I have a NEC 9PG+, I can understand where you're coming from, though I've spent a fair amount of money in the past on DVD players and HTPC- still have one of the latter with a MyHD board.
Until Christmas time last year, I was using a Zenith DVB318 with a Key Digital transcoder to drive my NEC; that player was chosen because it has the Faroudja DCDi chipset for de-interlacing (I watch a lot of video sourced stuff). That player, IMO, is ONLY good for 1080i upscaled component; it has isuses with Y/C delays at 480P and 720P, and white crush over the DVI output. A later firmware upgrade reportedly fixed the DVI white crush, but disabled upscaling over component.
What I switched to last December was an Oppo Digital (imported thorugh Extremephono, the Momitsu importer) DVP971. This player uses the Mediatek main controller, with a Faroudja DCDi chip for de-interlacing on DVI output. On DVI, it upscales to 720P and 1080i. I use the 1080i output. The output from the player is run into a Dtronics DVI to RGBHV converter (it's DVI-D, not DVI-I, so there's no anlag signal for a simple dongle converter, like PC video cards come with). The DVP971 is functionally superior, in that it support pillar boxing for display of 4:3 material on a 16X9 display (which is how I have my 9PG+ setup), passes blacker than black over DVI, and doesnt have any black crush or white crush, and even has adjustable brightness and contrast, not that you should need to use those normally.
Because of the DCDi chip, it has excellent de-interlacing on source material which give a lot of DVD players artifacts - for example, Smallville seasons on DVD, or concert music video's. Macroblocking is a problem often cited for this chipset, though it's acknowledged to be "display dependent", which I suspect means that with a display that has to re-digitize the signal or converts the incoming to analog and back to digital (you'd be surprised how many digital projectors do stuff like this), you can get various artefacts. I've been quite pleased with the playback quality on my NEC 9PG+.
Another player to consider is the several Momitsu models; like the Liteon 2001 (which I also have one of), they don't do that hot de-interlacing video or mixed source materials.
A good test is the Video montage on the VE test disk, especially the waving flag...
If you're not into video sourced stuff, since the Momitsu has a DVI-I output, you can set it up to run RGBHV with a simpel dongle adapter. That would be the cheapest way to go, as it wouldn't require any external box. Since I wanted to try out the DVI-RGBHV (HDCP compliant) box, for getting an HD-DVD player later this year, the extra expense was built into my plans, anyway.
Happy hunting... try searching in the CRT forum as well as the DVD player forum for Momitsu- should get a lot of hits.