We ran the DVD-2930CI through our disc compatibility suite of home-burned CDs and DVDs and got mixed results. While it was able to play some of the more difficult discs in our suite, it choked on a number of discs we have labeled as easy. More annoying was the fact that these discs made the player hang up and required us to cycle the power to get the disc out.
The video quality performance of the DVD-2930CI was impressive, as we expected. We started off testing it with Silicon Optix's HQV Benchmark DVD, in 720p, 1080i, and 1080p modes, and were rarely disappointed. It performed excellently on everything from resolution tests to 2:3 pull-down tests. Even the difficult swaying flag test looked remarkably lifelike, without being peppered with artifacts that many other players produce. We were also impressed with the Denon's noise reduction capabilities, as it was able to smooth out simulated digital transmission noise, leaving a clean image. The bottom line is that the DVD-2930CI turned in the best performance we've seen of any player using the HQV Test Suite, which isn't surprising, considering that the Denon uses Silicon Optix's video-processing chip.
We also looked at our torture test for 2:3 pull-down--the opening of Star Trek: Insurrection--and the DVD-2930CI passed commendably. There was still a slight stutter as the camera made a long pan, but that's to be expected with proper 2:3 pull-down. On the downside, using the Windows DVD Test Annex, we noticed that it suffered from chroma bug in 1080i mode.
Finding out that it was a great performer was no surprise, but with an $850 price tag, we wanted to how DVD-2930CI stacked up to cheaper alternatives such as the Oppo DV-970HD and the Toshiba HD-A1. We hooked up all three DVD players to the Sony KDL-40XBR2 and the Pioneer PDP-5070HD, and watched several scenes from Serenity to see how they performed. Right off the bat, the most striking impression was how similar they all looked. All three are very good upscaling DVD players, and only serious videophiles will find much of anything to complain about. That being said, we did feel like the DVD-2930CI had the best image quality of the three--but it was close. It was hard to pin it down to any one specific quality, but we felt like the DVD-2930CI had slightly more detail and looked more lifelike than either the HD-A1 or the DV-970HD.
Although we give the nod to the DVD-2930CI for pure performance, the other two players will be better values for most people. If you're not ready to spend more than $500 on a standard DVD player, the Oppo DV-970HD delivers most of the performance for a fraction of the price of the DVD-2930CI. On the other hand, if you're willing to spend $500 on a DVD player, why not go HD-DVD? Again, the performance for upscaling is very close to the DVD-2930CI's, plus you get the ability to play HD-DVDs that look much better than DVDs ever could.