The Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc player had been out just a couple of days when my phone began ringing with some interesting reports from the field. It didn't take long to realize that this would be no ordinary product launch. Of course, how could it be - as the first Blu-ray Disc player, the BD-P1000 would represent not only its own brand but the entire Blu-ray format, the much-touted competitor to HD DVD. The whole world would be watching, making snap judgments about Blu-ray based on this one model.That's why the events that followed were so remarkable.
What played out over the next three weeks was a high-tech mystery worthy of Hollywood - and, this time, that's not just a figure of speech. This one has it all, folks: corporate intrigue, electronic sleuthing, and a runaway script that even a giant movie studio couldn't quite get its hands around. In the end, Sound & Vision auditioned two BD-P1000s: the model currently in stores and homes that has been written about elsewhere, and a revised unit soon to be released, carrying a small but controversial alteration - a player that we exclusively obtained for this report. So, join us now as we take you step by step through our Great Blu-ray Adventure. But please, buckle up: As format launches go, this was one heck of a wild ride.
PLUGS & MARRIAGE To assess the Samsung's picture, I married it to various 1080p (the highest resolution available) HDTVs, including a pair of HP DLPs at 65 and 58 inches, a new Sony 60-inch SXRD LCoS, and a Westinghouse 42-inch LCD panel. The Samsung puts out a 1080p video signal, theoretically the best choice if your TV can accept that resolution, since both Blu-ray Discs and HD DVDs carry their video as 1080p. However, Samsung confirmed for us that the BD-P1000 converts video from the disc to 1080i before converting it back to 1080p for output. The same conversion is performed whether you use 1080p from the player or output 1080i and let the display convert the signal to 1080p internally.
I carefully compared the 1080p and 1080i output from the unit's HDMI connector and detected no difference - none. Eventually, we settled on 1080i, which, unlike 1080p, was compatible with our Yamaha HDMI switching receiver.
I also compared the component-video output versus the HDMI output, as well as the player's 720p conversion off the 1080p discs. The first result followed our experience with Toshiba's HD DVD player: High-def component video was a touch softer than HDMI, a difference easily attributable to the TVs. Meanwhile, a 720p HDTV signal from the Samsung, as viewed on our 1080p reference sets, had slightly less detail than a 1080i or 1080p signal, but was very close - unlike the Toshiba, the BD-P1000 did a decent downconversion.
Likewise, it proved an excellent upconverter of regular DVDs, which it can reproduce via HDMI in 720p, 1080i or 1080p signal format. These don't look even remotely as good as true high-definition Blu-ray Discs, but on high-quality DVDs the performance compared favorably to the upconverted image from our $3,500 Denon reference player, a real feat.
For sound, you'll ideally want a surround processor or receiver that can recognize the multichannel PCM (pulse-code modulation) signal that comes off the HDMI output along with the digital video signal. The Sony-issued Blu-ray Discs carry an uncompressed linear PCM (LPCM) soundtrack that can be pumped right from the disc into your audio system with no conversion if you have the right gear - it's as close to the original digital master as it gets. We used a Yamaha RX-V2600 receiver as our system's multichannel PCM processor, and, for a little extra kick, fed its three front-channel preamp outputs to a trio of Krell monoblock power amplifiers. These electronics fed a Revel Concerta 5.1 channel speaker system. We were ready to go. But where were we going?
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.