Looking for a DVD player that can upconvert your standard DVDs to higher resolutions? Sure would be nice to gain full advantage of that HDTV you just bought, with its 1080p-resolution capability through its HDMI connection, right? Perhaps you're frustrated that you can't merely plug in your DVD player and get full HD image quality from your DVDs. Although that functionality is still a ways off, tied to the forthcoming next-generation DVD format, the NeuNeo HVD2085 provides an example of the closest you can currently come to HD-quality disc output, squeezing the most out of your current discs and letting you experiment with a now-available Chinese HD-format disc called High-Clearness Video Disc (HVD).

China has offered two HD formats since 2004: HVD and Enhanced Video Disc (EVD). Neither have made much of an impact in the United States, so you probably haven't even heard of them. They're not the kind of thing you might find at Best Buy or Circuit City. Nevertheless, the players and discs are legally available here, mostly online. If you want to get a taste of the potential of HD-DVD, you might find the player worth your time, but you should know that the selection of software remains quite limited. My only exposure to actual image quality was through the sample disc that NeuNeo sent with the test player, Winged Migration, which boasts scrumptious color and detail, as well as an admirable Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.

All that being said, I probably wouldn't purchase this player for HVD functionality alone. More interesting is the fact that the NeuNeo player is an out-of-the-box region-free player (it doesn't require an after-the-fact hack), letting you purchase and enjoy DVDs from around the world. You'll find that many movies are getting better DVD treatment, in lavish box sets, overseas. Now you can buy those disc sets without fear that your region-1 player won't know how to read them.

But the real reason I would consider the NeuNeo player is to get the most out of my existing DVD library. As with most DVD players, the NeuNeo offers S-video, composite, and component-video connections, but it also gives you a digital HDMI port. Significantly, this upconverting player lets you output upscaled video over component video, a capability you'll find pleasing if you have an older HDTV (as I do) that doesn't have a DVI or HDMI input. The component-video port handles 480i or 480p NTSC, 576i or 576p PAL, 720p, 1080i, or even 1080p resolutions. The HDMI output handles all those, except 480i and 576i. Audio connections are relatively standard.

Overall, I was impressed with the ease with which I could set up the player. The HVD2085's menus are easy to navigate. It took me a while to figure out that I needed to manually change the player's output resolution depending on the disc type I wanted to view. I found myself stumbling through a couple unsupported resolutions and needing to restart before I landed on a compatible format. I soon got the hang of it, but I lamented the lack of an automatic-discovery feature.

I was impressed with the HVD2085's image quality, but not as much as I was prepared for. I did notice a slight improvement in image quality in the upconversion process, but in a "blind" test, the results would be close. On my RPTV, I tested both component-video and HDMI performance, and found both to offer similar image quality.

For $245, you can get an upconverting DVD player that not only offers excellent picture quality but also gives you an out-of-the-box region-free player. As a bonus, you can also try out an early HD DVD format. If you're on the technological edge, you might want to give this player a shot. It's not perfect, but it's a cabinet of curiosities.