Denon DVD-1800BD Blu-ray player £550
2nd Feb 2009 | 10:00
Denon strut their audiophile credentials with a foray into the land of Blu-ray
Released last year with a price tag more in line with a top-end deck, this model should deliver some pretty special picture quality and features for the money.
The deck is robustly constructed and attractive, in an understated way. Available in black or silver, it is slim and minimally adorned with buttons.
Unusually, there's an SD card slot, which not only enables you to play back MP3, WMA and JPEG files, but also lets you upload 'Virtual Package' data for certain BonusView Blu-ray discs.
And herein lies our first gripe over the Denon's spec – it's only Profile 1.1, which is unforgiveable for a player at this price.
The manufacturer might argue that it's aimed at videophiles who put picture performance above frills such as BD-Live, but with rival players from LG and Panasonic offering Profile 2.0 features for half the price, it's baffling as to why Denon would want to restrict its product in this way.
As a result you won't find an ethernet port or multichannel analogue outputs. There is, however, an HDMI v1.3 output, which can pipe 1080/24p pictures to your TV and deliver Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio to your amp as a raw bitstream.
Although both of these formats can be decoded into LPCM, it only decodes the standard 5.1 track and discards the extra data needed for the higher sound quality.
The rest of the spec sheet though is none too shabby. There's a decent range of picture tweaks, enabling you to change the levels of colour, brightness, sharpness, gamma and noise reduction, plus the deck plays DivX from DVD or CD and upscales DVDs to 1080p.
Operating the Denon is a piece of cake, thanks to a very slick and attractive setup menu, which offers some basic tweaks in the 'Quick' menu or more detailed options in the 'Custom' menu. The displays during playback are clear and informative, and everything is easy to control thanks to the thoughtfully arranged remote with its surprisingly attractive brushed black finish.
Although disc loading times are nowhere near as fast as the LG or Sharp players, it still gets most discs up and running in around a minute, which isn't an unreasonable amount of time to wait.
Top end pictures
The Denon also turns in a fantastic picture performance, the crux of which is its razor-sharp detail reproduction. It draws out the smallest scintilla of detail from patterns and textures, giving the image a wonderfully clear and forceful quality.
Colour reproduction also gets a clean bill of health, handling bright hues with the necessary intensity, but treating more delicate tones with pleasing subtlety: the nuances of complexions during close-ups and tonal gradations within colours look smooth and natural.
The deck also does a fine job with test patterns, keeping jaggies to a minimum on the edges of rotating bars and reproducing fine detail without much moiré noise or flickering.
However, its performance with these patterns isn't quite as assured as the contenders from Pioneer or Panasonic, and the same can be said about its general movie performance, too.
DVD pictures are excellent though, and you can rest assured that your SD disc collection is in safe hands. Edges look clean and there's very little noise or motion artefacts to spoil the show.