Test Setup and Testing

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2003-08-06 Print this article Print

Results"> As noted above, we connected the DVD player via both component output and DVI to the Samsung HLN-507. We used the Avia Guide to Home Theater to tweak image quality of the display when connected to the Bravo D1. It didnt take long to figure out that the D1 is far superior in DVI mode than component video mode. Picture quality coming through the component video outputs was soft, and in some cases, downright blurry. This was clearly an issue with the DVD player, as we havent seen this occur with our other test DVD players, from Pioneer and Denon, when connected to the Samsung. You wont want to buy this DVD player for component video playback. So based on that, we concentrated on DVI performance. To better gauge picture quality, we used Microsofts DVD Test Annex (version 2.0) and the test patterns on the Avia disc. We also used a variety of DVD movies to more subjectively check out image quality, including Shakespeare in Love, Spider Man, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Special Edition and Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone.
When running the Microsoft DVD Test Annex, which is used by Microsoft for WHQL testing of DVD-equipped systems, the D1 acquitted itself admirably. The D1 only had issues with the video port section, which plays back source material originally captured by video hardware (as opposed to film content). We saw noticeable jitter in the test pattern, but these problems werent apparent in actual movie playback. However, we didnt play back any content that was originally shot on video (rather than film), so the image quality in those cases may be adversely affected.
Image quality during movie playback was generally good when the unit was set to 720P mode, using the Sigma chip to scale the image. The chroma bug thats plagued many DVD players wasnt apparent in the D1, either. Feeding a 720P display a 720P signal resulted in a crisp, clean image. We noticed no scaling artifacts in any of the DVD movies. We also tried 480P and 1080i, with mixed results. Using 480P from the unit resulted in an image with visible underscan. The image, as deinterlaced and scaled by the Samsungs circuitry, didnt seem as robust as the 720P image from the Bravo D1. This was a bit puzzling, as other 480P sources have looked quite good on the HLN-507. Still, its a testament to the quality of the scaler built into the D1. Clearly, 720P is the resolution of choice if you have a 720P display. We also attached the unit to an NEC HT1000 home theater projector, which we reviewed back in May. The HT1000 is interesting, because it scales widescreen content to 1024x576. The native resolution of the HT1000 is 1024x768, and it does not natively support 720P. In this case, better image quality resulted when the D1 was set to 1080i than if it was set to 720P. However, we did notice minor artifacting, mostly visible as slight image jitter, at all settings in video-generated material, though not with film content (movies). Otherwise, 1080i image quality through the HT1000 was excellent. We also checked the Bravo D1 for DVI compliance, which we recently wrote about. The resolutions supported by the D1 are not particularly challenging, and DVI compliance should be straightforward. In fact, the Bravo D1 passed all the DVI compliance tests without any issues. In the end, the quality of the Sigma Designs EM8500 chip built into the Bravo D1 is remarkable, particularly on film material -- especially if you consider the cost. We performed some critical audio listening tests. CD audio sounded fine, but driving DVD audio through the digital output port resulted in occasional faint crackling. MP3 audio playback also sounded quite good, although we only tested with 320kbps encoded material. We also tried playing back DivX-encoded files, with mixed results. Low resolution files played back fine, but one file we tried, which had a native resolution of 1024x768, simply wouldnt play properly, even though we did get audio output. Finally we did encounter two lockups with the D1. The first was on the Aliens special edition DVD. The other lockup occurred with the recently released Castle in the Sky DVD. The symptoms were the same in both cases. Partway through a scene, the image froze, and the player didnt respond to the remote, except to power down. However, the behavior wasnt repeatable, so well just chalk it up to gremlins or cosmic rays. The D1 played back dozens of hours of DVD movies without any problems.

Loyd Case came to computing by way of physical chemistry. He began modestly on a DEC PDP-11 by learning the intricacies of the TROFF text formatter while working on his master's thesis. After a brief, painful stint as an analytical chemist, he took over a laboratory network at Lockheed in the early 80's and never looked back. His first 'real' computer was an HP 1000 RTE-6/VM system.

In 1988, he figured out that building his own PC was vastly more interesting than buying off-the-shelf systems ad he ditched his aging Compaq portable. The Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive from his first homebrew rig is still running today. Since then, he's done some programming, been a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard, worked in technical marketing in the workstation biz, and even dabbled in 3-D modeling and Web design during the Web's early years.

Loyd was also bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, and even has dim memories of reading his creative efforts to his third grade class. Later, he wrote for various user group magazines, culminating in a near-career ending incident at his employer when a humor-impaired senior manager took exception at one of his more flippant efforts. In 1994, Loyd took on the task of writing the first roundup of PC graphics cards for Computer Gaming World -- the first ever written specifically for computer gamers. A year later, Mike Weksler, then tech editor at Computer Gaming World, twisted his arm and forced him to start writing CGW's tech column. The gaming world -- and Loyd -- has never quite recovered despite repeated efforts to find a normal job. Now he's busy with the whole fatherhood thing, working hard to turn his two daughters into avid gamers. When he doesn't have his head buried inside a PC, he dabbles in downhill skiing, military history and home theater.

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