You'll get a fine performance and beautiful styling at a good price. But don't expect too much from the upscaling feature
Decent picture and sound
Upscaling not particularly effective
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NAD'S T515 sits towards the bottom end of the company's DVD line, but it certainly isn't last in the queue when it comes to good looks.
This is a very attractive model, with super-slim styling (it stands a mere 46mm high) and a chic, dark grey casing (or an optional silver finish).
The price leads you to expect a performance above the slew of budget decks out there, so we were determined to find out.
Most importantly, you get an HDMI output for an all-digital connection with your TV. This should deliver benefits by eliminating messy digital-to-analogue conversion and producing a cleaner onscreen image, although this isn't always the case. The HDMI output can also upscale standard-definition programming to HD levels. You can choose from 720p or 1080i settings, but the very top standard, 1080p, is annoyingly not available.
That's no big deal on a £200 model, although we've seen decks costing just £50 more that do go up to 1080p.
Other video connections include a prog-scan capable component video output and an RGB Scart connection. Audio can be handled via optical or electrical digital outputs, but there are no six-channel analogue outputs.
This is a bit disconcerting when you see that DVD-Audio playback is offered, until you realise that only two channel playback is in fact possible.
Multimedia options are fine, with MP3, WMA and JPEG on offer. DiVX compatibility includes the now common VOD registration code that lets you download movies from the internet for a limited number of viewings.
Trick play features have no notable omissions and include such modes as slo-mo and frame advance and the zoom is a better-than-average 9x model. Extravagant zoom power seems to have gone out of fashion, but seeing something larger than the standard 4x offering is more than welcome .
There's nothing difficult about setting up this DVD player provided you've seen a setup menu before. The choices are all very familiar, including aspect ratio and digital audio outputs.
Why the low mark then? Well, if you're a first-time DVD player buyer and you turn hopefully to the instruction manual for guidance you could easily get confused.
It's not all bad, but some elements are very poorly written, and there is no mention of video upscaling. In fact, the manual goes out of its way to say that only a 480/576p signal is available from the HDMI output.
Switching between resolutions is actually achieved using a button on the remote, but you have to stop playback to change resolution. The deck will resume playback from the point where you stopped, which helps, but it still makes it quite difficult to compare picture quality at different settings.
There is also a potential stumbling block with HDMI audio. Unless your audio output is set at PCM and 48KHz, you will only get a very nasty blast of interference from your HDMI cable.
Once setup is out of the way you can relax, because the picture is very good indeed.
Starting with the RGB Scart connection (still relevant at this price point), the picture is rich and detailed. Colours are a little restrained (this can easily be compensated for on your TV's controls, of course, although we grew to rather like the subtlety).
Even saturated colours, such as those on Cars and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, are kept at more realistic levels (if that's the right word for a fantasy movie) than some decks we've seen.
Engaging the HDMI output at 576p level results in a picture that isn't greatly different to the RGB Scart feed, but which does exhibit a touch of extra depth and a noticeable boost in colour depth.
There isn't an eye-popping change, but switching back and forth does show that the HDMI picture is superior.
The upscaling does not seem to have much effect. We froze the frame and engaged the 9x zoom (which works very smoothly, by the way) to closely scrutinize the picture detailing, before stopping playback, engaging 720p mode and resuming. Some of the jagged edges on curves seem a little smoother in 720p mode, but the effect is extremely subtle and on regular, unzoomed playback you really can't see any difference.
The 1080i setting did not appear to change anything, but then the TV we used as our reference (Panasonic TH-37PV500) is a 720p set.
Upscaling is a tenuous subject anyway, with only really expensive models offering a boost in image quality that is easy to discern, and even then it's still a far cry from true high definition, so the lack of impact here isn't a major issue.
Audio playback is impressive, with a multichannel soundtrack sounding wonderful through a decent amp and speaker system.
We couldn't discern any difference between the optical and electrical outputs, since both result in a fine, aggressive performance on the thumping Cars soundtrack.
Audio CD playback reveals a pleasing touch on just about any type of music you care to throw at it. We threw Kings of Leon at it and The Bucket was very revealing, with lots of the subtle detail of the recording present and correct.
DVD-Audio playback only gives a hint at the format's capabilities because you only get two channels, which is a shame.
This mid-range deck certainly delivers a better-than-mid-range performance, but it is pitching against some stiff competition in the marketplace.
That said, it is a very impressive, rather understated and elegant deck that we like alot.
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