|Samsung BD-P1200 Blu-ray Player|
|Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Saturday, 01 September 2007|
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I’m sure you are all aware of the format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD. Both sides seem to be dug in for a hard-fought and lengthy battle. Some consumers, still bitter over the last format war between SACD and DVD-Audio, are choosing to sit this one out. Others, myself and other AVRev.com writers included, are taking a drastically different approach. I personally have purchased more than five players from each of the two HD formats since they have been released and have been enjoying both formats to their fullest. There is simply no substitute for the increased resolution these discs offer over even the best scaled standard-definition DVDs. Samsung was the first company to produce a player with true 1080p output, the BDP-1000, and is now shipping their second-generation Blu-ray player, the BD-P1200. Carrying a retail price of $599, the new BD-P1200 promises to significantly improve on load times and the generally clumsy operation of the first-generation players, as well as offering full HDMI 1.3 support. The BD-P1200 also will scale standard-definition DVDs up to 1080p, in addition to as playing CDs, MP3s and photo discs.
The BD-P1200 is loaded with goodies. It has an HDMI 1.3 output capable of Deep Color and HQV video processing for maximizing your standard- definition DVDs. It offers internal decoding of Dolby Digital Plus and outputs uncompressed 7.1-channel audio via its HDMI output. Allowing the use of the new Blu-ray Java system and also functioning as a CD player, the new Samsung BD-P1200 seems to have all the bases covered. It will even play your MP3 and photo CDs or DVDs, as long as they are on CR-R/CD-RW/DVD-R or DVD-RW formats. It will not play CR+R, CD+RW, DVD+R or DVD+RW discs.
The BD-P1200 comes packed in a basic blue and white box, held securely in place with Styrofoam blocks and wrapped in a foam sheet to protect its smooth finish. Included in the box is the remote (with batteries), manual, quick set-up card, information for registering the player online and a composite video and stereo analog RCA interconnect. I must say, with all the press surrounding this so-called format war and the seemingly endless sales growth of HDTVs, why oh why are companies not including HDMI cables with their players? Seriously it’s 2007, people, get with the program.
Opening the box and unwrapping the player reveals a Blu-ray player that is cleaner-looking than the first-generation unit. The front is a shiny black that slopes back slightly for the upper three-fourths, while the lower portion slopes in steeply to the bottom of the player. The majority of the top portion is flat, but the lower edge bends down and seems to sag in the middle, with a deep groove between the two areas. A blue light in the middle of this groove comes on when the player is on. The top and sides are finished in a matte black and the player rests on small rubber feet that are permanently connected to the base. The BD-P1200 measures as near as makes no difference 17 inches wide, three inches tall and 13 inches deep, and weighs roughly six pounds.
The player is pretty simply laid out. The power button, which lights blue when on, is to the far left of the face, with a standby indicator light next to it. The disc tray is on the upper left side of the face, with the small open/close button to its right. The majority of the right side of the face is used for the display and on the far right is Samsung’s round, four-way tilt switch that controls transport functions. A small button on this controls the lower left side and selects video output type. The rear of the player has 5.1 channel analog outputs, a pair of stereo analog outs, composite, S-Video, component and an HDMI video output, as well as an Ethernet port and both optical and coaxial digital outs. A small fan is just to the right of midline on the rear and is always on when the player is powered up. A permanently attached two-prong power cord comes off the top right of the rear.
The remote included is basically the same as the remote from the BDP-1000, except slightly larger. Backlighting is still missing, though the channel, volume, mute, and transport buttons glow in the dark. The remainder of the remote’s face is black, with black buttons. The rear is silver. The remote is tough to use in the dark, as the buttons are small, everything is black and there is no backlighting. It can be programmed to control your TV for simple installations, and the Samsung BD-P1200 has the ability through Samsung’s Anynet+ system to be controlled by a mated Samsung TV when using the HDMI connection.
The player offers all the basic features you’d expect from such a device, with six speeds of searching both forward and back, slow motion and stepped-motion playback, A-B repeat, book-marking, access to multiple camera angles and slideshow picture viewing. Set-up menus allow you to assign the default language, subtitles and/or digital output of PCM or bit stream with PCM down-sampling should your processor or receiver not handle 96kHz digital signals. Dynamic compression can be switched on or off, depending on your needs. The video output can be set for the various displays currently available and can even be set to output 1080p/24 frames per second if your display can handle this format for the best picture quality possible. Basic speaker set-up is present for the 5.1 analog outputs.
Setting up this player was very easy in each system where I used it. I initially broke the BD-P1200 in with my bedroom system, connecting it to the Marantz SR8001 receiver (review forthcoming) via the HDMI interface. While I really liked the player there and found its functionality to be the best I’ve seen from a high-definition disc player, it had to go to my reference rig for me to do a serious evaluation. I moved the player to my main system and connected it to my Meridian 861v4 via the coaxial digital and stereo analog outs, ran the HDMI video output through my Meridian HDMax 421 switcher and the 121 signal amplifier to my Sony KDS-R70XBR2 1080p-capable RPTV. Something didn’t quite work with this combination; I would occasionally get a bright purple hue to the screen that required me to go into the player’s menus to switch the HDMI output to fix it. I assumed the player was defective, and contacted Samsung. I was told that I would need to send the player back. Impatient as I am, I instead purchased another BD-P1200 and had the same issue. I ran the player directly to my TV set and on one occasion still had this happen, so it was likely due to an HDCP compliance issue. It was an easy fix and, once connected directly to my set, this became a rare occurrence, so I didn’t worry much about it. The advent of HDMI has simplified connecting components like this in my bedroom; I literally connected one cable and plugged in the unit. In my reference system, I had also added coaxial digital and stereo analog cables. Either way, I was up and running in minutes.
The first thing I noticed was lack of the delay any early adopter suffers through with first generation HD DVD or Blu-ray players. The time from the insertion of a Blu-ray disc to first image was less than 25 seconds. With a disc loaded, first image from power on came up in under 45 seconds, which is still a little slower than most standard DVD players, but it’s tolerable. The first time the player is powered up, it prompts you to select your preferred language, and then you are ready in seconds to play your discs. This is a huge improvement over previous players and was a welcome change for me. I was also pleasantly surprised to find the unit defaulted to HDMI and immediately recognized my TV’s 1080p potential. Unlike first-generation players, I never had to reboot the BD-P1200 during all my time with it. Halfway through my review, I did update the firmware, but noticed no change in its performance or functionality after the upgrade.