There's no question that a DVD will look great on a widescreen HDTV, especially if your player happens to be a progressive-scan model. But with razor-sharp high-definition movies regularly showing on cable, satellite, and even broadcast TV, DVD has started to lose a bit of its luster. Still, if you're looking to squeeze every last drop of image quality out of your DVDs, you can now get a player that "upconverts" standard DVD video to a high-def format and then sends a digital signal to your TV through a DVI or HDMI connector. And with players like this selling for around $300 - the price of Sony's DVP-NS975V - it's an affordable option.
Sony's newest player is the first we've reviewed with an HDMI output, or High Definition Multimedia Interface. This state-of-the-art connection carries video in digital form. More important, unlike its predecessor, DVI (a.k.a. Digital Visual Interface), HDMI can also carry a multichannel digital audio signal along with the video - that's right, six-channel surround sound. So what's the big deal? Two things: better potential image quality and a simplified connection between your DVD player, your HDTV, and even your A/V receiver, assuming they all have HDMI connectors (many new high-def TVs do). But if your TV has only DVI, you can use an HDMI-to-DVI adapter cable to make the hookup.
The NS975V offers more than just an HDMI connector. It also plays Super Audio CDs and handles a slew of other disc formats (see table left). And it has a polished, high-end look, with only a handful of buttons on its front panel. Around back you'll find all the standard A/V jacks plus a set of six analog outputs that connect to a compatible A/V receiver's inputs for listening to SACDs. I should mention here that the only way to tap the player's high-def upconversion capability is via the HDMI output - the component-video connection is limited to "enhanced-definition" 480p.