Product Review (September 2004) - V Inc.
BRAVO D2 DVI Enabled Digital Media Player

V Inc. is a relatively new company that is based in Costa Mesa, California. They are known by many home theater enthusiasts primarily for their DVI capable Bravo D1 DVD player that received high praise from the media last year. They have now entered the consumer electronics market with a wide range of new products that include not only DVD players, but LCD and Plasma displays, a high-definition receiver and the recently announced VIZIO RP56 (an HD2 DLP Rear-screen Projection TV). We obtained a review unit of the new BRAVO D2 DVD player, which is an update from their previous D1 model. Unlike the majority of DVD players currently on the market, the D2 includes a DVI output that enables the DVD player to send out video digitally to a display. This allows the video processing (including deinterlacing and scaling) to be performed completely in the digital domain, eliminating potential conversion errors that often occur with conventional analog output only players. In addition, many digital displays and projectors prefer to never see the video in analog form. The DVI output supports 480p (720x480), 852x480, 720p (1280x720) and 1080i (1920x1080). Custom DVI resolution and timing is also possible with a special adjustment screen. In addition to supporting DVD-Video, the Bravo D2 also handles MPEG-4 AVI movies, SVCD, VCD, CD-R/RW, MP3 and JPEG images. Neither SACD nor DVD-Audio is supported with this player.

The looks of the Bravo D2 is attractive with a silver finish and a display hidden behind a highly reflective (mirror-like) front panel. It appears hidden much like one-way glass when the display is off, but can be seen when the unit powers up. The power button is located on the left side and the DVD control buttons are located on the right. Each of the six control buttons have a blue illumination behind them giving the unit a nice visual appeal. Build quality is not extraordinary, but then again neither is the $250 MSRP for this player.

Unlike the earlier Bravo D1, the D2 now includes picture controls for brightness, contrast and color saturation. The Bravo D2 also features picture zoom controls, MPEG-4, JPEG, DVD-R/+R CD, CD-R/RW, and Kodak Picture CD playback as well as PCM, DTS and Dolby Digital audio pass-through on its toslink and coaxial digital outputs.

The Bravo D2 firmware can be easily upgraded by the user. By simply downloading the latest file from the V Inc. website and burning a CD with the ISO image, the user can now benefit from the latest update immediately. We received the D2 and soon noticed an update was available for the player at the V Inc. website. We proceeded to update the player from version 1.1.9 to version 1.1.10 and noticed a bug having to do with losing memory settings during power off had been fixed. This is a great capability for any consumer product.

Rear Panel
The rear panel of the D2 includes a composite, s-video, component and DVI output connectors. There is also coaxial/optical digital outputs and dual stereo analog outputs. Not all video outputs can operate simultaneously and the user must define these using the Video Setting menu. If you connect the DVI cable and expect to get video right away, guess again. The D2 initially defaults to the composite/s-video outputs and requires a menu change to get the other outputs active. A simple short-cut is to hookup the DVI connection and use the TV Mode button on the remote to cycle through the outputs until the video is displayed.

Remote
The included remote has a full featured design for controlling all of the functions of the DVD player. While it's a much better design than the one included with the D1, there is no backlight, but instead some buttons that glow in the dark. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to see in poorly lit settings and you will have to rely on your memory if you plan to use them in the dark. I would prefer to have the basic Play, Stop, Pause, FF, Rew and Chapter buttons visible in the dark. These standard operating buttons are located at the very bottom of the remote and are fairly small.

Navigating through the menus on the D2 is a simple task. There are three sets of user menus on the D2 setup screen; Initial Setting, Video Setting, and Audio Setting. Note that changing Video Setting may result in picture loss if you happen to disable the output you are currently viewing. Don't forget to use the TV Mode button if this should occur.

Menus
The Initial Setting menu has five items (VCD PBC, DVD parental Level, TV Type, Change Password and Firmware Revision). The VCD PBC set the playback control for video CDs. The DVD Parental Level can be set to 1-8 or off. The user can select the TV Type to be 4:3 Letterbox, 4:3 Pan and Scan or 16:9. The Password defaults to "0000", but can be changed here. Finally, the Firmware Revision is displayed for the user to see in the event an update might be desired.

