Hitachi's DVP735U, which has a street price of about $100, is the only standalone DVD player in the company's 2003 product line. The first thing you'll notice is its rather diminutive size. At 2.2 inches high by 17 inches wide by just 8.5 inches deep, the deck will fit nicely in shallow spaces and atop TVs.
Glossy black plastic on the unit's face offsets its silver-colored body and transport buttons, which sit to the left of the tray. You can program the elongated remote to command multiple brands of televisions. It has impressive heft, but the disc controls are spaced a bit awkwardly.
The rear panel holds all the standard DVD connections except an optical digital-audio out. Adjacent to the jack pack is the toggle for switching between interlaced and progressive component-video output. The remote would be a better location for this selector, but most people will probably leave it at one setting anyway.
The DVP735U's spec sheet places the player squarely in the middle of the budget herd. Disc compatibility was a strong point, encompassing all manner of recordable DVDs and CDs but not VCDs or JPEG discs. Thanks to an impressive 26-character filename display, navigating MP3 song lists was easy, but as with most decks, random and shuffle MP3 playback was unavailable.
When we tested the DVP735U with the Video 2000 benchmark disc, the player exhibited less than stellar 3:2 pull-down and subpar de-interlacing. Rope-twisting effects appeared in various patterns and clips.
On the other hand, the deck's real-world performance was quite good. The haystacks, the roofs, the boats, and the bridges in the opening sequence of Star Trek: Insurrection were smooth and artifact-free. However, keen-eyed viewers watching wide-screen movies on larger analog TVs will find that anamorphic downconversion is decidedly baseline. In Attack of the Clones, for example, the background of Natalie Portman's home world is populated by marble Italian villas. We noticed an unnatural-looking crawl along their horizontal edges.
The DVP735U is a fine player if you don't need JPEG support, you usually watch film-based (rather than video-based) DVDs, and a shallow footprint is essential. Otherwise, consider these similarly priced and better-performing decks: the progressive-scan Panasonic DVD-S55S and the standard Sony DVP-NS325.