We viewed the movies side by side on two calibrated 50-inch Pioneer Elite PRO-FHD1 1080p plasma TVs. The TVs match the 1080p resolution used by most Blu-ray and HD DVD movies, including the ones we used in our testing. They also have a Pure/Dot-by-Dot aspect-ratio setting that let us pipe the raw video feed from the player to the display without any scaling. (The term "1080p" refers to 1080 lines of progressive-scan video--double the content of 1080i, or interlaced, video.) We tested all but two of the players by outputting images at 1080p over an HDMI connection to our TV; we assessed the Toshiba HD-A2 and the Microsoft Xbox 360 combo at their maximum output of 1080i over HDMI and component video, respectively.
To determine the best players of the group, we looked at the same scenes from the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD versions of Corpse Bride, Good Night and Good Luck, Mission: Impossible III, The Phantom of the Opera (2004), and Rumor Has It. To gauge how well these players upscale standard-definition movies to 1080p, we also viewed selected scenes from the DVD versions of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Seabiscuit.
Jon L. Jacobi is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. Melissa J. Perenson is senior products editor for PC World U.S. Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about film for Bayflicks.net.
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