Price (RRP): $499
Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
Samsung, one of the first to the Australian market with Blu-ray, has now introduced its third model, the BD-P1500. And this one is the best yet, for a number of reasons.
The first reason is that this unit supports the more advanced BonusView functionality of Blu-ray. This adds two main capabilities: persistent storage and picture-in-picture. Persistent storage allows the player to remember interactive content, while PIP provides the ability to have special pop-up video commentaries and so forth in the midst of a movie. Already these have appeared on such titles as Jumper and Batman Begins, and are likely to become standard ‘special feature’ fare on an increasing number of Blu-ray titles into the future.
The second is that Samsung says that the firmware will be upgradeable in the future to turn the unit into a BD-Live player… that is, one with Internet connectivity. Discs are appearing (eg. Men in Black and the Heroes box set) which allow trailers to be downloaded or other program relevant online activities to be undertaken.
As for regular movies, this unit provides the all-important 1080p24 output so that it replicates the smooth motion shown in cinemas, and has the ability to deliver the new audio formats in their original bitstream format for decoding in a home theatre receiver. This is important because the unit does not include a decoder for the DTS-HD Master Audio sound provided on many Blu-ray discs, and so would otherwise have to use those discs’ standard DTS ‘core’ sound.
The first thing I noticed about this player is how fast it is. It switches on quickly, loads discs quickly, and even seems to read in the BD-Java code included on many discs faster than any other player, PlayStation 3 aside.
It was also highly responsive to presses of the remote control keys and allowed excellent navigation on Blu-ray discs, including jumping to a specified time and performing A-B repeats (although some discs would not permit this last).
The playing of discs was completely reliable. The only stutter the unit exhibited was that when it was popping up the extensive ‘Special Features’ menu on Batman Begins, instead of a smooth progression it jerked upwards.
On movies, the picture quality was excellent. That’s all there was to it, especially using a front projector and 1080p24 output. According to the HQV HD Blu-ray test disc, the unit was not very good at deinterlacing 1080i material. Fortunately there isn’t much of this around. It was quite good with PAL DVDs though, generally producing a very high quality picture.
The PIP feature worked nicely on three of the four BonusView discs I had available, but there was a problem with the sound levels with Batman Begins. Using this feature on the Sony Playstation 3, the main sound quietens down whenever the PIP audio starts up, but with the Samsung player the movie sound didn’t diminish. The result was that at the start the commentary was quite inaudible under the flapping of thousands of batwings.
I shall draw this issue to Samsung’s attention and I expect it will be addressed in the future firmware release. In the meantime, this is a fast and powerful Blu-ray player at a very good price. Samsung is on a winner here.