|Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Player|
|Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Saturday, 01 July 2006|
Page 1 of 4
Format wars. Everyone hates them, but they are a fact of life and HDTV owners who long for more performance than DVD has to offer are smack dab in the middle of a dilemma. Blu-ray or HD DVD – that is the question. Sony has never fared well in past AV format wars (remember Betamax, Mini-Disc and SACD?), but they are betting on their new Blu-ray technology big time. HD DVD rolled out several weeks prior to the Blu-ray launch; the players have so far received cheers for their picture and jeers for their glitchy performance and sloppy interfaces. The mixed reviews have left the door open for Sony’s format to swoop in and impress. The first player to hit the streets is the $999 Samsung BD-P1000.
Being the only Blu-ray player commercially available at the time of this review (other than the players available in Sony VAIO computers), the obvious comparison for this player is not other Blu-ray players, but rather the rival Toshiba HD DVD players, the HD-A1 and HD-XA1, priced at $499 and $799, respectively. Someday, if both formats take enough market share from DVD and the studios keep releasing titles, there is a strong possibility there will be a universal player, similar to the players that can play SACD and DVD-Audio discs. However, until that day comes, you will need a Blu-ray player to watch the HD movie titles from studios such as Sony Pictures, MGM and Columbia/TriStar, and an HD DVD player to view Universal and Warner Bros. titles in HD DVD.
Cracking open the box, the first impression of the packing materials of the BD-P1000 reminded me a lot of those that come with an Apple computer. You want to feel good about your purchase when dropping big money for electronics and Apple has the absolutely slickest packaging of any company. Although the Samsung packing materials don’t quite rival Apple, it was a much more impressive initial experience than the one engendered by the industrial cardboard box that brought the Toshiba HD DVD player. Underneath the player is a nice box that contains a set of component video cables, a set of standard RCA audio/video cables and, last but not least, an HDMI cable.
The unit itself is surprisingly light at just a shade under 10 pounds. The front of the case has a slick black finish and elegant buttons, but the case feels as if it is made of a very thin material. It does not feel flimsy, however, coming from an Integra DTR-10.5 up-converting DVD player that is built like a tank at nearly 50 pounds, I was expecting a more robust build quality out of the BD-P1000. It is about the size of an average DVD player at 16.9 inches wide, 12.8 inches deep and 3.1 inches tall. It is capable of playing Blu-ray discs, compact discs, DVD discs, DVD-R discs and DVD-RW discs. However, some CD-RW discs may not be compatible. Blu-ray discs are capable of carrying up to 50 gigs of information, so a full feature movie as well as a boatload of extras can be crammed onto these discs, with several audio mixes, commentary tracks, etc.
Almost everything about the Blu-ray player and the discs is, you guessed it, blue. The cases of the discs are blue, the labels on the discs are blue and almost every single light on the front of the player is blue. The laser inside that reads the high-density Blu-ray discs is blue as well. Priced at $999, with discs that sell in stores currently for about $25, getting into Blu-ray is a much pricier endeavor than owning HD DVD. Like HD DVD players, Blu-ray players, the Samsung included, are backwards-compatible to standard DVDs, so should you decide to make the move to Blu-ray, you have the option of taking your DVD player out of the loop.
From left to right on the front of the player, there is a silver power button with a standby/on indicator light. Next up is the front-loading disc tray; under this is a fold-down silver panel that unveils ports for putting in photo/video memory cards. This allows for a video slide show of your digital vacation photos. Now you can bore your friends in spectacular HD. Moving on to the right is the eject button. A barely visible infrared sensor is up next. This is important, as it is placed there for those who will be using this player as part of an automated control system, as there is no RS-232 port on the back, which in my opinion is a terrible oversight for a player in this price range. A small rectangular LED window gives information, such as the time elapsed/remaining on a disc. Under this is a very helpful button called TV OUT SELECT that allows you to toggle between the video outputs. Pressing the button moves the colored LED light to one of three positions: HDMI, Component and Video (S-video and composite). This makes it a snap to be sure that you are outputting the correct format. The onscreen display will show you what resolution is being output. Changing this between 1080p, 720p, 1080i and 480p requires going into the onscreen menus. If you select a resolution that your TV cannot support, the screen will go black, but you need not panic. Just hold the fast forward button on the front of the player, without a disc in it, for five seconds and it will reset back to the previous resolution, bringing back your picture.
Last up is a circular control wheel that looks like a professional editor’s jog shuttle wheel, although it really just has four buttons. Pushing it up acts as the play/pause button, pushing and holding left or right fast forwards or rewinds, tapping left or right skips forward or back and pushing the bottom of the circle stops the disc, causing the Samsung Blu-ray player menu to pop up.
Flipping the player around, the output options are fairly sparse. However, the single most important option is in the middle of the rear panel. The HDMI output allows for true 1080p video output, as well as a digital audio signal for those with TVs and/or receivers/AV preamps that will accept an audio signal via HDMI. To the right of the HDMI input are two digital audio outputs, one optical, often known as TosLink, and the other coaxial digital. The coaxial digital audio cable for this connection looks like a standard RCA cable, except that it normally has orange ends. Farther to the right is a large air intake vent with a cooling fan and, finally, a power cord. Unlike the Toshiba HD DVD players, the Samsung has a built-in power cord. This can make hard rebooting a little more difficult if you have fed the power plug end of the Blu-ray player down into an out of the way area, such as behind a cabinet. Keep this in mind, as there will likely be times when you need to unplug and replug the player.