|V Inc. Bravo D1 DVD Player|
|Home Theater Video Players DVD Players|
|Written by Augie Bettencourt|
|Saturday, 01 November 2003|
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Not long ago, in my infinite quest to squeeze the most out of the DVD format, I purchased a Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC). I was lured into purchasing the HTPC by the promise of video nirvana with the ability to scale DVDs to resolutions that were previously limited to the most expensive video scalers. The problem with the HTPC was that by the time I was done turning on all my audio equipment and projector, and waited for the HTPC to cycle on and then configured my DVD set-up menu, I was ready to call it a night. I just wanted to watch “Apollo 13,” not re-enact its launch sequence. Not only was the HTPC cumbersome and difficult to use, but at $1,500 it wasn’t cheap. Needless to say, I’m over my HTPC phase now.
Recently, a company by the name of V Inc introduced a $199 DVD player called the Bravo D1, claiming to have many of the same advantages that were previously only available in HTPCs and expensive video scalers. The urgent question for me is, at $199, does it produce the same image quality of an expensive video scaler or HTPC and does it retain the same user-friendliness of a consumer-level DVD player?
At 16.9 inches wide, 12.2 inches deep, and a little more than two-and-a-quarter inches tall, the five-and-a-half pound, sleek and lightweight design of the Bravo D1 likely won’t impress the same people who purchase expensive DVD players commonly wrapped in exotic packages. What I can say is that I’ve seen DVD players costing twice as much with similar build quality. Even though it lacks the mass of some of the more wildly expensive “statement” DVD players, it does not lack in functionality or quality of internal parts. Based on the Sigma Designs EM8500 Media Processor, it will play DVD-Video, DVD-R, Video CD, and CD-R/RW. In addition, it also supports playback of MP3-CDs, MPEG-4 AVI movies or videos and JPEG picture CDs. The remote control is a rather uneventful, cluttered unit with many small buttons and it is not backlit, but it does get the job done. The back panel is where things get more exciting. The player offers RCA analog audio outputs and coaxial and optical digital audio outputs. It also offers composite, 4 pin din, component and s-video outputs and last, but definitely not least, DVI digital video output. The DVI (Digital Visual Interface) video output isn’t just another way to connect a DVD player to a display device like a projector, plasma screen or HDTV. Unlike analog video, DVI is a direct digital connection that eliminates the need for any digital to analog conversion, keeping the digital video signal completely in the digital domain until it is viewed. In theory, by eliminating digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital video conversions, there is a good chance of significantly improving picture quality. The Bravo D1 offers four different options for outputting through the DVI output signal including 480p, 720p and 1080i. 480p is the native resolution of the DVD format at 720x480. The three outputs allow the Bravo D1 to rescale the DVD format for output to match the native format of your plasma, LCD, DLP, DILA or LCOS display. This direct digital signal path allows the Bravo D1 to select a 1:1 pixel-mapping DVI output resolution that can match that of the display's native resolution. As simply defined as I can, 1:1 pixel-mapping is the process of matching up video-standard pixel resolutions to computer-standard pixel resolutions, so if you’re lucky enough to have a display device with one of the four different options for outputting through the Bravo D1’s DVI output, you will receive the benefit of 1:1 pixel mapping. If you're not cocky enough, don't despair. the Bravo D1's engine’s have ported a firmware option on their www.vinc.com website that allows you to insert custom "power strip-like" timing settings. So even if your display native resolution isn't one of the default outputs, you can have 1:1 pixel mapping perfection. As an example, my display device is the Marantz VP-12S2 DLP front projector, which uses the Texas Instruments' Mustang/HD2 DMD. It has the exact same resolution (1280_720 pixels) as a 720p output, which happens to be one of the Bravo D1’s offerings. This does not mean that DVDs will have the equivalent resolution of a 720p HDTV source, but depending on the Bravo D1’s ability to scale a DVD (720x480) to the native resolution of the Marantz VP-12S2 (1280x720), it could have a huge impact on image quality.
I connected the analog audio outputs of the Bravo D1 to my Krell HTS 7.1 preamp/processor for two-channel audio listening and connected Bravo D-1’s digital audio output for 5.1 audio movie watching. The DVI output of the player was directly connected to the Marantz VP-12S2 with a 10-meter V-Inc. DVI cable. Once I connected the DVI output of the Bravo D1 to the DVI input of the Marantz VP-12S2, it eliminated video adjustments except those still of importance - contrast and brightness. Now all DVD Movie watching was done with an unaltered direct digital image.