It's probably bad form to post the same message in two separate threads, but this comparison should be of interest to this thread as well as the Panasonic S97 thread...
I recently brought home both the Sony and the Panasonic upconverters for comparison. Sadly both of them are going back for different reasons.
The Panasonic is a very slick player. Very responsive. Nice fast rewind and fast forward. Quick tray loading. Nice auto scaling modes (non-anamorphic zoom and 4:3 pillarboxing). No CUE or ICP. Beautiful film-like DCDi images. With all video enhancements set to normal I didn't see any white or black crushing, though it wasn't passing blacker than black. This could possibly be a display issue as I don't have much experience with the DVI port on my set (a Samsung DLP HLN-507W). But.......
The macroblocking! You have got to be kidding me. It's a complete disaster. I'll trade a little sharpness and keep my RP82. The chief reason folks on this forum want an HDMI based player is for picture quality, but macroblocking is a major destroyer of picture quality. I would argue that it is a much more significant issue than CUE. At least CUE was relegated to the edges of brightly color objects. Macroblocking covers large swaths of screen space. Its present to some degree in all low IRE material, but really becomes apparent in dark scenes. It's a shame really, because on bright scenes the images this player produces can take your breath away.
For me the Sony has to go back because it has DVI negotiation issues with my TV. Others have reported similar issues on various displays. It can be made to work, but it requires turning components on in a certain order and possibly some rapid plugs and replugs of cables. The wife is not going to like that dance just to watch a DVD.
The Sony player is also a nice player. It feels sturdier than the Panny and is equally responsive in terms of menus and navigation. It has a very fast layer switch. Its detectable, but just barely. Much faster than the Panny, which has an average layer switch time.
In terms of picture quality there are no macroblocking issues. In normal settings I didn't notice any black or white crush, but again didn't see blacker than black. The fine detail is more pixelated than the Panny, which tends to roll off the fine detail in a more film like fashion. Remember the American Flag DCDi comparisons? < http://www.gnss.com/dcdi.phtml
> That's not a bad estimate of the difference in picture quality between these two players. There are reports that the Sony has the chroma error. In my opinion it does not. None of the classic Secrets tests discs demonstrate it. I think some folks may be misinterpreting non-DCDi stairstepping for CUE. I didn't notice ICP, but I don't have the test disc Secrets uses for ICP.
The Sony does not convert the SD color matrix on the DVD to the HD matrix. This means that green can appear depressed on displays that don't handle the SD color matrix (very few displays do). It is clear that the Sony's green channel is lower than the Panasonic on my display. It is also clear that the green channel on the Panasonic over HDMI looked a lot like the green channel on my RP-82 over component, so the Sony is definitely doing something different. My display is know to be very green happy, so this turned out to be less of a problem than I expected.
It should also be noted that both players have resolution drops on 4:3 and anamorphic zoomed material. The Panny looked a little worse for this, but it's debatable.
So there you go a head to head. I probably would have kept the Sony, green depression and all, if the DVI negotiation had worked reliably. I would have not only kept, but truly loved the Panasonic if it weren't for the macroblocking.