|Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Player|
|Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Saturday, 01 July 2006|
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Moving to the left of the HDMI port, when looking at the unit from behind, there is a set of component video outputs. I only recommending using these if you have an older HDTV that does not have a DVI or HDMI input. It is the second-best way that you can connect your HDTV. However, you won’t be able to enjoy full bandwidth 1080p output and you will have a picture that has been converted from digital to analog, run through the cable, then converted back again to digital at the TV. This provides opportunity for the signal to degrade along the path and the result is a picture with more noise, jagged edges and other unwanted artifacts.
Next up is a pair of stereo audio outputs. A pair of cables is included, which would most likely be used if you have a non-surround sound system and want to plug the audio directly into a TV or a stereo receiver. I ran these out to my second TV in my kitchen and put the component video cables into this, so I have the option of hitting the output button on the front of the Blu-ray player to output component instead of HDMI; I can easily move the picture over to my small kitchen television should I decide to watch a Blu-ray disc and cook or do the dishes at the same time. Unfortunately, the player does not have the power to output both HDMI and component HD simultaneously, but that would be asking a lot.
Moving on are two video connections that you probably have no business using if you are dropping $1,000 on a Blu-ray player, S-Video and composite video. I would only recommend using these if you are running them to a secondary TV like my kitchen set that isn’t an HDTV-capable monitor. The video performance will certainly be watchable, but you are going for that next level of performance and you certainly can’t hope to find it with these connections; still, at least they are there as options.
Last but certainly not least is a set of 5.1 analog outputs. This is where the highly-touted “uncompressed 5.1 audio via PCM” comes from. Digital audio codecs, such as DTS and Dolby Digital, are compressed digital audio signals that that are sent down the digital cable in a compressed format and decoded and uncompressed by the receiver or AV preamp. Using these six RCA connections provides a pure, uncompressed analog audio signal. I hooked up my player both ways so that I could toggle between the two.
Booting up the Blu-ray player for the first time was a pleasure, compared to either of the Toshiba HD DVD units. The Toshiba players are essentially Windows/Intel computers, whereas the front of the Blu-ray player features a sticker that says “Powered by Java,” a programming language that works with Unix-based computers. The result is a player that boots up quicker and features buttons that are snappier (computer geek talk for more responsive), and the player gives you a greater sense of control. Pushing the eject button on the Samsung, even when playing a disc, results in the disc stopping, then the door opening in a span of less than four seconds. On the Toshiba HD DVD players, the time to accomplish the same task is at least double this, and even longer for the more expensive of the two units, as it has a silver door that must fold down and out of the way before the tray opens. With the Blu-ray player, I got much less of the “Uh-oh, did I break something?” feeling.
Only one time since owning this unit has the player locked up and required a hard reboot (unplugging and waiting, then plugging the unit back in) and this was the during second time that I powered the machine up. Since then, I have run the cycle of turning on the player, putting a disc in, starting and stopping it well over 50 times, and it has not had any problems since, telling me that there is a more stable operating system under the hood than that of the HD DVD players. Unfortunately, it is impossible to ignore that you are really dealing with a computer in a box with the Blu-ray player, because as the discs load up, an hourglass symbol flashes on the screen while information from the disc is loaded into the memory of the player and sometimes a flashing progress bar ticks by to show you that the player is loading. This makes me think of the days of loading up PlayStation games or waiting for my computer to boot and it draws you right out of the moment. The Sony Pictures logo that comes up on the screen is beautiful and cinematic and gets you amped up to watch a film, just like the THX or DTS logo before a movie, but when the white digital hourglass then pops up on the screen, it’s a bit of a buzz-kill.
The start-up time from disc going in to the disc playing on the Samsung is better than that of the Toshibas. However, at around 30 seconds (15 better on average than the HD DVD players), it’s still going to make Type A personalities go a little mental. All of the buttons, from the menu button (which features the set-up controls for the player) to the power button, work much better on the Samsung player, making me have a warmer and fuzzy feeling about Blu-ray before I have even cued up a disc. Add to that the fact that I never got the dreaded HDMI error screen that plagues the Toshiba HD DVD players. Score one for Blu-ray.
The first round of Blu-ray discs are mastered for video in 1080p, and the player is capable of outputting true 1080p HDTV. However, unless you have the most cutting-edge HDTV, odds are that your set does not accept a native 1080p signal. Millions of so called “1080p” HDTVs have been sold over the past two years, but the vast majority of these sets actually only accept a 1080i/720p signal at most and then internally scale the picture up to 1080p. The real draw of this Blu-ray player is that it can output native 1080p, whereas the Toshiba HD DVD players are only capable of outputting up to 1080i and 720p signals, despite tempting (or confusing) consumers with 1080p-capable discs. True 1080p sets will become the standard in the next few years, but it is essential to not get caught up in the 1080p hype that is currently at epidemic levels at the retail level.
When it comes to remotes for components, such as DVD players, I generally hit play and let a movie roll, making me a much less tough critic than, say, AVRev.com managing editor Andrew Robinson. A TiVo or PVR remote must be extremely well designed for long sessions of channel surfing, but on disc players, I generally don’t do a lot of pausing, fast forwarding, rewinding, etc. However, it must be said that the remote for the Samsung Blu-ray player, even by my standards, is pretty bad. Made of the lightest, flimsiest plastic, without any kind of backlight, this remote is very awkwardly shaped and the buttons are small and hard to read. Some of the buttons, such as the volume up and down and channel up and down, are a light glow-in-the-dark green, but the majority of the buttons are black and only have very small glow-in-the-dark numbers and letters on them. It’s a good thing that, after my initial set-up, I haven’t really had to use the remote much.