Here is my review after day 1. I will post it on gearviews too if I remember -- right now the site isn't working.
The Bravo D2 has, literally, landed in my living room.
Now here's is how it's been going so far.
Things to know are that I am using a Sony KP-57WS510 rear projection CRT television, 57". My old DVD player was an interlaced GE 1101P from 3-4 years ago. My Bravo D2 firmware reads 1.1.9.
If anyone can call out anything I've done stupidly, please do so.
This is pretty long and contains a lot of subjective opinions on this player vs. my old one. To cut to the chase and find my complaints, look for the words QUIRK ALERT. Quirks, bugs or features, call them what you wish VInc. :) There are some biggies, and I put the worst in the summary at the end.
Also the following review is from an Average Joe, who loves movies, and who just got the money to put together a low-end home theater. I'm a computer engineer, but not a true videophile (maybe a videophile in training). I love movies enough that I realize that good movies do not require great sound or superb video to be enjoyed and to have a profound effect on a person, but at the same time I am able to tell when my equipment is acting at below a certain level of advancement that one expect out of the year 2004.
First I had to plug it into the S-Vid port on the TV because that's the only way to see anything right off the bat, but we already knew that would happen. Colors looked a little strange but I didn't care too much at this point, I just wanted to see the sucker on 1080i DVI.
Well, I had already popped in a DVD. Here's the bad news, and first QUIRK ALERT -- you cannot access the setup menu unless there is no disc loaded. So, to flip settings, you have to eject your disc. You can do it with the tray still open though. When the disc is still in, pressing setup does not bring up the menu. It cycles through the brightness/contrast/saturation adjusters.
//edit: By someone else's correction/suggestion, this is not true. The disc just cannot be playing in order to enter the true setup menu -- it must be stopped. Does not have to be out of the player, or ejected.
Then (QUIRK ALERT) to re-inject your disc and start playing it, you have to exit the setup menu. Otherwise, all play-related buttons (and the eject/load button) are disabled within the setup menu.
//edit: This is still true but of less importance.
So this was annoying, but I dealt with it.
Next (QUIRK ALERT), I realized that I was right - something was horribly wrong with the color. FORTUNATELY, the problem was just that my contrast setting was up on the highest level, while the brightness and saturation were all mid-range. I'm sure the experts among you can imagine just how bad this messed with me. And if my mom had been the one plugging it in, she would probably have just crapped a brick and returned it to the store, so this is something that should be fixed.
Then I had several things to determine. First, is the color right? Second, is any upscaling beyond 480p really worth it?
Since I am not a true videophile I can't really provide much color info. I don't even own AVIA, yet, and wouldn't know how to use it.
I don't see any indication of "green push" but that may be because I am not using a projector that is expecting the VGA DVI levels. And nothing looks off-color to me, so no problems that are perceivable to the average guy. But, there WAS that whole out-of-the-box contrast setting problem I mentioned.
Is the DVI, upscaled DVD signal worth it? One thing to note is that I have no audio on while performing these visual assessments. I find that a good soundtrack can often divert your attention from visual flaws.
DVDs I used initially, and why:
The Hudsucker Proxy - Obtained during 99 or 00, I already knew several places to look on this DVD's opening sequence to detect jagged edges, twitter, and the blockiness that result from either interlaced playback or from the televisions very basic "line doubling". I would bet that it has not got anywhere near correct progressive flags, and was not remastered in any way before going to DVD.
Sling Blade - This is a non-anamorphic DVD that I have also had since 99 or 00. Thus it has one of the worst resolutions of all my DVDs. I wanted to see how the D2 handled non-anamorphic, and how the upscaling would help this DVD.
Star Trek: First Contact - There are lots of things early on, like in Hudsucker, that show the problems of my crappy old DVD player. And lots of places that show the result of poor "upscaling" on my TV. Also the scene that zooms out from Picard's eyeball and out from inside the Borg vessel has a lot of blacks and tons of detail that I wanted to see the D2 "draw out".
Dinosaur - I figured this Disney DVD featuring a mix of live-action landscape footage and CGI was put out more recently, and from better (perfect) digital sources. I figured it would have more accurate progressive information. Also, I had noticed several places on my old interlaced that were problematic -- all of the CG textures on the dinosaurs and all of the tiny twittery and jagged-edged hairs on the monkeys (lemurs?). I figured that if there was anything I had that *should* look AWESOME on the D2, it would be this one.
I like to think that these four DVDs are a good test set. Then to follow up, tonight I had a friend bring over LOTR:ROTK to test my sound system and also a VERY newly released DVD. First, I watched a handful of test areas on each DVD on the Bravo. Then, I watched them in my old player. Then, I watched them on the Bravo again.
QUIRK ALERT - Whenever I hit "next" I am dropped out of any Zoom mode (used while watching non-anamorphic Sling Blade) on the Bravo. Come on guys, what's this all about? Fix this in the next firmware?
After the first three DVDs, I can honestly say that the quality I was slightly above what I tend to observe on "upconverted" movies broadcasting on Shotime HD. However I can still tell that the world would be even better if my DVDs were true HD. I did see minor miracles performed on Hudsucker and Sling Blade. And all three of them definitely look MUCH better when they are fully utilizing my TVs 1080i mode. Jagged edges and twitter disappear, and blockiness in things like facial features seemed to disappear or become almost impossible (but not entirely) to discern.
Then, I popped in Disney's Dinosaur. Might I add that all this time I have not encountered any loading trouble. Walt Disney pictures logo - very smooth. This is beautiful, no joke. Dinosaur looks amazing. All the monkeys (lemurs?) and their little hairs are vibrant and jag-free. And all of the non-CGI landscape shots remind me of the best HD I have ever seen -- an HDNet documentary on the animal kingdom. When there are up/down pans accross horizontal objects in the distance such as branches, or monkey hairs, I can see "jags" and some form of "twitter" on my interlaced, regardless of what my TV is set to do (it has progressive and CineMotion 3:2 processing), but those are absent on the Bravo.
Finally, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was amazing. I venture to say that putting in that DVD will impress anyone who knows anything about the reason we love upscaling DVI players for our HDTVs. As far as anyone who doesn't know about that goes, I imagine all they will take away from it is that your home theater looks awesome. This in itself is good enough, and is the whole point -- because when I played my first DVD on this HDTV via my 480i player, it did NOT look awesome, and I realized that DVD kind of sucks. But this player fixes all that, so it will fool anyone, no matter what their knowledge of the subject, into continuing to believe that DVD is the best.
QUIRK ALERT -- Something VERY strange happened. A scene cut out to black for about 1 second or so while I was watching Dinosaur. Was it the Bravo? Was it my TV? Will it happen more? Did it have something to do with the air conditioner powering up (at that point I did not have it plugged into my surge device yet)? Will we ever know? I will watch for that. Anyone else seen it?
QUIRK ALERT -- I unplugged the player while it was still on (this was still after its first boot-up ever out of the box), then plugged it back in. All my setup was gone. So I did more testing. When you use the remote power button to go into "standby", your settings last. When you hard-power-off the player using the button on the player itself, you just erased all your settings. This means you will have to go set up your audio, picture, TV type, etc settings ALL OVER AGAIN. What a pain in the butt, is this normal for DVD players? Can't it store that somewhere? Heck my universal remote can remember things when you take the batteries out.
Let me make some other fun observations about the "Bravo experience"... I opened the box to find that whoever put it in there left a nice hair for me on top of the manual. I guess that's ok, since I'm not going to eat it.
The remote is comically huge. That picture that is circulating on here of it makes it look small and manageable. This thing is the same size as my gargantuan URC-8910 universal remote, only what's worse is that it's just a huge blocky brick instead of a curvaceous piece of eye-candy. This remote and it's buttons came out of the 80's. Good thing I'm going to be creating a JP1 device upgrade so I can use my universal instead. :) Also, not all of the buttons are glow-in-the-dark. An odd selection of them are.
The player itself? Very nice. You know how sometimes those loaders for which the front cover is hinged seem flimsy as all-get-out? Nope. This is sturdy. The silver shiny part does indeed have a plastic film over it so you have to peel that off if you really want it to look sharp.
The IR receiver reads my signal fine every time, so no problems there. LEDs are lime green for power, a more subdued pale green for display, and blue for playback control. I would have preferred the same color everywhere, but oh well.
I tried the Momitsu secret key sequence while no DVD was loaded. No secret menu, sorry guys.
One last weird thing is that the player itself (or mine anyway) is slanted. I mean it tilts downward from front to back. The front feet of it are still perfectly flat on the surface below, however. I can only assume it is designed this way, but I have to wonder...why?
So, now you want to know how it sounds -- since I left the sound off for all the video tests above, I will now conduct some sound tests to see if I can verify any of these anomalies that have been reported w/rt popping.
I did see this interesting bit in my Onkyo receiver manual:
"When listening to DTS material, using the pause, fast forward, or reverse functions on your DTS-compatible player may produce a short audible noise. This is normal."
Very interesting. So I popped in Pulp Fiction (DTS). Yeah, on next/prev there is a little "pop". It's more of a bassy thud than a high pitched pop. And it's very, very hard to hear. Then I put in Star Trek VI (Dolby Digital). Same noise. If this is coming from the DVD player, oh well, it isn't bad at all. If it's just my receiver, then it's not a Bravo issue. So I doubt there's cause for worry on this one.
QUIRK ALERT - While watching Star Trek VI, I believe it is 1.85:1, so of course there are very tiny black bars. But it looks like it put all of that at the bottom. Or rather, that the image is not vertically centered. My TV has no set-up for adjusting this and neither does the Bravo. Anyone care to comment on this?
The major problems:
- Player forgets all settings when the device is unplugged or powered off using the button on the player.
- Cannot enter setup menu unless you put the tray in the open position or the player is empty. (//edit: Not true - disc just cannot be playing)
- Cannot retract the tray or use playback buttons until you exit the setup menu.
- Terrible out-of-the-box contrast setting.
- Navigating chapters drops out of zoom modes (bad for non-anamorphics)
Putting these minor problems aside, after the first night with it I am very happy. DVD now looks like I feel it should look on my HDTV. My viewing experience has been significantly enhanced, and all for a considerably low price. Yes, I can tell a difference between 480p and 720p and 1080i. I cannot really test the difference of component vs. DVI very well as only 480p is available on component output. However I imagine it would be very difficult to perceive the difference. But hey, DVI cables are cheap if you find them in the right places, so why not make your connection as purely digital as possible - yes, even for your CRT rear projection. I was never sure how much of the combing/jaggedness I saw was due to my interlaced player (since my TV always tries to compensate for that) and how much was due to the fact that the TV wasn't getting a full 1080i signal before today, but now that this player is here, it's pretty much been eliminated. But I cannot say entirely. But I can say almost entirely.
Basically, unless something very bad happens after today, I REALLY LIKE IT!