V, Inc Bravo D2 DVD Player Reviewed

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V_Inc_Bravo_D2_DVD_player.gifThe original V, Inc. (now Vizio) Bravo DI DVD player was the first DVI-equipped DVD player to hit the market. Signaling the relative acceptance (finally!) of a digital connection technology, it not only output a pure, unadulterated signal best matched to today's fixed pixel devices (plasma, DLP, LCD, etc.), but did so without needing HDCP encryption.

It also up-sampled the 480 interlaced signal to 720p or 1080i. Although it produced an absolutely gorgeous picture, it had some flaws that included the fact that it looked and felt cheap. Nevertheless, it was a critical hit as the smooth picture it provided had very little grain or noise to it because it never went through an analog stage.

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Unique Features - Let's take a moment to go over DVI technology. The signal that comes off a DVD is 480 interlaced. Whether it is output as a 480i signal, or run through an internal de-interlacer to make a 480 progressive (480p) signal, it was normally output via an analog connection such as component video. What this means is that the signal quality being fed to your television is only as good as the analog conversion stage of your DVD player. To make matters worse, today's television market is dominated by fixed pixel devices. These devices convert the signal back to the digital domain as they must light up a fixed array of pixels (this is the same as a computer monitor). Due to this conversion of digital to analog back to digital, there is loss of resolution and addition of noise. (The best analog stage that I have seen on a DVD player belongs to the Krell DVD Standard. It is so good that the component video output on that machine is as clean as a whistle, with almost no discernable noise or loss of resolution. Unfortunately, you pay a cool $8,000 for it.)

The DVI connection outputs a signal that is not converted to analog, therefore is not subject to an analog stage. The Bravo D2 reads the 480i signal off the DVD, uses a Sigma Design de-interlacer to convert the signal to 480p (still in the digital domain), and then sends that signal digitally to a television via the DVI connection. If the TV is one of the aforementioned fixed pixel devices, it takes the signal without conversion and displays. Voila! No messy analog conversions!

Now, a year after the D1 came out, the D2 is here to fix some of the problems of the original. What a difference a year makes! The new D2 replaces the boring, black plastic construction with a new silver mirrored face that looks much more attractive. The LCD behind that mirrored panel is a similar blue one, but looks so much better with a pretty face. The remote is also new, and much nicer. It's large, easy to use and glows in the dark.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - The remote has a button on it that fixes one of my main complaints with the D1, namely the need to set it up with a composite or S-Video connection as it came out of the box with the DVI turned off. The TV mode button allows you to switch between 480i/480p/720p/1080i on the fly, therefore making the setup of this unit infinitely easier. One of the original pluses of the D1 has not been left behind, and that is the lack of need for HDCP encryption. The D2 upscales a signal to the native rate of your display whether it be 720p or 1080i, and does this without the need for an HDCP encrypted DVI connection, which the MPAA demanded. Although the benefits of upscaling are not exactly drastic, they provide a slightly better picture and are nice to have.

The back of the player has the pre-requisite connections -- DVI, component out, S-Video, and composite. It has both TosLink and coaxial digital out, and also RCA analog outputs for the left and right channels. This player does not decode DVD-A or SACD.

Click to Page 2 for Setup, Evaluation, and the Final Take.

HTR Product Rating for V, Inc Bravo D2 DVD Player

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Setup is a piece of cake, as the menus are child's play and minimal. I set up the unit via an AudioQuest DVI cable to my Fujitsu 50-inch plasma, via Tributaries component cables through my processor to the aforementioned plasma, and used a Wireworld coaxial digital cable to the processor.

The D2 has a series of picture controls that the D1 did not have. Although nice to have, they provided very rough, large increment control of picture quality and I pretty much left them alone and adjusted my plasma monitor instead with Video Essentials.

Final Take - After hooking up the D2, I immediately began watching it at 720p through the DVI port. The same clear, detailed, smooth, and super clean picture I remembered with the D1 was present with the D2. The lack of analog conversions
brings with it a revelation in picture quality as video noise is almost completely removed. The D1 implemented its DVI out very well, and the D2 continues that tradition. Interestingly enough, I have seen other DVI out players that don't do as good a job and don't have as clean a picture, which shows that proper implementation of DVI is also important to get a good picture.

The Sigma Design de-interlacer continues to be the Achilles' heel of the D2, as it does not do as good a job of conversion to a progressive signal as does a Faroudja or Silicon Image de-interlacer. It is occasionally tripped up by bad flags on the DVD (it is still mainly a flag reading player), and there is the occasional artifact, but it is still easy to forgive when the overall picture quality is this good. Fortunately, the chroma up-sampling error has not found its way into the D2, it is still chroma bug-free. Upscaling from 480p to 720p or 1080i had a demonstrable effect on the picture as it was sharper and cleaner and a worthwhile feature. For those of you with a DVI-equipped television that does not have HDCP, this is your player.

The component output of the original D1 was not very good -- it was really almost an afterthought. The D2's component output seems better than the D1, and is reasonably acceptable, but upscaling is not possible out of the component outputs. DVI output is the star and the reason to buy this player.

Aspect ratio control for 4:3 discs is handled via a zoom button, which makes the image fit in a 16:9 screen. Personally, I have never been all that fond of zooming 4:3 material, I prefer a stretch mode, but that is personal taste. The player has the standard goodies such as a subtitle toggle switch and parental protection, as well as a reasonably quick layer change.

I still don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see expensive plasma televisions mated to a cheap DVD player. Those owners just have no idea what they are missing. By spending about a hundred bucks more than a regular DVD player, they could get a picture that is a significant step up, and considering what people spend on LCDs and plasmas, $250 is small potatoes. The D2 is a much better integrated package than the D1, and its better build quality and better remote make it much easier to live with. If you have a plasma, LCD, DLP/LCD projector, or a DLP/LCD rear projection television, then you should take a good hard look at
the Bravo D2. Now guys, how about a nice Faroudja de-interlacing chips& I asked for one last year -- maybe a D3 is in the offing?

V, Inc Bravo D2 DVD Player
Media Supported: DVD-Video, SVCD, VCD,
Video Decoding: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4
Video Outputs: Composite, S-Video,
Analog YPbPr video, and digital
DVI (Progressive or Interlaced) scalable up to
1920 x 1080i or 1280 x 720p resolutions
Analog Outputs: Stereo analog, TosLink,
digital coaxial
Dimensions: 17" x 10.25" x 2.5"
Weight: 5.5 lbs.
Warranty: One Year
MSRP: $249

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