After turning the whole laser printer industry on its collective noggin with their gorgeously designed printers, Samsung is now applying its Zen like approach on their DVD players. Clad in the similar glossy piano black shell of the Samsung ML-1630 printer comes the Samsung DVD-F1080, an upscaling DVD player that upscales your normal DVD experience to high definition goodness with style.
You can't help but drool over the F1080's minimalistic looks and gorgeous black exterior, despite the fact that it is a huge fingerprint magnet. Barely five minutes into laying our hands on the F1080, and the small and compact unit was already covered in prints. Chances are high that normal usage of the unit would not accumulate as many prints, though the touch sensitive controls will probably end up smudgy looking around the edges. Despite this, the touch sensitive controls located on the front part of the unit blend in perfectly, and a light touch is sufficient to activate the buttons.
Unfortunately, the gorgeous looks of the F1080 was let down by functional issues that we encountered during testing, the most major being its inability to manually set your preferred upscale video resolution. A workaround to this is to switch the player to the video system that is the opposite of the disc being played, i.e. NTSC to PAL and vice versa. Luckily, Samsung has assured us that this problem will be fixed in the retail units.
The player also doesn't allow you to switch resolutions on-the-fly, meaning you have to stop the disc first, switch resolutions via the player's configuration menu, and then resume playback. It also doesn't help that the menu system itself feels sluggish and not very responsive, and the bundled remote control is just a pain to use due to buttons that always get stuck. Thankfully, since the F1080 comes equipped with Samsung's Anynet+ network control system, you'll be able to swap remotes if you own another similar Samsung product, thus saving you the grief of using the supplied remote.
Performance-wise, the unit does well when put to the test in terms of video color and sharpness. Upscaled versions of the DVDs tested were pretty clear, though upscaled 'noise' was a problem, especially when the source video is dirty. We also tested its DivX playback capabilities and found the playback quality to be acceptable, though we do like to point out the fact that the player will not support anything above 720 x 576. Audio clarity was fine for both DVD and DivX playback, and you can easily switch between audio tracks via the on screen menu.
Interface problems aside, the Samsung DVD-F1080 is actually a decent upscaling DVD player with a very decent price at S$169. It offers plenty of value for folks with a huge DVD collection who want to get in on the HD experience without upgrading to Blu-ray. If Samsung can fix the problems we encountered for the retail unit, then the DVD-F1080 will be a worthy purchase for 2008.