The Video Setting menu controls the three sets of video outputs. The HD DVI Out submenu selects from 480p, 720p, 1080i, 852x480 and Off. The allows for 1:1 pixel mapping with compatible displays for improved picture quality. The HD YPbPr Out submenu select from 480p, 720p, 1080i and Off. The 720p and 1080i modes only work with non-protected content when using the analog component outputs. The TV Out submenu defines whether the composite/s-video outputs are active or the component video output are active. Enabling the DVI or component outputs will turn off the composite/s-video outputs.

The Audio Setting menu controls the analog and digital outputs on the player. The Analog/DPCM setting turns on the analog outputs. The Encoded Digital setting sends out Dolby Digital or DTS bitstreams to an outboard processor or receiver.

The Bravo D2 also includes a DVI Custom Setting screen so that users can adjust the DVI parameters for their particular display. This feature offers flexibility for different display products. Once the parameters are entered, the data is stored in the unit's memory. However, the parameter settings are not intuitive and may require that the user contect V Inc. technical support for specific display information.

Inside
Like the D1, the D2 design is based on the Sigma Designs EM8500 DVD decoder chip. This highly integrated processor handles the wide range of capabilities found in this player. Both deinterlacing as well as scaling is performed by the EM8500. All of the audio and video processing is contained on a highly integrated A/V board. The board appears well built and is about as far as one could get from the noisy switching power supply located on the other side of the chassis. The result is performance that rivals many of the comparably priced players currently on the market.

The DVI interface uses the proven Silicon Image PanelLink® SiI™ 164™ transmitter chip to send digital data over the connected cable. This chip is responsible for providing the four TMDS differential pair link to the display. Fortunately, this device has been around for some time now and has been widely used in PC related products.

Setup
We connected the Bravo D2 to a Panasonic PT-AE500U high definition LCD projector capable of displaying 720p natively. We ran a very long (20 meter) AudioQuest DV-1 DVI cable from the Bravo D2 to the Panasonic projector without any problems. The DVI standard originated for personal computers, but is now widely used in new display products. Unfortunately cable length becomes an issue as many of the new projectors are mounted far from the source which feeds them. As a result, it is not uncommon to have dropouts or sparkles when using DVI. While the Bravo D2 worked perfectly with the long AudioQuest DV-1 cable and the Panasonic projector, the interface became unreliable when using an Optoma H77 projector. A shorter cable worked just fine. It's a complex equation that involves all three (transmitter, cable and receiver) pieces to make it work reliably. Our setup also included a Mitsubishi LT-3020 high definition LCD display using the analog component video interface.

Performance
The primary reason for buying this player is for its DVI capabilities, so we will concentrate on this output. However, it is worth mentioning the D2 is a capable analog progressive scan DVD player. Video bandwidth from the analog component outputs looked much cleaner and sharper than what we saw on the first generation Bravo D1 player, so some improvement have been made since the earlier D1 model.

As expected, the DVI performance was excellent and should really be the primary reason for looking at this player. The DVI interface resulted in a very clean and noise free picture. The advantages of using a pure digital interface became apparent when watching movies on the Bravo D2. As an option, users can choose to run the D2 in 480p and have the projector or display do the scaling. This decision will be largely based on the video performance of the display device. Some may or may not see an improvement, but in either case the video still remains completely digital using the DVI interface. Deinterlacing was good thanks to the 3:2 pulldown detection and has many of the positive attributes one might expect. The scaling was also top notch with smooth contours and no objectionable jagged edges. Colors were nicely saturated creating natural looking fleshtones. We didn't see any problems related to Y/C delay with this player, which is good since there are no adjustments for such errors. Animated features such as Monsters Inc. and Toy Story rendered beautiful images on the screen with excellent detail.

Even though this player can send video data digitally to the display, it is limited to the quality of the processing electronics. While we feel the deinterlacing and scaling are very good, it is certainly challenged by others such as Faroudja's DCDi™ and DVDO's iScan™ processors. Merely keeping data in the digital domain doesn't equate to a perfect picture as there are other factors that affect picture quality. However, the advantages of DVI were apparent and the player has the benefit of sending unscaled 480p DVI video to a display or projector that possibly has better scaling abilities.

