Blu-ray of hope for Samsung

A mix of factors is likely to drive the price of Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player down in the not too distant future.

Superb video and audio quality at a steep price ... that's my immediate take on the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player. Of course, a mix of factors is likely to drive the price down in the not too distant future.

The chief one, in my view, is the ongoing format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD and the need for the leading players (Samsung for Blu-ray and Toshiba for HD-DVD) to prove their mettle very early in the game.

This review is not a comparative evaluation of the two formats, nor does it make any statement of which one will be the likely successor to the DVD player. The jury is still out on that one.

The focus here is on the Samsung BD-P1000, the first Blu-Ray set top player to hit the market. The player showcases some of the strengths of Blu-Ray technology, as well as areas where it needs to develop.

To really appreciate the features of the BD-P1000 -- and these are many -- you need a significant disposable income. You would need to hook up the player, which retails for C$1,299.99 (AUD$1,559) at FutureShop.ca, to a large-screen, high-resolution display.

In my tests I married the BD-P1000 player to both the Samsung LN-S4051D 40" Wide HDTV that supports 1080i resolution, as well as the Samsung HLS6187W TV with support for 1080p. In both cases I used the HDMI cable to connect the player and TVs. For comparison purposes, I also hooked up the BD-P1000 to my Sony DVD player, using the component ports on both devices. (The BD-P1000 also includes S-Video and composite outputs).

Great video, lengthy load time

Samsung included three Blu-Ray discs in the review unit they sent me.

I viewed these first on the Samsung LN-S4041D HDTV and then on the Samsung HLS6187W TV. In both cases, the sound and visual quality were compelling, but it was the HLS6287W -- with its 1080p (1080 lines) high-definition display -- that offered the best results.

Watching Underworld Evolution (starring Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman) on this 61-inch HLS6187W DLP display was an audio-visual bonanza (after I got the disc to load, which incidentally took a good 35 seconds).

The visual style of Underworld Evolution - a Sony Pictures flick - is consciously bleak and includes inky greys, deep blues and purples and silvers. On the HLS6187W they displayed with pristine clarity, sans noise or any noticeable inconsistency. XXX, the other Sony Pictures title included with the box, thankfully had a broader palette of colors most of which displayed vividly.

To get optimal picture quality from the Blu-Ray discs, you need to use either the HDMI or component outputs on the BD-P1000 and set the signal format to either 1080i or 1080p. (The BD-P1000 player obtains the picture resolution from the TV, so if hooked to a TV that doesn't support 1080p, that option will be disabled in the menu).

The BD-1000 player did a great job of upconverting regular DVDs. However, the video quality -- even with the component output -- was not a patch on what I obtained from a Blu-ray disc viewed using the HDMI signal.

The interactive pop up menu is a wonderful feature of Blu-Ray technology and the Samsung BD-P1000. It enables you to pull up the disc menu, without stopping playback. The menu overlays the movie, which you can continue to watch while browsing through the scenes, the cast and other features.

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