Denon's DVD-1730 is a stunningly impressive budget option now that it is available for under £100 on certain websites (including empiredirect.co.uk to name but one). In terms of looks and build quality, while it's a far cry from the 'solid gold blocks' of Denon's higher-end models (which can, of course cost as much as ten times the price of this model),.
It looks noticeably superior to most sub-£100 decks and raises the prospect of some higher quality innards - especially when it comes to matters of electrical screening and the like. Connectivity is very good, too. Particularly gratifying is an HDMI output via which the 1730 can squirt out 720p and 1080i HD upscaled images.
This 'digital Scart' is also partnered by component video jacks to output progressive scan video, plus the inevitable RGB Scart and lower quality AV options. Also, you get two digital audio outputs, but alas no 5.1-channel line outs, revealing a total lack of support for DVD-Audio or SACD.
This lack of provision for the two high-end audio formats is, of course, hardly surprising for this money, but we mention it here specifically because Denon buyers tend to have more interest than the average home cinema fans in audio as well as visual performance.
The 1730 continues to rack up positive feelings with its format flexibility, with DiVX (including DiVX 6 and VOD content), MP3, WMA, JPEG, KODAK picture disc and DVD R/ RW/-R/-RW compatibility particularly catching our attention.
As you might expect, the 1730's performance holds up very well indeed in the ranks of the budget company its new price places it with. Colours are particularly striking, delivering rare levels of vibrancy and toning subtlety for less than a ton of cash.
Assisting these colours are black levels of impressive depth and subtlety when it comes to retaining the sort of shadow detailing that gives dark scenes a sense of scale. It helps the general dynamism of the image presentation, too, that the rich colours are dramatically counterpointed by some unusually bright peak whites, free of the yellowy tinge that can so often plague economy players.
The picture is also reasonably clean and sharp via the analogue or especially digital outputs, with no great problems from MPEG decoding noise or grain obvious. As for the deck's upscaling capabilities, we didn't really notice vast amounts of extra detail in the picture, if we're honest, but the upscaled picture does certainly manage to look even cleaner than the standard-definition one.
Although it's now a highly respected video brand, Denon's heritage lies very much in the world of audio. And this even manages to shine through on a DVD player at such an affordable pricepoint as the 1730, as it delivers levels of clarity and richness with our CD collection that few competitors can even come close to.