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Appeared on: Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Neodigits HVD2085

1. Introduction

2006 is the year that most of us will probably think about buying a new TV, if for no other reason than the all important feature of HD (High Definition). Apart from the increased resolution and quality improvements, HD TV ready sets include the new and futureproof HDMI connection protocol. All forthcoming HD content, either on HD DVD or BluRay, will use HDMI to stream copy protected material. Neodigits recently announced their new line of HD compatible DVD players that have a neat feature, the ability to upscale DVD format up to 1080p, at the HDMI & Component outputs! NeoDigits kindly offered us a sample unit, the HVD2085, in order to test and write our impressions. First off, some background on Neodigits the company.

- NeoDigits Background

According to the company's website, NeoDigits.com was founded in 2003 and entered the market with its flagship brand of DVD players, NeuNeo. Riding on the success of this line, NeoDigits.com has since launched an entirely new brand of DVD solutions – HELIOS. From late February 2006, all NeoDigits.com's DVD solutions are only available under the HELIOS brand.

"...This line of DVD players embodies all the qualities of the Greek god after which it was named - young, powerful, and dependable. NeoDigits.com is a technology company focused on bringing the latest hi-tech DVD solutions to the home theatre segment. Our strong passion for all things audiovisual, together with our firm background knowledge in IT, allows us to bring cutting-edge and innovative early adopter technologies to the DVD player market. Our technologies are for those who appreciate the finer things in life. Especially those who appreciate the value of High Definition...."  

- HVD2085

NeoDigits.com announced on 29th March, 2006, their latest HD compatible DVD players with the name "HELIOS". As Managing Director Jean Chen comments "...HELIOS reflects the maturity in the quality of our products and services..."

The HELIOS HVD2085 is a player with the capacity to upscale standard DVDs to as high as 1080p resolution on component output. The player also has the capacity to upscale to 1080p resolution via the HDMI output, and 1280x1024 resolution via the VGA output. Moreover, the player is now able to support 480i and 576i resolutions. That's around 11 different resolutions to choose from! In addition, the player is region-free out-of-the-box. This means that it can play all your DVDs, regardless of which part of the world you bought them from. Lastly, a built-in UOP-off function, lets you bypass all those annoying trailers and automatically jumps to your favorite part... the main movie.

2. Features - Specifications

- Features

- Video output formats (i = Interlaced, p = Progressive)

Composite S-Video Component VGA HDMI
480i X X X X
480p X X
576i X X X X
576P X X
720P X X
1080i X X
1080P X X
640x480 X X
800x600 X X
1024x768 X X
1280x1024 X X
* "X" means this format is supported.

- Full Specs

3. A Closer Look

- Unpacking

NeoDigits sent us their retail package for the HVD2085 which contained

According to the NeoDigits.com website, the player is listed with a retail price of US$199. While our retail package didn't included two AAA batteries and a 5ft HDMI cable, Neodigits assured us that other retail packages do.

Click To Enlarge!

The player is very sleek and well designed. The front panel is made of brushed stainless steel, while its light weight (3.5kg) will be appreciated by travelers. On the back, you will find the numerous connections, including:

- Video i/o: Component, S-Video, VGA, HDMI and Composite
- Audio i/o: Optical, Coaxial S/PDIF and RCA output.

We couldn't possibly have complaints here. There's all the interfaces to cater for all users (click to enlarge).

Click To Enlarge!

On the front, there's a small LED display that shows the basic operations of the player, the CD/DVD loader and finally, four buttons for basic functions (open/close, play/pause, FF/RF). The buttons are not backlit and we didn't found the CD/DVD loader tray much able to handle heavy use...

Click To Enlarge!

Looking at the inside, we see that the board design is rather simple. In the middle, there's the CD/DVD loader (unknown brand), which is connected to main board by a custom cable, meaning that you cannot easily modify your player and install a different CD/DVD drive.

The main chipset used for Mpeg2 decoding, de-interlacing and scaling for the component video outputs comes from AMLogic and is the AML3428.

