Samsung BD-P1200 Blu-ray Player Page 2
From its analog component outputs the Samsung will play back BDs to a maximum resolution of 1080i. But it will not upconvert standard definition discs higher than 480p over the component outputs.
A number of other features, including Sharpness and Noise Reduction controls available only on the HDMI Setup menu, also require the clunky stop/setup/restart drill. I never used the player's four-position Sharpness adjustment. I rarely used Noise Reduction, either, but did check it out and found that even in its Low setting it did a good job reducing noise without seriously softening the picture.
The Samsung player also offers something called HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control), aka Anynet+. Like the above features, it's accessible only through the HDMI Setup menu with the player stopped. But in this case you're not likely to want to switch it on-the-fly. CEC lets you control several compatible HDMI components with a single remote. This sort of control is becoming more common. We have also tested products from Sony and Panasonic offering the same functions, though under different names.
The on-screen Info menu offers direct access to a number of useful features, including navigation to different chapters on a disc. One nice feature is missing, however: the player will not provide information regarding the audio and video codecs in use on a given disc, and the audio and video data rates, either average or instantaneous. The curious videophile likes to have access to such information (which isn't always available on a BD's jacket), and the critics need it (or at least like to think they do!).
The code-programmable (non-learning) remote can control both the player and the most basic functions of a television (at most: Power, Input, Volume, Channel, and Mute). Its well-spaced buttons provide good tactile feedback, which helps compensate for the lack of backlighting, and it's designed and balanced for secure one-hand operation. I also like the fact that the Repeat A/B feature has a dedicated button, but that's probably a reviewer-centric preference as it allows us to cycle through the same scenes over and over again until we tire of looking for flaws!
Among its other features the Samsung has a Bitstream/PCM option for its digital output. The PCM setting decodes Dolby Digital and DTS in the player and sends them to the receiver as multichannel PCM over HDMI. The player also offers Dynamic Compression (Dolby Digital only), and the usual password protected Parental Lock.
The player also features 192kHz, 24-bit D/A audio converters. It will not, however, upconvert lower resolution audio to these higher sampling frequencies and bit depths (nor will any other Blu-ray players I know of).
The BD-Java Jive
As with most current Blu-ray players (save only for Sony's PlayStation3), the Samsung's performance on a number of special features available on Blu-ray Discs was limited. Oddly, I've found that this ability varies from feature to feature and player to player. For example, on the "Filmmakers' Q&A" feature on Chicken Little, the Samsung only wasted a little time before a "player does not support this feature" message popped up. Oddly, the feature did work on the Sony BDP-S300, though it was a bit clunky and I'm not sure it was giving me everything the feature offered. But on the "Alien Invasion" game on the same disc, the Sony took longer to load, and when it finally did, part of the image (the Alien ships) was reduced to a series of dashes. The Samsung, however, functioned just fine with this one (fun game, too, in a Super-Pong kind of way, although conventional player remotes make poor game controllers).
The Samsung also appeared to function more or less normally on the "Liar's Dice" game from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. I say "appeared" because while I noticed no glitches, I kept losing, with the pirate "players" calling me a "Dirty scum-loving, two-headed chicken of a liar," or some such. And the game, like the Pirates films, is a great promotion for the benefits of dental hygiene.
The ability to function with all of its promised special features has been an issue with Blu-ray players since the format's launch last year. That's expected to change this fall when full implementation of the ability to handle these Java-based features has been mandated for all new players. In any case, the Samsung BD-P1200 appears to be better than average in this respect, though it's not quite there.
The first thing that impressed me about the Samsung was how fast it went from power-off to ready-to-load. Other dedicated Blu-ray players are lucky to do this in a minute. The BD-P1200 took only 12 seconds! Before you plan a parade, however, the loading time from that point to loading the disc menu wasn't significantly shorter than from other players. But there were noticeable exceptions. The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl may be the slowest-loading BD on the planet, challenged only by its sister-disc, POTC: Dead Man's Chest. You could make lunch while waiting for these discs to begin on most players. The Sony BDP-S300 takes 2 minutes and 35 seconds from drawer close to the first Disney promo. On the Samsung, it took 1 minute and 5 seconds. [For comparison, the PS3 loads the Black Pearl's first menu in around 45 seconds.- Ed.]
I saw something special in the Samsung's performance the first time it planted an image on my screen. In stark contrast to the first-generation Samsung Blu-ray player, the BD-P1200's images are beautifully detailed. I noticed this first in The Patriot. I had been disappointed in both the theatrical print of this film and in the standard DVD. Not here. The quality of the transfer (or the cinematography) does vary considerably throughout the movie, but when it's cooking—which is most of the time—it's superb. The transfer did look a little grainy at times, but as in film grain, not noise. The player simply appeared to be telling it like it is.
The spectacular transfers of those first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies were also fully apparent on the Samsung. From the detail in the costumes to the wide video dynamic range from the darkest scenes to the brightest, nothing was shortchanged.