Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc Player Page 2

The player will also display JPEG photos (not tested), and includes a slot for this purpose compatible with the 10 most popular types of memory cards. JPEGs stored on a recordable CD or DVD may also be played.

Other compatible discs include BD-R/RE recordable Blu-ray (although the BD-P1000 itself does not record in any format), standard DVDs, DVD recordable (DVD-R/-RW/RAM—within some limits, such as only recordings made in extended play mode), MP3 from 56Kbps to 320Kbps, and audio CD/CD-RW/-R (though CD-R/-RWs longer than 80 minutes or with a variable bitrate may not play properly).

You'll want to know that some of the players scheduled to come out later this year will not play CDs (or, by extension, CD-R/-RWs). But the Samsung will.

Missing here are Ethernet and RS-232 ports. Since enhanced interactivity features that will require Internet connectivity are anticipated on future Blu-ray releases, this is a potentially important omission. And RS-232 is useful to provide access for custom control systems. In addition, these omissions leave open the question as to how future firmware updates will be installed in the player. Can they be loaded by disc? Or will a return to the dealer or Samsung be required?

Issues
I was unable to get the component output of the BD-P1000 to function. After selecting component on the front panel, I could obtain neither an image nor any on-screen menus that would allow me to change the output resolution. This was true with both Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, on four different displays. Shane Buettner also has a sample of the player, and his component output functions normally. This review therefore addresses only the player's HDMI output, which was fully operational. I am requesting another sample of the player and will report on the component output at a later date.

The Image Constraint Token, or ICT, is an option for content providers allowing placement of a flag in the disc's data stream that limits high definition playback to either an HDMI or DVI connection. It may be used on either any Blu-ray or HD DVD release, but so far hasn't been implemented by any studio in either format.

My understanding of the ICT has been that if present it would trigger downconversion of a high-definition disc to a maximum of 960x540p—which is no longer high definition. But according to the Samsung manual, if the BD-P1000 sees an ICT it will produce no picture at all from its component output. That means that if you have a display with no digital video input, you will not get a picture of any kind from the Samsung player on an ICT-encoded Blu-ray disc. Since there are, as yet, no discs with an active ICT, I had no way of verifying this. But I have no reason to believe the manual is wrong. This is definitely something to think about for HDMI- and DVI-challenged consumers. No plans to use the ICT have been announced by any studios, but they could decide to do so at any time.

There are a number of oddities in the setup menu. A control called Black Level did nothing to change black levels at the HDMI output. Perhaps it operates only on component. The manual does not say.

There's also something called the HDMI Format control. It's not only poorly explained in the manual, but offers only one option, "TV." The other setting, "Monitor," was locked out, rendering the control pointless.

The Front Display controls the light output in the front display window, but does nothing to dim the more annoying blue indicator lights, particularly the bright blue ring that surrounds the round, four-control switch.

Whenever I load a disc, a message flashes on the screen telling me that HDMI audio is not supported. Presumably this means that the input to which the HDMI cable is connected (in this case, a video projector) cannot separate out and use the HDMI audio that's present on the connector. Uh, I know that. My projectors have no audio systems. Now can I shut the message off so it doesn't keep popping up?

Setup and Operation
Hooking up the Samsung player is no more complicated than with any conventional DVD machine. Neither is setup or day-to-day operation.

The BD-P1000 has few of the operational quirks of the first HD DVD players. It doesn't get confused, for example, with multiple sequential commands. Load a disc, push play, then immediately change your mind and push eject and the drawer opens in a couple of seconds. Try that on an HD DVD player and it will ignore the eject order and go through its full loading cycle, after which you'll have to push eject again to retrieve the disc.

When the player is cycling through certain commands it displays a tiny hourglass in the middle of a black screen. Holy Microsoft! But at least you know it's thinking and hasn't crashed (which it never did, by the way).

Reports that the Samsung loads discs faster than the Toshiba HD DVD players are questionable. With the player powered up, it took just 33 seconds to the start of the Sony Pictures logo on a Sony disc. But then that hourglass comes up again for a few seconds, more processing goes on, and it's a full 52 seconds after start until the actual disc menu appears—very similar to the loading time for an HD DVD. If the player is off with the drawer closed, add in another 27 seconds for the player to fire up and the drawer to open to accept a disc. However, these times did seem to vary depending on the disc. Some users will still find the delay annoying.

Output Settings
You can't drive both the component and HDMI outputs at the same time; you select the one you want with a switch on the front panel. You then choose the resolution you want from the on-screen Display Setup menu.

For BD playback from the HDMI digital video output the resolution options are 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. DVD upconversion is available to any of these resolutions, plus 480p from the HDMI output. (As with all players offering similar format conversion of DVDs, the result of this upconversion is simply a scaling of the source to match the native resolution of your display and is not true high-definition). No 480i option is available for DVD playback from the HDMI output.

