George Graves, January 11, 2006
NeoDigits is a relatively new company on the home video scene, having been founded in 2003 to fill a market niche for feature-rich, higher definition DVD players under the trade name NeuNeo. The HVD2085 DVD player is the latest model in NeoDigit's line and offers some high value features such as upscaling standard DVDs (720x480) from 480p to as high as 1080p in both analog and digital. This allows the HVD2085 to support all the HDTVs in the market from older analog HDTVs with component video (PbPrY) to the new 1920x1080 digital HDTVs with HDMI or DVI-D.
The NeuNeo HVD2085 also supports HVD (High-Clearness Versatile Disc), a DVD format that was introduced in China in 2004 in an effort to bring higher definition DVDs to market while we wait to see who wins the Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD battle for high definition DVDs. While the HVD2085 can play higher definition (720p) HVD DVDs, there is limited content available in this format and most of it is being produced in Asia.
|NeuNeo HVD2085 DVD Player|
The NeuNeo HVD2085 is a very slim black box (17x10.5x1.7 inches, 430x270x43 mm) that sports a brushed stainless steel front panel. The drawer is extra thin with just a hint of a lip on the front with a display to the left of the centrally located drawer. To the right of the drawer are the usual controls for open/close drawer, play/pause, reverse, forward scan, and a power/standby button.
|NeuNeo HVD2085 Audio/Video Connections|
The HVD2085 rear connector panel provides an HDMI connector that is not shown in the graphic above, but is located to the left of the 5.1 audio connectors. Other connectors include stereo plugs, component video, coaxial (RCA) and optical TOSLINK digital audio, composite video, S-Video, and VGA. As you can see, NeoDigits has included just about everything with regard to interface.
|NeuNeo HVD2085 Remote Control|
NeoDigit calls the NeuNeo HVD2085 a "universal player". Taking them at face value, the player does seem to handle just about everything: DVD, SVCD, VCD, CD, HDCD, MP3, WMA, Photo-CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW and built-in Dolby and DTS decoder. Notably absent from the list are SACD and DVD-A.
The analog component video (PbPrY) output supports every ATSC (Advanced Television Standards Committee) format up through 1080p. The HDMI digital video output supports everything up through 1080i, and will support 1080p with a firmware upgrade which can be retrieved from NeoDigits' web site and burned to a CD or DVD. The VGA output will support 640x 480, 800x 600, 1024x 768, and 1280x1064.
Although the HVD2085 will scale to a 1080p video signal from a DVD, very few home video monitors will display 1080p due to its very high data rate (4 times standard video). As of this writing there were 11 projectors and 50 flat screens that support 1080p. More will follow.
This reviewer has a number of PAL titles and the NeuNeo HVD2085 will play both PAL and NTSC formats irrespective of region codes. This allows you to play DVDs from just about anywhere in the world.
DVD Aspect Ratios
Currently, there are three different formats for dealing with the myriad of aspect ratios used in video and film formats: widescreen anamorphic (letterboxed and non-letterboxed), 4:3 letterboxed, and 4:3 normal NTSC. Since around the year 2000, DVD disc makers have been able to set a 'flag' on the discs to tell the DVD players whether the disc is anamorphic (with a horizontal squeeze in the picture) or is a normal 4:3 image (NTSC aperture). Anamorphic DVDs carry a legend such as "Enhanced for Widescreen TVs", "Anamorphic" or "16:9 Version". If your DVD is anamorphic, then you can output the image in progressive or upscaled mode. If your DVD format is a normal 4:3 image and you output it as progressive or upscaled, your TV might assume it is anamorphic and stretch the image. Your TV may allow you to manually defeat the stretch. If it doesn't, then you need to output it in 480i.
Many modern DVD players, such as this reviewer's Mitsubishi DD-8040 can read the 'flag' on the disc that tells the player to output the picture pre-squeezed with black borders on the sides. In this type of player, modern 4:3 programs such as the recently re-mastered Gone With The Wind will display correctly on an HDTV with non-defeatable anamorphic stretch.
In one of the HVD2085's on-screen menus, you will find an item called "aspect ratio". This will present you with three separate choices: 4:3 letterboxed, 4:3 standard, and 16:9. While the HVD2085 lets you choose your aspect ratio, be advised your HDTV may override your selection if you are outputting a 480i source as 480p or higher resolution.
With a recently mastered widescreen DVD like Star Wars Episode Three "The Revenge of the Sith" cued-up on the HVD2085, and the playback set to 1080i, the picture quality is simply breathtaking. There are no artifacts to give away the tremendous amount of signal processing being applied to upscale this 480p signal to 1080i. When switching between 480p and 1080i one immediately notices how much smoother and more film-like the presentation is. Very impressive. When you consider the performance level of this machine and that it will play HVD-DVD titles as they become available, the HVD2085 becomes even more remarkable.
This is a lot of DVD player for the money. It is easier to switch between the various modes available for the myriad of formats that this player will support than it is in any other player I've seen. It's thin and stylish and has very comprehensive options for connecting a TV or monitor. Although the HVD2085 supports the higher resolution HVD DVDs and NeoDigits sells a handful of titles, you will not find much from Hollywood in this format.
At its advertised price of $225, the NeoDigits NeuNeo HVD2085 is a bargain. With the current push toward copy protection, you might consider a non-copy-protected 1080i DVD player before they go the way of the dodo bird.