Face full of features
In addition to a display and a disc drawer, this player's black, gold, and white face has no fewer than 30 words, 14 buttons, four logos, and one big dial. The dial, a shuttle control for forward and reverse searches, would be much more useful on the remote, which is on the small side and feels a little cheap, with no glowing or backlit keys.
Although the RP56 is currently one of the least expensive progressive-scan players on the market (with a $299 list price), its feature set is much more than skin and bones. It supports CD-R/RWs and MP3 CDs, but it can't play MP3 tracks at random or display ID3 tags onscreen. A One Touch Cinema Memory feature provides a single memory slot for the player's four principal user-adjustable modes: Virtual Surround, Bass Plus, Dialogue Enhancer, and Cinema.
Bass Plus is the most useful audio mode of the bunch, enabling you to directly connect a separate, powered subwoofer in case you don't have a multichannel amp. The back panel includes the standard composite video, S-Video, and component-video jacks (Y, Pr, Pb), as well as an optical output for digital audio, though there's no coaxial output.
Ugliness is only skin deep
Progressive-scan technology takes standard interlaced video, where the scan lines that make up a TV image are presented alternately, and turns it into progressive video so that the lines are all presented sequentially. This creates a much more stable, flicker-free image. The catch is that you need an expensive progressive-scan digital TV or HDTV to display the images. Unless you have such a set or plan on buying one, the RP56 isn't for you.
That said, those who have the right equipment should be pleased with the player's video performance. Equipped with 3:2 pull-down circuitry to clean up the output of film-based DVDs, the RP56 displays very crisp images. When we slipped in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it easily outperformed the progressive-scan circuit built into our Samsung wide-screen HDTV. There were virtually no motion artifacts visible in slow pans over the richly decorated rooms in the Yu palace. Jen's elaborate costumes were also brilliant, with well-balanced color levels.