By Chris Beveridge
As we seem to do every so often, a new player comes to market
that simply gets our attention. The latest offering is the Skyworth DVD player, specifically the 1050P model. Skyworth's, as of this writing, are only available from China and surrounding areas, as they're designed to handle the oddities of that particular region with its variety of source material to deal with. Let's
check the specs first.
|Media Support||DVD Video, CD, Video CD, |
CD-Rom (MP-3), CDR
|Component Out (480i)||Yes|
Component Out (480p)
|RGB (VGA) Out||Yes|
|Built-in Dolby Digital Decoder||Yes|
|DTS Digital Out||Yes|
|Capability of Playing back DVD with |
Regional Coding Enhancement
|Color System Support||NTSC / PAL|
|Below Black playback||Yes|
Information courtesy of HiViZone (click
here to see pictures)
One of our main reasons for wanting this player was in that it's
a progressive scan deck. With the HDTV, we're really optimized to use this (as
progressive scan players don't add much if anything to regular TV's) and as
we're always trying to get the best out of our equipment, it felt like it was
time to finally retire our trust standby, the Pioneer 414.
A majority of the anime released in the US is not progressive,
but we also watch a large amount of Hollywood movies, which are. And in Japan,
there are more titles coming out in progressive format. But what is progressive
scan really mean? Let me quote the beta version of our upcoming technical FAQ as
was posted to the forum a few weeks back when the question arose:
"What is progressive scan and interlaced scan?
In simple terms progressive scan is both a way of storing video on a DVD,
and a way of displaying it on a screen. A progressive scan display draws every
horizontal line one after another on the screen for each frame. An interlaced
display however only draws every other line of a frame at a time, and switches
between drawing the odd and even lines of a frame. This means that interlaced
displays need two passes to draw a single frame. For 60Hz in NTSC this means
that the screen is redrawn 60 times per second, for a frame rate of half that
(it takes two passes remember) - 30 frames per second (fps). As video can be
displayed in either mode it can also be stored in one or the other mode on a
DVD. All normal TVs use interlaced scan.
Why is progressive video such a big deal?
If you have an interlaced system, then in truth progressive video does not
gain you very much. Since progressive video on DVD is more or less synonymous
with 24fps there is a slight compression gain. Instead of having to encode 30
frames per second the encoder only has to deal with 24 frames. Assuming the
same bitrate per second for two video streams of 24fps and 30fps then the
24fps stream will have a higher bitrate per frame than the 30fps stream. If
the bitrate/second is low on a disc then progressive video does allow you to
squeeze an extra bit of compression quality. Both progressive and interlaced
material display without a problem on interlaced systems.
If you do have a progressive system however then the difference is huge.
Most people liken it to watching hi-def, or even film. You have twice as many
lines on the screen at the same time compared to if you’d only have been
using an interlaced display. The result is a perceived resolution increase.
The problem arises when you try to watch interlaced material on a progressive
system. There has to be a conversion first. Depending on what de-interlacing
algorithm is used, the results can either look very bad (blurry – or have so
called feathering artifacts) or very good – even to the point of the results
being comparable to if you used a progressive source. Computer DVD players are
so far worst at handling this, with standalone players and external line
doublers/scalers being much better. There are developments on the computer
side, which hopefully should lead to better results in the future. On the
other hand if the source is progressive then software DVD players actually
take the lead on quality.
What do I need to take full advantage of progressive video?
To take full advantage of progressive video you’re going to need a
progressive DVD player and a progressive display. All computer DVD players are
progressive, while very few standalone players are. Standalone progressive
players have typically only been available in the high-end market – but
prices are coming down and progressive players are becoming easier to get hold
of. Progressive video is output either using ordinary component cables, or
Progressive displays consist of HDTV, LCD/plasma, monitors and video
projectors. In addition there are a select few TVs that can display
So going by this information, with a progressive scan deck, progressive
encoded material is going to look better. But there may be problems with
interlaced material, which makes up the majority of anime releases.
In other words, uh oh.
So what would be expected is that the anime reviews here would start going
down in terms of video quality. After all, de-interlacing can cause problems and
make things look worse than they actually are. But this is where the Skyworth
truly shines. The player uses the Faroudja FLI2200 chipset for de-interlacing
material. This particular chipset is one of those "highly revered"
ones, and if you were looking into DVD decks when the format was first released,
you may recall hearing about the 5000$ Faroudja decks and their amazing
displays. Well, that's what's in this player to de-interlace material.
So to turn back around, what does this mean? Well, it's a very high-end chip
that's doing the work here and can take the interlaced material and work wonders
with it when it finally does output it. How drastic of a change? In my review of
Bandai's Crest of the Stars, I had complained about an excessive amount of
artifacting throughout. There were a lot of shots from space showing the blue
oceans of the planet below. Those shots were completely blocky. Rainbows were
mixed in here and there throughout the show. There was a fair bit of line noise
that made a lot of sequences jitter. The gaseous clouds in the opening sequence
were all blocky as they expanded. All of this was on our solid Pioneer 414.
