Helios Labs was very kind in sending me their H2000 upscaling multi-function DVD player, which is region free. The device playbacks just about anything you can throw at it, and can upscale standard definition content to high definition – functionality you really want when you have a high-definition ready television.The H2000 supports playback of DVD, VCD, SVCD, MPEG1/2/4, DivX, and Xvid in the video department; in the audio department it supports normal audio CDs as well as .mp3 files. It also handles just about any recordable format under the sun; CD-R, CD-RW, DVD+R/DVD-R, and DVD+RW/DVD-RW. It plays back the video content with the ability to upscale standard definition content to a high(er) definition resolution of your choice; you can change these ‘on the fly’ (480i/576i/480p/576p/720p/1080i). The device is completely region-free.
It has a scaring amount of output options for both audio and video. Composite, s-video, component, HDMI/DVI, and standard VGA for video, and analog stereo, 5.1 surround, optical, and coaxial for audio. The box itself contains the DVD player itself (I am so happy companies include the main product in the box), a user manual, an analog audio/video cable, an HDMI cable (thank you!), and a remote control. The power cord is attached to the device, and this is the first downside: power cables should be detachable, so I can easily replace the American cable with a proper European/Dutch one (interesting note: the device was shipped from Germany, but still had an American power connector). The device weighs 1.5kg, which is actually quite light for audio/video equipment; my Technics CD player weighs at least three or four times that (over 15 years old, but still unbeatable by anything else I ever had).
The design of the device is not exactly my cup of tea, but don’t look at me, I am ridiculously anal about these things. Audio/video equipment should be plain matt black, with square angles, and no frivolities. The H2000 has a piano-black front bezel, and an off-white top cover. Sadly, the physical controls of the device are located at the top, which kind of sucks if you stack your HiFi equipment (like I do). It also has a master power switch on the back, similar to many PSUs in computers. Sadly, the device does not respect ‘standard’ HiFi component sizes, and has quite long ‘legs’, so it stands out like an eye-sore. I do not really know why manufacturers try to individualise ‘design’ like this, since I suspect most people do not stare at their DVD player all day in awe. But hey, that’s just me.
The remote control is excellent; minimalist and to-the-point. The labels on the buttons are clear, and the buttons themselves even glow in the dark – and let’s be honest, which self-respecting geek does not totally dig things that emit light. What I like about the remote is that it allows you to change so many things on-the-fly; I already mentioned the resolution switches, but the same applies to PAL/NTSC and 50hz/60hz switching.
I am not so enthusiastic about the on-screen-display. The fonts are not anti-aliased, and the Dutch translations make the Language Union shiver – but at least there are Dutch translations, which in itself is a good thing. The menus are sorted logically, and it is never a problem to find a specific setting.
Video quality is, especially with the upscaling technology, astonishing. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride never looked this good; very sharp and vivid (please note that the best video quality is delivered through HDMI. If your TV cannot interface with HDMI, component is your best choice). Quite a few definite steps up from my previous DVD player. I also played a random selection of films I had burnt from DivX/Xvid files onto CDs, and they all worked just fine, albeit on some the volume was a tad bit too low, but that is nothing my amplifier could not solve. The H2000 also includes zooming technology, but apart from zooming in on Fiona Apple’s face while playing the DVD side of the dual-disc version of Extraordinary Machine (real fans have the dual-disc, of course), I see little use for a zooming feature on a DVD player.
Overall, for 89 EUR, this is a very capable low-end DVD/video player; however, an HDTV is a requirement for a device like this, else the upscaling technology is rather useless.