V, Inc. Bravo D2 DVD player
Besides the DVI output, the D2 is also a progressive-scan DVD player with a twist. In addition to simple 480p deinterlacing, the D2 can upconvert the video to 720p or 1080i from the DVI output, no questions asked. The D2 will also allow upconversion to those higher resolutions from the component outputs, provided the disc isn't protected by Macrovision. However, since nearly all movies except those shot by your Uncle Hank are encoded with Macrovision, this option isn't of much practical use.
While you may be buying a D2 simply for its DVI output, you might want to hook up its composite or S-video output to your display device as well—when you first plug in the D2 and turn it on, its composite and S-video outputs are the only video outputs enabled. That's bound to cause some confusion. Running through the setup menus and enabling the DVI output also immediately disables the composite or S-video connection you were watching. At least there's a nifty shortcut to get the picture back on the screen. Just press the remote's TV/Video switch a few times (in my case, seven times, to get back to DVI 720p), until the D2 goes through all its output formats and gets back around to the one your pretty input desires.
The D2 has some other tricks up its sleeve. In addition to providing DVI resolutions of 480p, 720p, or 1080i, its special Custom DVI setup screen lets you change the player's resolution to exactly match that of your display device. It's a unique feature that some will find useful, but to use it you need not only the display's resolution (in the case of my Fujitsu P50XHA30WS 50-inch plasma, 1366x768), but also additional details about the display that are not readily available in most display manuals or, for that matter, from display manufacturers. Often, these can be found only by searching around on some of the more technical Web forums. I used the standard 720p setting.
Several times, I seemed to randomly lose the D2's user settings—in particular, the DVI setup would turn off and the display aspect ratio and audio would revert to their factory default settings (4:3 and PCM—instead of "digitally encoded" for listening to Dolby Digital or DTS—respectively). I finally figured out that turning off the player with its front-panel switch (or unplugging it), instead of with the "soft" power switch on the remote, was the cause. Fortunately, just before press deadline this shutdown problem was addressed with a firmware update—version 1.10—downloadable from V, Inc.'s website. The player will now remember your settings if it loses power for any reason
The front-panel controls border on the minimalist. The silver-finished D2 is quite striking-looking and a great improvement on the D1. The remote is fairly large, though not annoyingly heavy. On the other hand, it's not comfortably solid either. Let's just say that, unlike the "stupid remote" Scott Wilkinson complained of in his best Homer Simpson contralto in his review of the Bravo D1 in the December 2003 issue, this one gets the job done.
The remote's Setup button has two functions. With the D2's drawer open, you can run through all the user setup options, including all audio and most video functions. With the drawer closed and the disc spun up, the Setup button on the remote round-robins among three controls: Brightness, Contrast, and Color Saturation. The 13 steps of each control are quite dras-tic; a V, Inc. rep recommended setting them all at half-mast, a choice I endorse.
All idiosyncrasies aside, the real reason to acquire a Bravo D2 is the quality of its DVI output, which, in a word, is stunning. By stunning I mean like with a stun gun, like deer in the headlights, like Kermit the Frog when you rub his belly. I watched The Transporter so many times that I started to believe it was a great movie. I sat marveling at the mostly fantastic transfer, which, from the D2's DVI output, was sharp enough to shave by.
The same went for Kill Bill, Vol. 1, but here it was the incredible color palette that jumped off the screen, and the lack of motion artifacts in the many fight scenes. The beginning of chapter 3 challenged the Fujitsu's billion-color range as "[beep]" walks up to the fairyland-painted cottage of her nemesis, while the ensuing catfight was judder-free and brilliantly clear, one toppling furniture prop after another. I was also greatly impressed with the D2's 480p component output when watching the same scenes. In the end, however, I preferred what I perceived to be the slightly smoother motion and sharper detail available through the D2's DVI output. At the end of the day, that's all videophiles want to know.
There's absolutely no question in my mind that, even if you have a fancy-schmancy universal player that does everything in the world except offer a DVI or HDMI output, the Bravo D2 can bring your fixed-pixel, DVI- or HDMI-equipped display device—in other words, your fancy-schmancy TV—up to a whole 'nudder level. What are you waiting for? I'm buying mine!