Monday, April 02, 2007

Get 1080i HD upscaling over component video with the Helios H4000 DVD player!

A couple months ago, the nice folks at Neodigits were kind enough to send me a sample Helios H4000 upscaling DVD player for testing.

The small black H4000 over a Philips DVP9680

I'm holding out my review publication on the INQUIRER until I see if they release firmware fixes or not (I already emailed them some of my suggestions).

Another design win: vent holes!
However, that doesn't prevent me from wholeheartedly recommending this DVD player. If all you need is a DVD player for DVD movies and MPEG4 avis (DIVX or XVID) which also is capable of doing High-Definition (HD) upscaling to 1080i over component video, then look no further!.

Surprise: a VGA out!. You can hook it to a SVGA monitor, projector
or anything with VGA input!

The H4000 is well constructed, has an internal 5.1 audio decoder (no need for an external box!), a nice, big remote control with keys that glow in the dark (hurrah!), and ... get this... a POWER SWITCH in the back. This means you can actually turn the device completelly off, it cuts the AC power from the power supply!. No need to waste power in "standby" mode!. It also protects the unit from power fluctuations when not in use.

A built-in 5.1 audio decoder, to boot!

The player works flawlessly. It played every Region-1, Region 2 (Europe), and Region 4 (South America / Australia) that I threw at it. No need to enter region codes, the player arrived as "Region Free"!.

The H4000 hooked to my HD-ready 29" Philips CRT TV
which notably lacks HDMI inputs, so HD over Component
is the only way. To my knowledge the H4000 is the ONLY
DVD player capable of bypassing HDCP and doing HD over CVI.

So, do I recommend it? Yes.

Are there things that could be improved?

Yes. If you plan to use it for mp3 playback or if you have audio in .ogg (Vorbis) format, or if you plan to look at high-quality (2MP and upwards) photos with this player, be advised that these features leave a lot to be desired.

The Helios boot logo. Notice how the Philips TV shows HD 1080i mode!

R.E.M. DVD player in 1080i mode

For instance, photos look as if they are reduced to 640x480 then displayed (with visible dithering). MP3 and general data cd-r or dvd-r file browsing is limited because it doesn't support long filenames (Joliet). The names are shortened to the first few characters.

That's why I'm waiting to see if they fix these issues via a firmware update.

However, if all you want is a DVD player that does HD 1080i or 1080p upscaling via component video outputs, this is a must, get one while you can!.

See also my INQ article:

Big fat "HDTV-ready" CRT lack HDMI