high-def input - very frustrating) We sat down and
watched a couple of movies one afternoon.
First, we watched The Matrix: Reloaded
on his Sony DVP-NS725P
. This player was hooked up
with Monster Video 2 (let the flaming begin) component cables and set to progressive scan. The movie looked great. It
was colorful and the sharpness was fine. We were both satisfied with the picture and skeptical that the Helios could
produce a better image.
So we then popped another copy of the movie in the Helios to compare the image.
First, we picked the scene were Neo has to fight off hundreds of Mr. Smiths. The results: the Sony produced a great
image and there was not any noticeable increase in detail from the Helios. In fact, the background often appeared more
"noisy" from the Helios. There was one very
however, the Helios was a lot smoother. We didn't even notice that there was a problem when we watched the movie the
first time, but then the Helios was played, it was very obvious.
This smoother picture become even more
evident during the highway scene. The picture was just a lot smoother. I am not even going to speculate why this is the
case (maybe 3:2 pull down) but after watching the Helios the Sony kind of made us nauseous.
We came to almost
the same conclusion about King Kong
. While it was still a smoother
image, there was a slight increase in detail. It needs to be noted that the computer generated items, like Kong
himself, was not where it was noticed but rather in the "real" details. Naomi Watts
face was sharper and more detailed, but the Helios did
nothing to make those nasty bugs look real. This has to be in part that the image of King Kong and the giant bugs were
generated to look good at a specific resolution.
Rating this DVD player is a tough decision. Was it better
than a higher-end 480p Sony: yes; was it better enough that my buddy Dan was going to throw out his Sony and buy one of
these: not really. The images were, by far, smoother and they were clearer most of the time. This players claim to fame
though was that it increased the resolution of the DVDs and for that, it did not produce a very noticeable
This is a very good
DVD player. It stands up against one of the better DVD players out there and produced a smoother image. Was it unfair
to match this up against a standard DVD instead of another up-scaler; I don't think so. That is what many of you have
The player is well built with a good amount of options.
You cannot ask for a more hookup friendly player and it gives you a lot of setup options. The menu is quick and simply.
The most important detail though is the picture. It was in fact smoother and generally had more detail then a standard
480p DVD player. HDBeat can give this DVD player a solid recommendation.
In true scientific style, I set up a single blind test at a local major electronics store. (note: the results
had no effect on my personal review) The Helios player was hooked up to a new 42-inch Panasonic TH-42PX60U
through an Onkyo TX-SR703
component cables and compared against the stores best DVD player: a Harmon Kardon DVD 22
. The receiver allowed me to
quickly switch between the two players with out giving away the true source of the picture.
were feed the stores demo disc and cued up to the same scene with a ±7 second delay. This allowed people to pick
out something specific to judge. These scenes were short little clips and the first up was Master and Commander.
Everyone liked the outline of Russel Crowes face better on the Helios and the dust from the cannon fire was "less
blurry" on the Helios. The color was even better then the Harmon Kardon.
Next up, was the scene from
Band of Brothers. It was the part of the series just before the air drop when they were riding in their transport
planes. Everyone noticed that the image was smoother and just a bit clearer.
By this point everyone was in
love with the player on Video 1 and they were sure it was the HK, but it wasn't, Video 1 was the Helios. On of the
participant said it best though, "I wouldn't throw out my current DVD player just to buy this one, but if it died,
I would buy this one."