Toshiba SD-6200 Progressive-Scan DVD Player
The march of technology has always been a double-edged sword. On one edge, progress brings new and, on most occasions, better products that give us a higher-quality viewing and listening experience with more options, increased ease of use, etc. On the other edge, new technology has a way of making its predecessors (that we often paid a lot of money for) old-fashioned at best—and, at worst, obsolete. Technology manufacturers do seem to be getting more empathetic about this. Computers are considerably more upgradeable than they were a few short years ago. Even in the consumer electronics world, we're seeing more and more attention being paid to futureproofing the current crop of upgradeable preamplifier/processors and televisions—two product groups that are probably the most susceptible to change these days. As tough as deciding what to buy in any technology-based market is determining when is the best time to buy it.
And thus, we've reached the first crossroad in DVD technology with progressive scanning. It's the first improvement significant enough, in my opinion, to make us contemplate relegating our current player to bedroom duty. Sure, multichangers are nice, CD-R compatibility can be handy, and other additions to DVD players since their inception have not been without their perks, but I doubt any of these made you think about replacing your player. Depending on your display device, progressive scanning may. In terms of compatibility, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that your software library is safe. Virtually all DVDs are natively progressive and are actually being interlaced by your current player's MPEG decoder. The bad news, for some, is that you need a television that's progressive-capable, which means that it needs to accommodate—at the very least—scan rates up to 31.5 kilohertz. There are TVs that offer the necessary scanning speed, for example, but don't offer aspect-ratio control in the progressive mode, so make sure you explore all the angles before you buy.
Now some of you are probably thinking that, thanks to line doublers, quadruplers, interpolators, etc., progressive scanning is not new to home theater. You're right, but some of the advantages that progressive-scan DVD players hold over external doublers, and especially over the cut-rate models found in many TVs, can be significant. Unfortunately, space does not permit a primer on progressive scanning itself or the 3:2 pulldown process used to convert film to video, so I'll have to assume you're already up on these concepts—or will be soon.
Anyway, the most significant advantage to performing the 3:2 pulldown and field-synching progressive processes in the DVD player is that they are executed entirely in the digital domain, with far less opportunity for signal degradation. (There are other benefits that we'll discuss in a moment.) It is interesting to note that these processes are actually performed post-MPEG decoding, based on the fact that no current hardware-based MPEG decoders will bypass the progressive-to-interlaced conversion that all film-based DVD signals go through. So, even a progressive-scan DVD player is spitting out a progressive-to-interlaced-to-progressive image. However, compare this with the process that all external doublers, interpolators, etc., have to go through, and you'll see the advantages of player-based "doublers." Obviously, the same MPEG conversion (progressive-to-interlaced) takes place in the DVD player itself. The interlaced signal is then converted to analog to exit the player, converted back to digital once it enters the external doubler so that the progressive process can take place, and then converted back to analog for display. In between are a number of buffers, filters, and converters that can noticeably affect the signal. Remember the old audio/video rule: The less that occurs between the signal's source and its final destination, the better.
By doing its work in the digital domain, the progressive-scan DVD player can also take advantage of the flags encoded into the MPEG bitstream itself that assist with 3:2 pulldown recognition. These flags clearly identify the extra fields, as opposed to external doublers, which must try to determine where and when to handle the 3:2 pattern for themselves. Even in the highest quality components, this can lead to increased motion artifacts and other anomalies. The best video processors do have advantages of their own; however, with the exception of the $700 DVDO unit, most of these will set you back several thousands of dollars. You can see why a $1,200 progressive-scan DVD player is an attractive alternative.
And thus, we finally reach today's topic: the SD-6200 progressive-scan DVD player from Toshiba. Priced at $1,200 and outfitted with a number of worthwhile features, you can almost consider its progressive-scanning talents a bonus, given that many high-end interlaced-only DVD players ring in around this price themselves. The SD-6200's