After putting this disc into the Skyworth, I'd say it corrected around 80% of
the problems. That's not to say that my player was bad, as it's definitely in
the encoding, but more a testament to just how well this player can handle
problem discs. We had watched Amon Saga that morning under the Pioneer 414 and
had some real problems with the authoring, where sections were just being
blurred. The Skyworth changed these blurs into more defined pictures, but you
could still see the edge rainbows on them.
I was floored between the two tests. While both discs still had obvious
problems, the change in clarity was simply stunning. I proceeded through a stack
of discs and came up with some interesting results:
Princess Mononoke: Just when I thought this movie could not look any
better, it goes and knocks my socks off even more - WITH outside sunlight
pouring into the room no less.
Gladiator: Simply great looking, much sharper detail. Mainly used this to
check out the DTS out ability.
Fifth Element: My constant demo disc from 1998. The show has such vibrant
colors and colors that are prone to more artifacting. Checking out the Diva
sequence and the ensuing fight, it feels like I'm seeing an even more vivid
show now and even my wife (whose watched this movie a couple dozen times) took
notice of the increase in quality.
Buttobi/CPU: The show simply looked solid almost the entire way through. No
problems, just smooth if unexceptional looking animation.
Mail Order Maiden: This disc looked fairly soft and just lower quality, but
I attributed it to the source material. Giving it a spin in the Apex player on
the 19" tv showed a lot of background artifacting and rainbows.
Kiki's Delivery Service: While there are some source issues with some of
the night time sequences, the simple gorgeousness of the daytime scenes,
especially involving water and the grassy hills, made this movie beautiful.
Trigun: Rainbows? There were once rainbows in this show? While they're not
completely gone, they're at such a drastically reduced level it would have
completely skewered past gradings.
That alone is a lot to love about this player. There's even more though. It's
essentially a disc in -> picture out player. What does that mean? No
protection at all, NTSC, PAL, RCE, Macrovision and so forth. The player outputs
in NTSC, it outputs in PAL, it doesn't even consider RCE to exist and
Macrovision is off. Region coding is out of there as well. The only thing it
can't do is convert PAL to NTSC, which is unfortunate, but something I can't
even bring myself to really complain about considering all the good it does.
Heck, this thing even has a VGA output on it!
And karaoke! Woo!
Seriously though, this player is just loaded with what it can do. Between all
the outputs on the back, the karaoke, it's ability to handle so many different
things such as DVD Video, CD, Video CD, CD-Rom (MP-3), CDR, the fact that
it can have a firmware update by loading a special CD, I'm just in heaven. Even
the disc loading tray is quieter and smoother.
If there was one downside for me, it was that the plug is a HK/UK style plug,
which required my ordering a converter for it. Those who have any skill can
simply unscrew the plug and change it, but I'd rather have the original on there
for my own weird reasons. The deck handles voltage from most countries so no
voltage adapters are necessary. But other than that one issue, I've simply been
rediscovering many of my discs.
The audio side of the player, using the digital bitstream via optical, hasn't
produced any significant differences from our Pioneer deck which is good. The
remote for the player is unfortunately not backlit, but is pretty workable. One
really nice feature on the remote is the ability to mute the player itself, as
opposed to muting the TV or the receiver. And having the choice of a
2x/4x/8x/20x forward and reverse scan is also really nice. The players menus are
fairly minimal and a bit clunky (but at least in English with a selection to
change to Chinese), but once you get it set up once you rarely go back in.
If anything I've really heard a complaint over, it's that the remote is slow
when using actual disc menus. What I've noticed is that you really need to have
the remote facing nearly directly at the player, and it'll work great. Once you
move outside of an angle too far, it starts to get a bit choppy.
In the end, this player has killed the video gradings for my reviews. What
will be left will be the commentary on the video and what we see. I expect to
hear some complaints about it, since some will say the gradings help. Others
will complain that the video reviews won't be accurate for most folks out there.
This should have been obvious since last year though, since we've been watching
anime on an HDTV. We moved beyond the norm quite awhile ago. Adding this
progressive scan player to our gear (and we're only going to have one player
hooked up) will help show what anime will look like to those who are thinking of
upgrading or will be in the next couple of years. Once again, we're getting
slightly ahead of the curve. And in talking with those who are in the same
position, using this kind of player with a higher end display, it's the best
place to be.
If you have questions about this deck, progressive scan or other gear, check out our DVD
& Home Theater subforum. For more on the Skyworth check out the DVD
section of AVS Forum. Please don't email
us asking where to get it.