Even though this format war is a pain in the butt, I have to admit that it's funner to come in to work than it's been in years. I'm getting a charge out of seeing the hardware and seeing my favorite movies come out in HD on a silver disc that I've probably not felt since my Laserdisc collection gave way to DVDs back in the late 90's. To the cynic the next-gen HD formats are an Enron-esque scheme to perpetuate royalty streams and to keep selling movie libraries over and over (and over) again. I acknowledge all that, and say, "hooray!"
In the years I've been covering consumer electronics I haven't seen anything like the introduction of Sony's PlayStation3 game console. The thing is a bonafide rock star. At the PS3's gala introduction in San Francisco gamers who had been camping out on the street for days actually cheered as an 18-wheeler with a full police escort rolled up carrying the game consoles, which went on sale at midnight and sold out Sony's initial US run of 150,000+ units within minutes.
First impressions can be a dangerous thing, especially for an A/V equipment reviewer. Allowing yourself to become predisposed to thinking that one company’s component will be this and another company’s component will be that can cloud a review and allow for the praising of some unworthy products while subjecting others to unfair criticism.
Blu-ray players are becoming less a means to play discs than a gateway to online services — and to any media stored on computers, smartphones, and iDevices lying around your home. Take LG’s BD670. You might pick up this modest-looking machine thinking you’d use it to play Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D discs, along with DVDs and CDs.
When I reviewed Oppo’s BDP-93 — the company’s first universal player to support Blu-ray 3D and high-rez FLAC audio playback — I wrapped things up by saying it could be the last disc player you’ll ever need. Turns out I spoke too soon, because Oppo keeps finding new ways to make the whole disc-player concept relevant. Its most recent offerings include the BDP-103 ($499) and the BDP-105 under review here, a $1,199 version that has been hot-rodded for two-channel-audio enthusiasts.
Price: $350 At A Glance: Exceptional speed • Plethora of streaming services, including Netflix, Blockbuster, and VUDU • Built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi • Blu-ray 3D
Blu-ray 3D Is Here
To 3D or not to 3D, that is the question. Sorry to go Shakespeare on you, but I’m skeptical as to whether 3D is the next big thing on the horizon. Samsung is one of the major players vying for your 3D dollar, and I have to give the company credit for leading the charge on the next advancement in home entertainment. You may recall that Samsung was the first company to release a Blu-ray player (BD-P1000). While that launch wasn’t as smooth as the company would have liked due to a faulty noise-reduction setting, Samsung eventually fixed it, and the format has now become mainstream. Is history going to repeat itself for Blu-ray 3D? And if not, is the BD-C6900 worth your 2D investment?
2D Performance 3D Performance Features Ergonomics Value
Price: $160 At A Glance: 3D at rock-bottom price • Superb A/V performance • Online apps well-implemented • No multichannel analog-audio outputs • No DTS-HD decoding
Samsung's BD-D5500 proves that you don't need to spend a lot on a 3D Blu-ray player to get great results. Its video and audio performance are top-notch, and it provides 3D capability and access to lots of online and locally networked media content. However, it's lack of DTS-HD decoding is a significant drawback, which you can overcome by spending $40 more for the BD-D6500, $20 more for the Sony BDP-S480, or $10 less for the Panasonic DMP-BDT110.
Price: $300 At A Glance: Top-of-the-line streaming • Exceptional 2D and 3D playback • Compact, sleek design
Blu-ray players just aren’t what they used to be—they’re a lot more. Sony’s PlayStation 3 has long offered more than just standard Blu-ray playback. Today’s breed of players bring not only state-of-the-art Blu-ray performance but also connectivity to your home media network and a range of streaming options from the most popular movie and music providers on the Internet. These players can become the hub of your home entertainment system and eliminate the need for separate devices to get the most out of today’s technology.
Price: $150 At A Glance: Unique design • Middling Web browser with built-in Wi-Fi • Extremely loud disc loading
Every year a new generation of Blu-ray players hits the market from the major electronics manufacturers. While 3D was the last big advancement to hit the streets, the latest rage is 4K upconversion in the flagship players, but you won’t find that on the budget-friendly Samsung BD-F5900. What you will get for $150 is a 3D-capable player with a plethora of streaming options, a built-in Web browser, and Wi-Fi capability. With all these goodies, is there a reason to pay more for a Blu-ray player? Read on and see…
With more than a little excitement, I hooked up the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray disc player. Here it is, the first Blu-ray player to hit the world. I put it right on top of the Toshiba HD-XA1 HD DVD player, which I'm sure the Blu-ray people would love to hear, and the HD DVD people not so much. I ran the HDMI cable to the virtually reference-quality Yamaha DPX-1300 projector, put in my old standby The Fifth Element (of course), and sat back, ready to enjoy. The disc started up promptly (take that, Toshiba!), and, within seconds, there was Blu-ray. It only took a few seconds more before I uttered something along the lines of, "What the hell?"
While the in the end, Samsung's first foray into the Blu-ray world wasn't the major culprit in said format's poor picture quality (turns out most of the early discs just didn't look very good), it was still rather lackluster. It didn't upconvert DVDs very well, it didn't offer a 1080p/24 output, and it didn't decode any of the new audio formats. With its second-generation offering, Samsung has fixed most of these shortcomings. Most.