With Jurassic Park we noted that everything looked great with picture enhancement off. As soon as we turned the player to 'sharpness', we could see more pronounced MPEG compression noise. Colour mode was our favourite here, but this disc is incredibly well-encoded, so little can be done to improve it beyond what the movie studio has already done.
So, what do we make of the picture modes? Well, sharp mode adds edge detail selectively where the player thinks it's needed. This looks okay, if slightly artificial at times. The colour mode gives a boost to the greens and reds, which makes the films look more cheerful, but it might not be what the director intended.
On the other hand, contrast mode seems to make the film look like it was shot when colour movies were just starting out. For each film you watch, you're likely to find a mode you like, but to be honest you could just turn the thing off and enjoy the E500 as an upscaling DVD player without the trickery.
Ultimately, this player lives and dies based on the quality of the DVDs you put into it. If they aren't encoded well, there's nothing any hardware can do to cheer them up. If they have a good bit rate, you should be in for a decent experience. Just don't feel forced into turning the picture mode from the 'off' position.
If this player were £80 it would be a more attractive deal for us. We hate to say it, but if you can still find a Toshiba HD DVD player, snap it up, as they did a pretty amazing job of upscaling video -- even the entry-level E1 made DVDs look amazing.
It's noteworthy that Toshiba has some TVs on the horizon that feature a more advanced upscaling system, and the early samples we've seen have been brilliant. So perhaps this is a good time to wait and see what arrives on the market in the next few months.
Edited by Marian Smith