HDMI-equipped DVD players have suddenly become commonplace this year, to the point where they don't cost much more than a generic DVD player you'd pick up at Wal-Mart. The Philips DVP5960/37 is one good example, going for less than $80 online. For that price, you get HDMI and upscaling to higher resolutions, DivX playback, and one of the slimmest, most stylish exteriors we've seen.
The Philips DVP5960/37 has a design that's as eye-catching as its name is annoying. The player stands just 1.5 inches tall, and even its disc drawer is shallower to take up less height. We liked the reflective silver faceplate and the conveniently large LED display. There are several front-panel buttons, including standby, HD upscale (which toggles through resolutions), play/pause, and stop. One notable omission is fast-forward or rewind controls, which can be useful in a pinch when the remote goes missing. There's also a USB port on the front, which can be used to display JPEGs and DivX files as well as to play back MP3 files, from a USB thumbdrive.
Philips's remote is small and not backlit, and it has some nonintuitive controls. For example, the directional pad's right and left buttons also control fast-forward and rewind, which is unusual and not labeled. However, after a couple seconds of confusion, we found it easy enough to use.
Connectivity-wise, the Philips's big selling point is its HDMI output. As with all HDMI decks, it has the ability to upconvert DVDs: in this case to 576p, 720p, or 1080i resolution. Upconversion may result in slightly sharper DVD images on some HDTVs, but it won't work miracles--they're still DVDs, after all. The rest of the connectivity options are made up of a component-video output, a standard composite-video output, and an optical audio output. While a case could be made about the deck missing an S-Video and coaxial audio output, we're betting that most people buying this player are planning to use the HDMI or component-video connection.
In our tests, we found that disc compatibility was good; the DVP5960/37 struggled with only a few of the more difficult discs. It was successfully able to play MP3s stored on a DVD, as well as CDs and DVDs with DivX files on them. The DivX files played back smoothly and did not suffer from any of the lip-sync issues we've noticed on other players.
The Philips DVP5960 excelled at some video-quality tests but fell short during others. For example, resolution tests from the Silicon Optics HQV test suite looked very sharp in 1080i mode and only slightly softer in 720p and 480p. The player also did well with the 2:3 pull-down processing test, taking about a half a second to kick into film mode. However, it struggled on other important jaggies tests, with significant jagged edges visible on the moving lines.