What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 3 Sep 2008, 11:00am

Onkyo DV-SP406

Tested at £100
100100
5

Very impressive pictures at the price: do you need any more from a budget player?

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For

  • Fine upscaled images, with motion handled particularly well
  • useful USB input

Against

  • Sound lacks body
  • terrible remote, very small display

IIt's just as well for Onkyo that these reviews don't start and end with perceived value, because the DV-SP406 would fare quite badly.

Despite being the most expensive player in this Group Test, economies are more evident here than elsewhere – feel the nasty little remote control, goggle at the tiny display or run a finger over the cheap-feeling fascia and you'll see what we mean. We're not suggesting that the Onkyo won't last, simply that first impressions count.

Luckily, when it comes to second impressions, the DV-SP406 redeems itself spectacularly. Specification is as comprehensive as should reasonably be expected at the price – the fascia-mounted USB input is a thoughtful touch – and the on-screen menus are tidy and simple. 

The Onkyo is quick to read and load DVDs, and its picture quality is enough to secure the full five stars.

Deep and detailed pictures
The '406 does a fine job of upscaling the movie Sideways to 1080p resolution. Contrasts are distinct and decisive, bright white images remaining clean, even in busy, energetic scenes.

Dark tones retain plenty of detail, and blacks are respectably deep – in fact, the colour palette as a whole is neutral and natural, with ample drive given to bright reds and oranges but with sufficient subtlety to skin tones. Edges are drawn smoothly, and the Onkyo retains its composure even when dealing with complex patterns or crowded scenes.

It's particularly impressive where motion tracking is concerned, hanging in gamely through hand-held pans and other violent movements. Even when outputting at DVD's native 576i resolution, the '406 exhibits the same tenacity and eye for detail.

The Onkyo's case isn't quite as strong when it comes to sound, but while it's undeniably thinner than is ideal, the '406 is distinct and well defined. Anyone who might consider using this machine as a CD player should know that the thinness of the movie sound is retained, but the definition is not.

Don't be put off by the '406's lack of showroom allure – this Onkyo is much more silk purse than sow's ear.

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