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'Faux HD' Players a Hot Item

9 Sep, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

Call it faux HD. Several consumer electronics companies are capitalizing on the buzz over a next-gen optical disc format by offering “up-conversion” DVD players.

These machines take the digital image on a standard DVD and make it look almost as good as true high-definition, but only when viewed on HDTV sets that have a High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI).

The beauty of these players, proponents say, is they cost less than $200 and work with any DVD.

A recent Best Buy circular touted the Toshiba model SD-4980, a progressive-scan DVD player with up-conversion and HDMI output at $129.99. The item was later listed as “sold out” on the retailer's Web site.

Most up-conversion DVD players offer two high-def resolution options. Consumers can choose which option works best for their home theater equipment, said Bill Hunt, owner-editor of DVD Web site TheDigitalBits.com.

“It's not as good as true, native high-definition, but it makes your existing DVD look better than it's ever looked before,” he said.

Hunt said his Philips up-conversion DVD player is hooked up to his video projection home theater setup, which displays the image in a 100-inch diagonal presentation.

“I'm blowing these DVDs up huge, and they look gorgeous,” he said. “If you're going to buy a new DVD player, and you've got the HDTV, you'd be a fool not to get an upscaler.”

Hunt said these players offer an attractive alternative for early adopters who may just want to sit out what's looking more and more like a next-generation format war.

Samsung kicked off its entry into the faux HD market in July with four HDMI-installed players, one that includes a VHS deck. All are priced below $200. “[Samsung's players] are the perfect solution for anyone who has upgraded to HDTV and wants to get the most out of their DVD collections, too,” said Claude Frank, the company's director for digital audio/video.

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