Darbee Visual Presence DVP-5100CIE video processor review

Inside CI 4 Rating

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posted on Sunday, 16th August 2015 by Steve May

HDMI  Video Processor 


The DVP-5100CIE is a standalone, rack-mountable Darbee image processor. Darbee image manipulation, if you’re not overly familiar with it, essentially seeks to lift an image through a cocktail of proprietary image tweaks, from edge enhancement to contrast boosting. For custom installers, it represents a relatively low cost way of adding an extra bit of sparkle to a picture, be it a flatscreen or a projector.

We've previously seen the Darbee chipset embedded into Oppo's 2014 BDP-105D Blu-ray player, and it's also featured in HD Anywhere's Layer Cake distribution system. So is this box of tricks a must-have for installers looking to squeeze additional performance from mid-range products?

Darbee DVP-5100CIE: Build quality and Features
The chassis itself is full-width and half depth. Just 1U high, rack ears are provided in the box. It’s essentially plug and play. On the rear is a single HDMI loopthrough; this Darbee box is the last stop enroute to a display. The input is v1.4 and should can used with 1080p and 4K to 24/30fps sources. There's also a USB port for firmware updates. Also included is an IR extender and credit card remote.

Front View (1)


Rack Ears

The front of the unit offers a full fist of controls from which you can step through the various modes, navigate the menu, and A/B the output. The finish is somewhat lightweight and plasticy. Helpfully, the front panel LEDs can be dimmed from within the menu.

The DVP-5100CIE isn’t just about image processing. It also incorporates PhaseHD technology, which improves HDMI handshaking, recovering low speed HDCP encryption and EDID data. When used with a PhaseHD receiver, you can also extend HDMI cable runs. PhaseHD is also used in the Kordz Neo-S3 TX/RX dongle.

The unit is largely plug and play. There are three viewing modes: HiDef (green), Gaming (yellow) and Full Pop (red). Recognising that time is money, there's no set up required beyond this. In terms of silicon beneath the hood, it's essentially the same as Darbee's DVP 5000 clamshell unit, albeit in a more manageable format.

Darbee DVP-5100CIE: Performance
The Darbee process promises 'increased depth and clarity, without halos or artefacts.' Certainly, it’s immediately apparent that the processor is having an influence on the displayed image.

There’s some powerful silicon at work here, running some very clever algorithms. The unit offers Deep Color support with 30-bit 4:4:4  chroma subsampling. The Hidef mode is the main catch-all. It's ostensibly for Blu-ray, but can be used with any HD TV source. The Full Pop mode is apparently intended for Internet delivered content and low bitrate sources. The processing level is adjustable, refined in either 1 per cent steps or larger 5 per cent increments. With the level set at 60, the green mode pulls detail out of shadow areas and bumps contrast. The effect is easily detectable on a 60+-inch screen., although the effect and benefit can vary according to the source.

The stylised, almost monochromatic cinematography of Band of Brothers, becomes even more contrasty with Darbee engaged. In this instance, the processor does overly emphasise the grain in the image, however at a typical viewing distance this is not detectable.

While effective on panels, the processor appears to add even more to projected images. Sky HD, writ large by an Epson Full HD projector, definitely benefits from additional visual snap. Skin tones become more textured, hair more identifiably woven. Ingeniously, this extra processing does not bring with it the kind of intrusive artefacts you might expect. There's no clumsy edge emphasis using the Hidef mode, and those singular increment adjustments allow a lot of leeway. 

One particularly useful facility is the Demo mode which allows content to be viewed pre and post processing. A Split Screen literally halves the image, with non processed footage clearly identifiable. A Swipe mode does the same, but scrolls the divider bar across the screen.

So is a Darbee-fied image actually better than a non Darbee-fied one? This isn't as straightforward a question to answer as you might image, given that the traditional artifice of heavy-handed video processing isn’t an issue here (as long as you keep off the Full Pop mode). When the processor pulls more shadow detail from the background art of Miyazaki's classic animation My Neighbor Totoro is it compensating for shortcoming in the display, or revealing a level of detail that the animators never really intended to be seen? In truth, there's no real way of knowing. In most instances, the decision to use it will be an aesthetic one. While I would have few qualms about installing it alongside an IPS LED LCD panel, I might be less inclined to sit it in front of a 4K OLED display.

Main Menu

Demo Mode

Rear Panel (4)

Darbee DVP-5100CIE: Verdict
The DVP-5100CIE is something of a magic bullet. It’s a largely benign processor to deploy, yet one which can have an immediate effect on displays. For installers looking to offer more visual impact than might otherwise have achieved, it's easy hardware to evangelise. Perhaps the real CI win here is the HDMI stability promised by Phase HD handshaking? Coupled with an additional PhaseHD receiver, installers apparently can reach 50m without incurring any visual penalties. We rate the DVP-5100CIE as well worth auditioning.

The Darbee Visual Presence DVP-5100CIE is available now
Retail price: £395
The Darbee Visual Presence DVP-5100CIE is available from Ideal AV. Tel: 01924 781011 or visit  www.ideal-av.co.uk.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and Ideal Home (amongst others).

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