Note that the only 1080p output selection on the Samsung is 1080p/60 (HDMI only). The player does not offer a 1080p/24 output, though this option is expected on the upcoming Sony and Pioneer players.

I've heard reports from reliable sources that because of limitations in programming of the video processing chips chosen for the player (limitations that might be amenable to a future firmware update) the BD-P1000 does not convert the 1080p/24 signal on the disc directly to 1080p/60 when you select a 1080p output. Instead, it first converts the 1080p/24 to 1080i/30, then converts that to 1080p/60, resulting in an unnecessary sidetrip to an interlaced format (assuming you have a 1080p display that accepts a 1080p input directly).

BD video playback from the component output is available only in 720p and 1080i (when there is no Image Constraint Token on the disc). Standard DVD playback from component is limited to either 480i or 480p.

Blu-ray playback is only available in high-definition modes. No downconversion to 480i/p. But that's a "Who cares?" for most of us.

For audio you can choose the coaxial or optical digital output for two-channel PCM (CD), Dolby Digital, and DTS. You can also access the uncompressed 5.1-channel PCM tracks offered on some BDs via the 5.1-channel analog outputs. (These outputs do not, however, provide multichannel Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. See Dateline 07/20/06: Additional Hot Details for further information). The multichannel PCM signal is also carried over the HDMI connection, but access here will be limited to receivers and pre-pros capable of separating out the multichannel audio from the HDMI signal (HDMI version 1.1, which at present is only now becoming available on newer AV receivers and pre/pros).

The Samsung's multichannel analog outputs provide bass management, but not individual channel level adjustments, distance settings to optimize arrival times at the listening position, or any crossover frequency options for the subwoofer (the fixed frequency is 100Hz). If you plan to use these 5.1-channel analog outputs, be certain that your receiver or pre-pro offers, at minimum, level adjustments for each channel through its multichannel analog inputs. Not all do, and some that do convert these analog inputs back to digital for processing! Both of the Toshiba HD DVD players offer channel level settings, position (delay) settings, and three subwoofer crossover options at the 5.1-channel outputs.

Blu-ray Performance
In these first days of Blu-ray, it's difficult to separate out the performance of the player from the rest of the elements in the recording/reproduction process. Since I'm working here with a single player and less than a dozen discs, my impressions will of necessity involve the entire playback chain: source material, telecine to HD video transfer, compression (in this case using MPEG-2), the player, and the video display. I will, therefore, use a program-specific approach, presenting my impressions on a variety of titles.

706Samsung.3.jpgI began my viewing on the 720p Yamaha DPX-1300 projector, with the player set for a 1080i HDMI output. I also briefly compared that to 720p, and 1080i looked a bit better, a result that may vary with the display. When I switched to 720p the on-screen the menus were enlarged, as if the image had been zoomed. My initial panic (reviewers panic easily) was relieved when I found that this was only on the menus; the actual program material on the discs played back properly. When I switched back to 1080i, this zoom effect disappeared.

The first Blu-ray disc to hit the player was Hitch Early reports on this title weren't good, but it was nothing like the disaster I was led to believe. I wasn't bothered by digital artifacts or noise, and the color was fine, although this isn't the most vividly-photographed film. Shadow details and blacks were also good—certainly within the (very good) capabilities of the projector. I saw no false contouring.

Close ups on this disc were generally crisp, but not achingly sharp. They could have been more detailed without appearing unnatural. Nothing here either blew me away or even got my juices flowing. There were more than a few soft scenes, particularly on medium and long shots, but no visible edge enhancement.

The presentation was pleasant enough, but wasn't even close to the "WOW" reaction I had right from my first look at HD DVD on the same projector (that is, after I discovered that the HD DVD player had to be set to 1080i for 1080 discs for the best picture!). For anyone familiar with high-def, this BD will look good on the Samsung, but far from jaw-dropping. But this was my first BD, and it wasn't really bad, just a rather ordinary HD presentation and short of what I was hoping for.

One comment I need to make about Hitch, and about many of the other Blu-ray titles as well, is that the graphic overlays on the menus are often pin-sharp—far sharper than the movies themselves. This isn't really all that surprising when you think about it as they're usually stills, and often computer generated. The scenes from the film that backdrop many of these overlays are often a little soft and foggy-looking, but they might have been done that way for artistic reasons.

The Punisher came next. While there were some reasonably effective scenes—not overly crisp but not objectionable and better than most standard definition- overall this BD looked no better to me than an average DVD. In fact, there were some shots that were so soft that they had no business being called high-definition. If the problem is in the program material—and it might be—you have to ask why this material was chosen to help launch a format.

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