NeuNeo High Definition DVD Player, Review

August 26, 2004

NeuNeo-DVDIn my last DVD player review, I stated that HD-DVD was months away, by even the most the conservative estimates. While this is still the case, here’s one that actually claims to be “High Definition” and available today. Obviously this player isn’t a “true” HD-DVD device, in the sense that it will play HD-DVDs or Blu-Ray Discs, but it will up-scale standard definition discs to 1080i, 720p, etc. Although if you happen to come across a “HVD” or “High-Clearness Video Disc”, available in certain Chinese or Korean markets, you just might be able to watch “hi-def DVD” now since this player seems to handle these discs. I didn’t have any on hand to test this function, however.

The NeuNeo High Definition DVD Player, henceforth known as the NeuNeo DVD, is a region free, progressive scan DVD player that also up-scales standard definition discs to 1080i, 720p, 576p and 480p. It handles all the usual disc formats such as red book DVDs, CD-ROM, CD-R/RW, DVD, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, Audio CD, Video CD, and Kodak PhotoCD. One feature lacking in the NeuNeo is a DVi or HDMI output, although the player can upscale through the component out, which is something few other up-converting DVD players can do. The NeuNeo also has a VGA out, with support for several different resolutions.

The NueNeo DVD is a half size or “slim” style design, it’s just under 2 inches tall. The supplied remote was adequate and had all the typical on-remote features you’d expect. Menu navigation is one of the NeuNeo DVD strong points. It was simple, clean, and very easy to navigate, by even a first time user. As seen here, all of the formats and resolutions for both component and VGA are easily selected by a tick box.

I used the THX optimizer from the two-disc ‘Finding Nemo’ DVD for contrast, brightness, and color settings on my Monivision DM-6552SW hi-def monitor, and found the player to provide a decent image right out of the box. Reference DVDs used included ‘The Fifth Element Superbit Edition’, ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’, ‘Gladiator’, and ‘Finding Nemo’.

Ok. Now with all the cursory details out of the way, let me say first off that I don’t like giving negative reviews. I’d rather spend my time writing about and exploring new home theater products that are good buys, stellar performers, etc. This just can’t be the case with this review. While I have no doubt the NeuNeo may be a great player for some users, it just didn’t give me that knock your socks off, cost to value ratio I look for in home theater gear.

The NeuNeo DVD I tested had a few issues. While they were ‘deal breakers’ for me, at least one of these issues could likely be resolved with a firmware upgrade (something the player is capable of). Number one, and the most serious in my book, were Dolby Digital drop outs through the coaxial output, mainly when starting and stopping the disc, as well as skipping chapters. This is not something I could live with and pretty much ended any chance of me recommending this player.

To be certain this was an issue with the DVD player and not my equipment. I tried several different receivers in addition to mine; a Marantz SR680 (admittedly a little aged), a Marantz SR5400, and even a Harmon Kardon AVR330, just to be sure. The only receiver that showed better results than mine was the SR5400, but even this receiver didn’t eliminate the problem fully. So I’m fairly confident the issues experienced weren’t mine, but some sort of sync issues with the NeuNeo’s digital sound chip. The Optical digital output performed better but still suffered some dropouts.

Secondly, and granted this one I’m less sure about, I noticed some rolling horizontal “noise” in the picture, nothing painful to the eye but slightly distracting nonetheless. With some ac plug re-orientation, I was able to minimize this to a point that it all but went away, and with a power cycle on/off even eliminated it once. Power quality isn’t a hard science, no matter what anyone tells you, it’s not always predictable or possible to eliminate problems. On this issue I’ll give the NeuNeo the benefit of the doubt.

Now having said all of this, was it a total loss? No not at all. While I did see some discs perform less than expected, some scenes in ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’ looked great with bright accurate vivid colors and razor sharp detail. Credits and sub title text was very crisp, something my older Sony DVD player always under-whelmed me on. I tried a few more discs, ‘Finding Nemo’, looked good, and a few scenes in ‘Gladiator’ looked as good or slightly better than my aging Sony DVD player, but again, I just wasn’t “wowed” enough to make me consider upgrading, just yet. I should mention the NeuNeo contact I worked with, in obtaining this review unit, was extremely helpful in trying to help sort out the issues and reported that other pending reviews of the NeuNeo DVD were going much smoother. The bottom line is if this type of player is of interest to you, by all means try one out for yourself, after all home theater equipment varies wildly from user to user.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under DVD Player Reviews, Reviews