After months of waiting it finally arrived on my doorstep last Saturday :-).
My first impressions are very positive. I have hooked it up to my Sony HS50 with a $10(!) 25ft. HDMI cable, and it produces a beautiful image at 480p. For some silly reason (and I'm convinced the $10 cable has *nothing* to do with it ;-) 720p just produces a full screen of "white noise". Amusing, didn't even know that was possible with a digital connection. I would expect some speckles or something with such a cheap cable, but not a complete loss of image. However, since the projector *does* switch to 720p, I am finally able to determine the impact of the infamous blanking problem (since I still have the original firmware in the projector) and decided that I''ll take the 480p output for now. To be honest, the scaling of the projector really seems fine to me - especially now I'm feeding it a digital signal. It is the deinterlacing that I wasn't too impressed about that made me decide to buy a new DVD player. For instance, the projector is not able to properly deinterlace some video material (mostly TV shows that I watch on DVD) and I also noticed serious artifacts on some titles, such as the scrolling text at the opening of the SW: Episode 2, or a water scene in Back To The Future part 2.
Anyway, the last few weeks I have been using the projector with a Yamaha DVD-S830. Since this is my first projector, I didn't have much to complain about. Until I hooked up the DVD-S2500 that is ;-). I can't believe the extra amount of information the S2500 displays compared to the S830 - even hooked up through s-vhs. And the HDMI connection is even better. Lots of detail, deep rich colours, lots of detail in the dark scenes, very stable image and no more artifacts in those tricky DVDs that I mentioned earlier. Especially an early scene in Episode 2 where some of the Jedis and the Senator have a meeting made me drop my jaw. The amount of detail in the faces, clothing and background was just unbelievable. A simple A-B comparison to s-VHS easily shows all the extra detail. "The Incredibles" looks so good, it's just unbelievable. Even the difference with a notoriously bad disk (SW: Episode 1) is amazing.
I have the player hooked up to a Yamaha AZ1 (European equivalent of the RX-Z1). Can't say much about the audio department, since I only use a digital connection. I've tried several analog connections from high(er)-end players in the past, and I was never able to tell the difference (and yes, I used source-direct to bypass the internal A/D-D/A stage), so it seems I'm satisfied with the quality the AZ1 produces and I'll leave it at that ;-). And to be honest, I can't be bothered hooking up 6 analog cables to enjoy the full quality of DVD-audio or SACD (don't even have one of those yet). Perhaps in the near future, but for now 5.1 audio for music is not high on my priority list - possibly when Roger Waters' new album finally comes out ;-).
I also can't tell you much about features and gizmos, since I usually don't use those. I find the setup-menus absolutely horrible (kudos to those engineers at Philips - at least they managed to keep up their reputation!). Then again, how often do you access those? If I can stop, start and pause a DVD I'm happy. If I can read the time on the display I'm happy.
A few little things that bug me:
- If I switch off the projector when using an HDMI connection, the player sometimes stops after 10-15s. It seems it can't handle a loss of the HDMI signal, even if you're playing a regular audio CD. If you start the CD again it works just fine. I'm sure that could be fixed with a firmware upgrade.
- In Finding Nemo I sometimes see a bit of "staircasing". Not quite staircasing, but don't know how else to describe it. Don't know if that is caused by the player or by the projector and it's the only disc that I noticed it on so far. Would love to try native 720p, but as long as a decent 25ft HDMI cable costs >$200, they can kiss my boots ;-). Maybe I'll pick up a shorter cable just to try it out and see if it makes a difference or not. Then again, as long as I don't know, I don't care - ignorance is bliss ;-).
- Already mentioned by someone else: The audio on Jean Michel Jarre's latest "live" DVD (as live as tutankhamon I would say) won't lock. No idea why. Only disk I have had problems with so far.
And an honorary mention to the disc-read speed. Yes, it takes a bit of time before the player has figured out what it should do with a disk. I doesn't really bug me, but I can understand other people have a problem with it. The player *does* seem to read any flavor of disk I've thrown at it so far: CD, DVD, DVD+R(W) and CDR. I guess that's the price to pay for compatibility. I've tried a Denon 3910 for a few days - it was considerably faster, but after 3 days of using it I already had a pile of CDs and DVDs that would either skip severely or not play at all...
Hope this information is of some use. I would say the DVD-S2500 is excellent value for money: DCDi, HDMI and - if you care about that - SACD and DVD-audio, all for less than $750 street price. Image quality is absolutely fantastic, I'm sure audio quality is up to the same standards. Now all you need to do is actually find one ;-).
Setup: Yamaha AZ1, Yamaha DVD-S830, Yamaha DVD-S2500, Sony HS50 (ISF calibrated) and $10 HDMI cable ;-).