NeuNeo HVD2085 1080p Upconverting DVD Player
I must admit I, and I assume you, had never heard of this company before this review. The boss (Maureen Jenson) had been talking with them and had a review sample sent to our studio. I didn't find that part out until later. As far as I knew, this product quietly and unceremoniously just showed up. Its plain, unlabeled brown box was so nondescript that it lay unnoticed for several days. Had we not been clearing space to make room for the six RPTVs from the Face Off we had just finished (see our February 2005 issue), who knows how long it may have sat there. I opened the box to check out what it was, and my eye caught what your eye surely caught when you read the headline above: 1080p. As I investigated further, this DVD player only got cooler.
You want this… don't you?
Lets put all the amazing stuff up front. First up, the HVD2085 outputs 1080p. As far as I know, this is the only DVD player to currently do this. It outputs 1080p from the HDMI and component outputs. That brings us to cool factor number two. The HVD2085 will scale DVD to HD resolutions with the HDMI and analog component outputs—not just some DVDs, but all DVDs. Good luck finding a "name brand" DVD player that does that. It is region free (cool factor number three), and, perhaps the biggest selling point for some people, its HDMI output doesn't pass HDCP. As if all that weren't enough, it only costs $245. On specs alone, this is the coolest DVD player we've seen since Pioneer's DV-47A universal disc player. Oh, and it starts the movie as soon as you put the disc in$#8212no menus, no trailers, nothing. The disc goes in; the movie starts.
What does this all mean? Well, if you are one of the lucky few who owns one of the two 1080p TVs presently available that actually accepts 1080p (both made by Hewlett-Packard), you can supply them with their native resolution (and they look much better when you do). For those with slightly older TVs, the HVD2085 also scales to 720p and 1080i. If you have a slightly older HDTV that has a DVI input that doesn't have HDCP, then you can use this player to scale your DVDs with just a simple HDMI-to-DVI cable or adapter. If you have an even older HDTV with no digital inputs, this player will output all resolutions on it's component output as well, (without any lame copy-protection crap). It is, quite literally, an upconverting DVD player for everyone. If you're not impressed by all that, you have no soul.
But does it work?
Aesthetically, the HVD2085 is a little homely. (That may be a little harsh.) It looks similar to most budget DVD players, though, really, $245 is no longer in the budget category. The little screen displays time information and such, and the predominately metal chassis is well built for a budget player, though a little flimsy for $245. The remote isn't great; its bizarre layout of buttons and a dichromatic scheme does nothing to aid in ease of use. Still, it is magnitudes better than the remote that came with the first generation V, Inc. Bravo D1 (which was brutal). It does, however, have dedicated buttons for switching resolutions.
Performance with 480i isn't great. The gamma is a little messed up, so it crushes blacks. Really, though, who cares? Why would you buy an upconverting DVD player for 480i? With 480p and up, the gamma is fine, though it still doesn't pass PLUGE. All that means is it will be a little harder to set your brightness control correctly. Frequency response with 480i and 480p is about average. It rolls off some, but no more than most DVD players. Again, this isn't all that relevant.
Flip the resolution switch (OK, button), and everything changes. Here are your resolution choices: 480i, 480p, VGA, 576p, SVGA, 720p, XGA, SXGA, 1080i, 1080p. All that's missing is 1,280-by-768. The VGA output maxes out at 1,280 by 1,024 and doesn't provide the actual HDTV resolutions. All the resolutions are available from both the component and HDMI outputs. Smartly, if you select a resolution that your TV can't accept, pressing the HD button on the remote will cycle back to lower resolutions, even in the setup screens. In an A/B comparison with the V, Inc. Bravo D2 at 720p, the NeuNeo seems to be ever so slightly less detailed, but it's so close, it's difficult to say. The NeuNeo has a much cleaner image with less noise. The colors are a little subdued, but not badly.
Sending 1080p to an HP MD6580n, the NeuNeo produced a sharp, impressive image, certainly sharper than the MD6580n was capable of using it's internal scaler and analog inputs. I would have tried the NeuNeo 1080p output using the component output, but, at the moment, no TV accepts that.
To a screeching halt…
The HVD2085 does have a rather significant Achilles heel. For some inexplicable reason, it doesn't have 3:2 pulldown detection on 720p or 1080p output, but it does have it for 480p. I was so dumbfounded by this oversight that I checked and rechecked with every piece of test material I could put my hands on. Take, for example, the end of chapter 12 of Gladiator, our normal test scene. Little jagged edges were visible on the stairs, the roof tops, and the Coliseum itself. This was the case with most material. The jaggies weren't as bad as most players that don't do 3:2, but they were still there. When there was an angle that was, say 25 degrees or less, it would have small jaggies. With an otherwise amazing DVD player, this oversight was extremely depressing. Video processing was also only OK, with small jaggies on the flag sequence on the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD. For those with 720p or 1080p TVs, this lack of 3:2 is probably a deal breaker. For those with 1080i TVs (and there are plenty of you out there), this isn't an issue (you don't need 3:2 pulldown with interlace). If you have a smaller screen, you may not even notice the jaggies even if you do have a progressive display. Considering what else this player can do, you may be able to ignore them. Still, very disappointing.
I couldn't get the audio to work over HDMI, so stick with coax or optical. Depending on when you buy it, you may need to update its firmware to play 1080p via HDMI. As long as you have a CD burner in your computer and know how to use it, this process is brainlessly simple.
As I mentioned earlier, quite possibly the coolest feature on the HVD2085 is the Easy Play feature. This bypasses all the normal crap (including the FBI warnings) that choke down the normal insert-to-play disc times. The HVD2085 finds the movie on the disc and starts playing it. I can't promise this will work with every disc, but it worked with every disc I tried. It is probably the HVD2085's least flashy feature, yet the one you'll appreciate the most.
You probably won't be able to find the HVD2085 in a store. At the moment, you can find it at Neodigits.com
I wouldn't be surprised if Hollywood or some other malicious body tries to block the sale of the HVD2085. It is simply too cool, too useful, and too good a DVD player to last in this litigious and paranoid world. The lack of 3:2 pulldown effectively limits this player to those with 1080i displays, but that's a pretty big market since you don't need HDCP or DVI to use the scaling. I can only hope the next version has 3:2 pulldown, then I'd recommend it to everyone. Highlights
• 1080p on HDMI and component!
• No region coding
• No HDCP