Denon continues to wage its war against blue laser discs with a sublime DVD player that's powerful enough to make you think twice about upgrading to hi-def.
The DVD-2930 offers 720p, 1080i and 1080p upscaling and is capable of performing the sort of video processing usually reserved for decks costing more than £2k.
Its sturdy build quality may take its weight to a hefty 7kg, but this is likely to pay dividends when it comes to performance.
There's a staggering amount of technology on board, including the Silicon Optix REON VX chipset, which makes its debut here and is the same chip used by major US TV networks and Hollywood studios to optimise picture quality.
It's capable of processing one trillion operations per second and addresses every conceivable area of picture quality. The chip's Hollywood Quality Processing handles scaling and deinterlacing duties, offering true 1080p reconstruction of HD film sources using cadence detection, plus a Multi-Direction Diagonal Filter (MDDF) to reduce jaggies caused by the deinterlacing process.
The chip also offers detail enhancement, random, mosquito and block noise reduction, Colour Spectrum control, true 10-bit, dual-channel processing and more.
Joining the REON VX's magic tricks is Denon's own Pixel Image Correction (DPIC), which further enhances picture quality, and a 12-bit 216MHz video DAC.
The deck also offers DVD-A and SACD playback, plus support for DiVX (all versions and VOD), MP3, WMA and JPEG files.
The setup menu offers various picture tweaks such as black level adjustment, while audio adjustments include bass management for DVD-Audio and SACD.
Among the sockets are a HDMI 1.1 output, an RGB-capable Scart and a proprietary Denon Link port that lets you pipe DVD-A and SACD signals digitally to a compatible Denon amplifier.
The remote control is massive, which makes it awkward to hold at times, but button placement and labelling are spot-on. The deck is slick and responsive in every way, particularly when navigating the logical, but surprisingly rudimentary, user interface.
Due to the enormous amount of technology and picture tweaks at your disposal, setup is a bit more complicated than your average DVD player, but if you're spending this much money, chances are you know what you're doing.
The deck's high-powered components generate some of the most amazing pictures we've seen at this price. The excellent DVD transfer of Superman Returns provides the sort of cinematic fodder upon which it thrives, particularly when piped to a TV using the HDMI connection.
The mid-air plane rescue that ends with our hero bringing it to land safely in a baseball stadium looks magnificent. Colours are consistently strong and vivid, demonstrated by the rich blue and red of Superman's outfit.
Happily, this powerful saturation doesn't come at the expense of natural skin tone reproduction. HQV Spectrum Control does a great job of accentuating these delicate hues without making people look lobster-red or green around the gills.
The Reon-VX's Detail Enhancement makes tiny objects and textures look sharp and focused. As a result, the overall image clarity is staggering.
Black level and contrast are highly impressive. On a decent plasma display or projector, you can make out fine details and different shades of black amid the shadows of the Fortress of Solitude, for example, which lends the image a truly cinematic feel. Superman soars through deepest dark space.
Video nasties such as film grain, mosquito noise and MPEG compression artefacts don't stand a chance against the numerous noise reduction modes on board. These images are cleaner than Mr Sheen's coffee table, so the natural detail really shines through.
And all this before we've even engaged the upscaling modes. The results can depend on the quality and resolution of your display, but on our test rig the results are great whether the deck is set to 720p, 1080i or 1080p, with the deck effectively eliminating deinterlacing artefacts such as jaggies without causing processing side effects.
Upscaled pictures can't touch true HD pictures offered by Blu-ray or HD DVD, but this is as close to hi-def as DVD can possibly get - all of which makes the DVD-2930 a sensational picture performer that budget-conscious videophiles would do well to investigate.
Denon's hi-fi heritage stands it in good stead here. DVD-Audio playback is phenomenal - the 5.1-channel DVD-A mix of What The World Needs Now Is Love by Atagiin is warm and enveloping, with the sonic detail effortlessly conveyed. On SACD Let's Get It On sends shivers down the spine, thanks to the pure and precise reproduction of Marvin's Gaye's incredible voice. CD playback, too, sounds clean, detailed and well-balanced.
Considering the vast amount of high-end technology on board, this is almost a bargain. The 1080p upscaling, DVD-Audio/SACD playback, bomb-shelter build quality and astounding AV performance all add up to a knockout proposition that are difficult to ignore.