Samsung DVD-HD941, review

December 9, 2004

Hddvd941 Better late than never, or so they say. I’ve been following this one all the way back to May of this year and now the DVD-HD941 has finally made its way to vendors. The 941 is yet another in a growing line of ‘up-converting’ standard definition DVD players. Up-converting in the sense it will display up to 1080 interlaced lines of resolution, but with only 480 lines of resolution on DVD’s your guess is as good as mine where they get the rest. I’m kidding. In essence the lines are just mapped and ‘repeated’ to a certain extent, obviously not really improving on the original image.

The 941 can output 720p, 768p, and 1080i through its HDMI connection but not through the component outputs. You’re relegated to 480i/p there, a Faroudja DCDi interlacer handles the video processing and the player does support SACD audio. The supplied remote got everything right in my book, with one glaring exception, it’s not backlit. How are you supposed to navigate a numpad, shuttle commands, OSD buttons, and a jog shuttle if you’re watching a movie in the dark? Apparently you get no such goodies on a DVD player from Samsung that lists for $299.00.


First Impressions: The player looks to be really well made. It has a brushed aluminum front panel and a silvery/grey case. The front panel controls are minimalist but there is however one slightly annoying feature on this player, it’s front panel display. I don’t want to say it’s overly bright but if windows were left open, 747’s might mistake the lights for a runway. Yeah it’s bright and I could find no dimming function on the remote or in the setup menu. That alone is no huge deal especially if, like in my setup, your source gear is behind your seating arrangement.

Setup: Moving onto the connections and setup, there wasn’t a lot of fuss getting this player setup and ready to play. The on screen display of the 941 contains all the normal functions of a DVD/SACD player; it was quick, colorful, and easy to navigate. As far as the rear panel connections go all was as expected minus the obvious lack of a DVI connection. While a HDMI is included, I have to wonder about the choice of connections here. I know HDMI is gaining in popularity but there are still quite a few display devices out there with DVI only. Oh well, I grabbed a HDMI to DVI adaptor and attached it to my 4805’s cable and gave it a whirl.

SACD Playback: I have to admit this was the first SACD capable player in my system, so my knowledge of how they ‘should’ sound is limited to a friends system (who happens to be a fanatical hi-res audio fan). He assures me even a mediocre SACD player should be noticeably better than just about any consumer grade CD player. As my CD player retailed for almost three times the price of the 941, I felt my standard CD player offered a lot more than the 941’s SACD playback.

If this was ‘SACD’ then maybe it’s not for me. I just happened to have a copy of Beck’s ‘Sea Change’ in SACD and the standard CD to test this out with. I tried out the 941 with the SACD first, thinking the difference would be so obvious that further evaluation would be pointless, not the case. Yeah, I heard a little more detail, maybe better spatialization and more bass, but the song (Guess I’m Doin’ Fine) just had no life or emotion to it and I knew this wasn’t what I remembered hearing from my CD player. So with a quick switch of the cables I went back and sure enough in overall musical enjoyment, the aging Rega CD player trounced the SACD playback of the HD941. The acoustic strings on (Lost Cause) just sounded more like, well an acoustic guitar, by comparison the 941 was flat and emotionless.

Video performance: I started out with the last disc that was in my Denon DVD-1910, ‘Hollow Man’ Superbit, and I immediately noticed something that didn’t seem quite right. All of the super-fine shadow detail was black, that is to say nonexistent. This resulted in an image that seemed overly dark, even after recalibrating and eventually boosting the brightness slightly. Having read several forum postings about the DVD-HD941 not passing below black, I became suspicious if the combination of the 941 and my display were encountering the same problem. With Digital Video Essentials in hand I skipped forward to Title 12, Chapter 2 and sure enough as the screenshots below illustrate, no below black bar. For comparisons sake I’ve included the same screenshots from my Denon DVD-1910, a player that retails for roughly the same amount.

  The black level bars can’t be seen             Very faint due to screenshot

Hddvd941_pluge Dvd1910_pluge

Notice the flat color here                          Richer colors with the Denon

Hddvd941_flag Dvd1910_flag

I’m a ‘if it’s better, it’s better’ kind of thinker. I had already come across a show stopping flaw with the 941 and saw no reason to go any further with the review. The addition of mediocre SACD performance to my system just didn’t warrant the loss in video performance, this player would have brought on. I’m told this is likely due to the fact I had to use a HDMI to DVI adaptor to be able to use the player digitally. In my setup, at least, DVI or even converted HDMI is much more preferable to analog component. But even with this in mind I decided to check out the player via 3-wire component, and again I was less than impressed with the video performance. The images with component weren’t quite as dark as with the HDMI/DVI but I still noticed quite a bit of shadow detail missing.

Summary: So who is this player for? Well one likely candidate is someone who’s only looking for a DVD/SACD player to match their Samsung display. But even that to me would be suspect as I could think of other up-scaling DVD players finished in silver, the Bravo D2 for example. I suppose as budget DVD/SACD players go, one could do worse. I just saw no reason to go on any further with the review once the black level problems were observed. Besides, I had a ‘real’ up-converter in a box just waiting to be connected and put through it’s paces, more on that later.



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


Comments

  • B.Greenway

    (1) A Canon SD110 3.2mp camera

    (2) I agree I really don’t get the need for HDMI, as DVI has the same copy protection enabled on it (HDCP) I guess it would reduce cabling once more receivers support HDMI.

  • B.Greenway

    (1) A Canon SD110 3.2mp camera

    (2) I agree I really don’t get the need for HDMI, as DVI has the same copy protection enabled on it (HDCP) I guess it would reduce cabling once more receivers support HDMI.

  • finishdish

    Thanks for the heads up on this product. A question… How are you capturing screenshots from the external DVD players?

    Also, who would want their audio and video signal running down the same cable ala HDMI? Video to display, audio to receiver, right? Does HDMI have more to do with copyright and piracy concerns than anything else?

    BTW Beck’s “Sea Change” is a great album.

  • finishdish

    Thanks for the heads up on this product. A question… How are you capturing screenshots from the external DVD players?

    Also, who would want their audio and video signal running down the same cable ala HDMI? Video to display, audio to receiver, right? Does HDMI have more to do with copyright and piracy concerns than anything else?

    BTW Beck’s “Sea Change” is a great album.