Audio performance was on par with other products in this price range. We didn't focus much on the analog outputs as most users will most likely be using an outboard processor or receiver. The digital audio interface to our Parasound AVC-2500u resulted in excellent sound quality. However, there were annoying "clicks" that we heard when skipping through chapters. This only occurred when chapters were manually changed and didn't come into play during continuous viewing of a DVD. We are not sure if this is a problem for all players and processors, but we heard it on our Parasound AVC-2500u.

Conclusion
The Bravo D2 performs well for a DVD player that costs only $250, especially given its scaling and DVI capabilities. As an analog player it did well, but there are plenty of other manufacturers to choose from for low-cost progressive scan DVD players, many of which do an excellent job of deinterlacing. The DVI output alone makes this player an exceptional value for the videophile who wants a pure signal throughout the chain. Until other low-cost DVD player appear with DVI outs, the D2 will remain an excellent choice for those videophiles. The key point is this player offers a low cost solution for a pure digital video path from womb to tomb.

- Kevin Nakano


Review System

Projector: Panasonic PT-AE500U High-Definition LCD Projector
Screen:
Stewart Filmscreen 100" Luxus Deluxe FireHawk Screenwall
Display: Mitsubishi LT-3020 30" High Definition LCD Display
Preamplifier/Processor:
Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 TripoleŽ Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: Samsung SIR-T165 ATSC Terrestrial Receiver
HTPC: Sony Vaio PCV-RZ22G with Macro Image Technology MDP-100 HDTV Tuner
D-VHS VCR #1: Marantz MV8300 D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
D-VHS VCR #2: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
Laserdisc Player: Pioneer CLD-D704 CD/VCD/LD Player
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
Video Generator: Sencore VP403 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Video Signal Analyzer: Sencore VSA794 NTSC Video Signal Analyzer
Color Analyzer: Sencore CP5000 Multi-Display Color Analyzer


Review - At a Glance


BRAVO D2 DVI Enabled Digital Media Player

Features:

  • DVI enabled digital output with scaling (480p, 720p and 1080i)
  • Progressive scan conversion with 3:2 pull down for film-based content
  • Supports DVD, VCD, SVCD, CD-R/RW, MP3-CD’s, MPEG-4 AVI and JPEG picture CD’s
  • Full Brightness, Contrast and Color Saturation controls

     
    Specifications
    Media Support: DVD-Video, Superbit DVD, SVCD, VCD, CD-R/RW, MP3 and JPEG
    Video Decoding: MPEG-1, MPEG-2 MP@ML, MPEG-4 Simple, MPEG-4 Advanced Simple Profile (Copy protected DVD playback limited to 480i, 576i, 480p on YPbPr)
    Audio Decoding: Dolby Digital, MPEG-1, 2, and 3 (MP3), and PCM
    Video Outputs: NTSC/PAL Composite and S-Video, Analog YPbPr Video and digital DVI, Macrovision copy protection on 480i, 576i, and 480p outputs
    Audio Outputs: Dual Stereo analog audio, Optical and coaxial S/PDIF digital audio (supports Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS pass through)
    Other Features: Preset DVI outputs for 480p, 720p, 1080i and for EDTV Plasma 852x480, DVI custom setting for non-HDTV displays, DVI Color Contrast Control, New Remote Control, DVD ROM and Screensaver
    Finish: Silver
    Certifications: UL/CUL, FCC
    Warranty: 1- Year
    Weight: 5.5 pounds


    Package Contents:

  • Bravo D2 Digital Media Player
  • Remote Control
  • Two "AAA" Batteries
  • Audio Cable

  • Company Information
    V, Inc.
    320A Kalmus Drive
    Costa Mesa, CA 92626
    Phone:714-668-0588
    Fax:714-668-9099
    Email: Sales@vinc.com
    Website: www.vinc.com

    Operating Hours: 9 am - 5 pm PST

    Customer Support / Tech Support
    Techsupp@vinc.com


    Source: Manufacturer Loan
    MSRP: $249.99


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