Now that HDMI and high definition televisions are all but ubiquitous, it will be awhile before manufacturers can coerce the public to adopt the next jump in technology (Sorry, Sony 4K.). That won’t stop third-party companies from trying to make televisions look better, mainly with proprietary pass-through devices to post process and resample the image to sharpen edges, correct colors and refine contrast. Enter the Darblet DVP 5000 from Darbee. It promises “to enhance your HDMI video entertainment” by using its Darbee Visual Presence technology. Does the Darbee Darblet make pixels prettier or is it modern day snake oil for your television?
- Darbee Darblet
- Power Adapter
- IR Remote
The plastics used on the Darblet are certainly durable. Don’t worry about it accidently falling off of a shelf or sliding behind an entertainment center. They are, however, not much to look at either. The unit has a textured finish, similar to that found on tools and outdoor equipment for grip. The choice in finish is questionable and does not blend well with other home theatre equipment, but there is no worry of dust and fingerprints showing on the surface.
Another odd choice is the translucent blue plastic, allowing users to see the internal circuitry and lights within the device. It is reminiscent of the Atomic Purple GameBoy Color, only with more grip and a much higher price tag. The LEDs inside the unit indicate various functions and whether video signals are being received by the unit or not, but these could have been mounted inline with the buttons and made external. Without any user serviceable parts inside, it is questionable as to why they would like people to see the internals, as they aren’t very impressive and lack a Darbee specific color scheme.
The last issue lies with its remote. It is not much of a looker either and it utilizes infrared, which means the device not only has to be within clear view of the remote, but connectivity issues arose from any more than 15 feet away. This would not be a huge issue if the device itself was better looking and had the cables running into and out of the rear of the device, but with the current setup, it seems difficult to have the device in front of or on the sides of the television while hiding the cables. Most will opt for a “set it and forget it” operation with the Darblet, but if that is the case, why include a remote at all if it cannot connect via Bluetooth or WiFi so that the device could be tucked away?
Getting the Darblet up and running could not be easier. Sold as a “tweener” device, the Darblet hooks up between a device using HDMI and the television. All that is necessary is two HDMI cables and an unused power outlet. One cable goes from the device to the Darblet and another HDMI cable from the Darblet to the television. Plug the power cable into a power outlet and the setup is complete. There are no menus to navigate, no firmware to upgrade, and no settings to optimize. The Darbee logo overlay does default to being shown in the corner, which can annoy hardcore home theater enthusiasts or plasma TV owners worried about burn-in, but this is easily removed by unchecking a box in the options menu. Setup is simple and straightforward for novices, while offering a good amount of tweaks for enthusiasts.
This device really is for those who want the absolute best image quality out of their devices. While it can’t add resolution to an image, it certainly reveals hidden details behind poor contrast or stretched images. Even on a professionally calibrated plasma with a 1080p signal, there were noticeable changes in color saturation, deeper blacks, sharper highlights and clearer text without oversaturation, noise or artifacts. Tests included menu navigation and 720p gameplay on an Xbox 360, 1080p gameplay and Blu-ray playback on a PlayStation 3 and 1080p web browsing and image viewing on a PC. In every case, the images created were clearer, with better shadows, highlights and color saturation. The results are plain as day to those who are looking for them, but to the common consumer, they can appear subtle and unimportant. With its hefty $319 price tag, the Darblet is definitely not aimed at a broad audience, but the home theatre aficionado. The market will decide if the results are worth the cost of admission.
The Darbee Darblet produces a cleaner image from all HDMI devices regardless of the input resolution. The change may not be noticeable by everyone, but taking a minute to inspect the results can turn skeptics into believers. The $319 cost may scare off those willing to gamble on a new product from an unfamiliar company, but the Darblet is a great introduction to the Darbee hardware lineup.