This system can upconvert standard DVDs to both 720p and 1080i high-definition signals. It's not true high-definition but it comes close, and is the easiest way of improving your film's image quality without spending exorbitant amounts on next-generation Blu-ray or HD DVD players.
Disc compatibility includes standard DVDs and CDs including + and - R/RW formats carrying encoded JPEG, WMA, MP3 files and high-compression DivX videos. You can also play high-quality DVD-Audio multi-channel music discs, although the popularity of this format has waned considerably since its introduction.
The integrated digital amplifier supposedly produces purer audio quality by way of less signal degradation than its analogue counterparts, as well as being more power efficient if you're environmentally minded. The system claims a total power output of 700W, but you can take this with a pinch of salt as these figures are always dependent on the manufacturers' flexible means of measurement.
The amplifier is supported by vanilla decoding for Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, which are used by the vast majority of DVD titles. There's also Dolby Pro Logic I/II processing that can recreate surround effects from stereo signals, so you can listen to TV programmes or music using all speakers.
An AM/FM tuner completes the all-in-one specification with up to 50 station presets and RDS (radio data system) information for FM broadcasts, which will display various information and allows you to search for stations by programme type.
Setting up surround systems is always a chore but this model's basic functionality shaves considerable time off the process. There are very few interactive adjustments to contend with, especially with picture options, but the menu system is well presented. You can virtually plug and play after making simple adjustments for speaker levels and distances, while most functions can be controlled directly from the remote.
Sound options are more extensive with a variety of preset modes and virtual surround enhancements for both stereo and multi-channel soundtracks. There's also a XTS/XTS Pro feature that claims to optimise the balance between low and high frequencies for a more realistic and involving sound.
Performance is a slightly mixed bag containing average image quality enhanced by more impressive audio ability -- but at this price it's still a steal.
Upscaled images expose more elaborate detail and cohesive movement than their analogue understudies, while colours are realistically balanced between natural and superficial shades. Black levels, however, are not vast enough to produce class-leading contrast, and detail is lost in dimly lit scenes. There's also a surprising amount of picture noise that constantly afflicts bright backgrounds irrelevant of the type of output signal used.
Sonically speaking, the system is far more inspiring. The speakers and subwoofer integrate excellently using seamless steering to create a wide and involving soundstage. Sounds are well separated and subtleties are not ignored or too conspicuous, while the expressive midrange delivers dialogue with plenty of realism. Music performance is more restricted but that's par for the course with practically any home cinema system.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield