|Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray Player|
|Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players|
|Written by Adrienne Maxwell|
|Saturday, 01 November 2008|
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Blu-ray and DVD Performance
The BD-P1500 supports BD, DVD, CD audio, and AVCHD video playback, but it does not support the MP3, WMA, JPEG, or Divx formats. Upon initial power-up, the player reaches the “no disc” screen in about 30 seconds. This model didn’t cue up Blu-ray or DVD discs quite as quickly as my Panasonic DMP-BD50 review sample (which is the fastest player I’ve tested), but it was very close, even with Java-heavy titles like War (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) and the Pirates of the Caribbean discs (Buena Vista Home Entertainment). The BD-P1500 responds quickly to remote commands; disc navigation is fairly speedy, and the status bar that appears along the top of the screen when chapter-skipping makes it easier to jump past all the annoying trailers at the start of so many Buena Vista discs.
I began my video tests with the BD-P1500 set for 1080p/24 output, using demo scenes from some gorgeous Blu-ray discs: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Shooter (Paramount Home Video), Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), and The Prestige (Buena Vista Home Entertainment). All of the scenes had excellent detail and color, and the player ably handled black and white reproduction. In all, it did nothing to interfere with the inherent quality of each disc, which is exactly what you ask of a Blu-ray player. Next, I switched to 1080p/60 output to test the player’s video processing. With the Mission Impossible III Blu-ray disc (Paramount Home Video), the BD-P1500 cleanly rendered the staircase at the opening of chapter eight, as well as other potentially troublesome spots. That staircase can be filled with moiré when a player’s internal processing is sub-par, but that was not an issue here. The BD-P1500 consistently performed well when outputting 1080p/60, so it’s not crucial that you mate this player with a TV that can accept 1080p/24.
My reference disc for BonusView content is the Sunshine Blu-ray disc (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), which offers both picture-in-picture content and a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. With the audio set for Bitstream (audiophile) output, the BD-P1500 passed the native DTS-HD bitstream to my Denon AVR-4308 receiver to decode, but I could not hear the menu’s navigation sound cues or PIP audio. When set for PCM audio, the player served up the core DTS audio stream as 5.1-channel PCM and mixed in the menu’s sound cues and PIP audio. As the film progresses, the BD-P1500 presents a BonusView icon at the top left corner of the screen whenever a PIP bonus feature is available, a convenient feature that I haven’t seen with other BonusView players. A quick press of the remote’s BonusView button opens the PIP window. The only problem is, if you don’t want to watch a particular BonusView feature, you can’t simply press a button and make the icon go away. You can disable the feature entirely by turning off the Screen Message in the Display Setup menu.
I also tested the player’s handling of Dolby TrueHD soundtracks on The Fifth Element (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City (Sony BMG Music Entertainment). When set for Bitstream (audiophile), the player passed the high-resolution soundtracks to my Denon receiver without incident; when set for PCM, it decoded the format and output it as 5.1-channel PCM. Using The Fifth Element’s Diva scene and Dave Matthews’ “Don’t Drink the Water” for comparison, I could discern no blatant differences in audio quality between the internal and external decoding. Both sounded good, although perhaps not as rich and spacious as I’ve heard from the best high-end players on the market.
Next, I switched to standard-definition DVD, starting with The Prestige (Buena Vista Home Entertainment). In the detail department, there was certainly no confusing the SD version with the HD disc I viewed earlier, but the BD-P1500 did a solid job upconverting 480i to 1080p. Likewise, with Into the Wild (Paramount Home Video) and Lost: The Complete Second Season DVD (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), the Samsung produced a generally detailed image, although the best upconverting players could likely eke out more fine detail. Unfortunately, the BD-P1500’s deinterlacing, or conversion from interlaced to progressive, is less reliable. When it came to casual viewing of DVD movies, I didn’t see too many artifacts from scene to scene; however, the player was unable to pass my most rigorous deinterlacing tests. It failed many of the tests on the HQV Benchmark DVD (Silicon Optix), and it failed both of my real-world 480i deinterlacing tests: the Coliseum flyover in chapter 12 of Gladiator (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) and the Venetian blinds in chapter four of The Bourne Identity (Universal Home Video). In chapter four of Into the Wild, the scene in which Chris abandons his car is poorly encoded, and no Blu-ray player I’ve tested can fully clean it up. However, compared with Denon’s DVD-3800BDCI and Panasonic’s DMP-BD50, the BD-P1500 rendered the poorest image quality, with more artifacts than the others. It didn’t fare much better with the video-based bonus features on the Robot Chicken: Star Wars DVD (Warner Home Video), creating many jaggies. On a positive note, the picture had a little less noise than the Panasonic DMP-BD50 I just reviewed, which makes for a generally cleaner SD DVD experience. Still, if you already own a good upconverting DVD player, I would hold on to it.
To try out the BD-Live function, I used the Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and Ironman (Paramount Home Video) Blu-ray discs. From the get-go, I found Samsung’s implementation to be more intuitive than that of the Panasonic DMP-BD50. Accessing BD-Live content requires both an Ethernet connection and the insertion of a USB drive (not supplied) for storage; try to move forward without either of those pieces in place, and the BD-P1500 will tell you which piece you’re missing, as opposed to simply not working. The BD-P1500’s download speeds also seemed faster than the Panasonic’s, and I was generally pleased with the overall BD-Live experience, although I still think the BD-Live content offered to date is less than worthwhile.