Looking at the specs, we find that the chipset is powerful enough to decode Mpeg2 streams up to 1080p! Moreover, it supports the newly announced HVD format, China's answer to HD TV content (lets call this an extra bonus). You won't find many chipsets claiming to have an "On-Chip CSS descrambler", a needed feature to view your DVDs up to 1080p format :-)

The remote control is nothing fancy. If anything, it's a little large and we found it inconvenient that it has the standard joypad buttons near the top and not in the middle or bottom. The buttons are big and have a positive action. Something that bothered us though is that the player doesn't always respond to the on/standby function on the remote (tip: double press the red button quickly). It would be nice to have a better remote control, but we can also live with the current one (click to enlarge).

Click To Enlarge!

4. Performance

- Power up the player

The HVD2085 setup menu is divided into 6 areas: Random play, Play mode, Lock, Display, Sound and Languages. We found the menu easy enough but without many advanced options. Let's check out the most interesting menu, the Display Menu.

Here, you can set all Video output settings, depending on which connection interface you are planning to use. The options are NTSC (480i), PAL (576i), Progressive 480p, Progressive 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p, VGA, SVGA, XGA, and SXGA. The computer resolutions are only available via the HDMI or DSub15 outputs. The Composite and S-Video can be set to NTSC or PAL. NeoDigits made this player quite universal and with the push of one button, you can convert to and from different frequencies and formats (e.g. NTSC/PAL) so you can play just about any DVD disc from around the world.

- Performance

The HVD2085 will only accept the following types of discs:

If you try to insert anything else, it will be ejected (tray will automatically open). On the bright side, the player had no problems with the DVD±R/RW formats and while it recognized DVD+R DL (DVD-ROM booktype), it failed to playback DVD+R DL (DVD+R DL booktype) and DVD-R DL. This is something that NeoDigitis should look into with a firmware update.

Testing the player was more complicated than we had first imagined. The player requires an HD TV (1080p/720p) to show its true potential. While we don't have such equipment at our labs, we connected the device to an LG 1915S 19" TFT monitor via D-SUB15 cable, where we performed all tests.

The HVD2058 gives you the option to switch between VGA (640x480), SVGA (800x600), XGA (1024x768) and finally SXGA (1280x1024). The monitor didn't have any problem, although at resolutions other than VGA, there was empty space, depending on the resolution. The worst case was SXGA, where we could measure 5cm (from bottom). This could be corrected if your TFT/LCD screen has the corresponding setting. In order to switch between the various VGA resolutions, press the VGA buttons and an information screen appears as you rotate through the resolutions.

While our TFT monitor was connected, we pressed the HD button and... the player did indeed upscale the content, but with something missing, the red colour. After reading the manual, it was confirmed that 720p/1080p content is only available through the HDMI/Component interfaces.

Trying out various DVDs, we didn't notice any problems during playback. The FF/RF seems to work OK, the zoom has four stages (2X,3X,4X,5X) and you can move the zoomed area (pan) with the 4-direction joypad. Greek subtitles from DVD movies were displayed correctly. We also noticed that despite choosing 4:3 Pan-Scan, the player didn't remove the blank regions, only with 16:9 mode...

Since we couldn't test the performance under HDMI (and DVI via the HDMI-DVI cable), we looked at several other reviews, which indicated that the overall produced quality is good, when the content is properly encoded. It seems though, that the de-interlace and upscaling functions of the HVD2058 do need some further fine tuning.

5. Conclusion

The HELIOS HVD2085 is an interesting player, for an audience with specific needs... Not all people have an HD TV ready set, at least we don't. The ability to upscale standard DVDs to as high as 1080p resolution through HDMI and component output is very interesting and will please corresponding buyers. Moreover, the ability to connect to VGA monitors, out of the box region-free, the embedded UOP-off function and the firmware flashing ability will make it even more appealing.

On the other hand, there are several things that may trouble you. The most obvious, its price. The player costs around US$200. In that price range, we would expect the player to support Mpeg4/DivX formats and network connectivity. Its older brother, the X3620, supports these features but costs twice as much. The included remote control needs improvement. NeoDigits informed us that it is already being revised.

Overall, we feel that the HVD2058 is a decent product, slightly overpriced but with unique features, aimed at a specific target group. Maybe, this is a good opportunity to enter the HD world but after buying an HD TV set. Too bad Xmas has been and gone, otherwise I could have asked the boss for a new toy :-)

- The Positive

- The Negative

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