First Looks: Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc Player
Sleek, stylish and unequivocally modern, the Samsung BD-P1000 is a beautifully engineered product with a glossy piano black finish accented by the soft blue glow of its lighted controls. True to most modern home entertainment devices, controls are kept to a minimum with only the customary Power, Eject and Input Select buttons along with the playback control wheel available in the front. A faux brushed metal flip panel below the Blu-ray drive hides the memory card reader slots.
At the back, A/V connections include S-Video and Composite (SD source only, eg. DVD), Component, HDMI, optical and coaxial S/PDIF and multi-channel analog audio. Sadly, the BD-P1000 lacks support for next generation audio like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD, plus output is only limited to 5.1 channels (unless digitally channeled to your A/V amp supporting the better standards).
Substance to Beauty
The BD-P1000 is no simple player, but a venerable mash of technology that is more akin to a PC. Besides supporting Blu-ray and DVD playback, the player also handles CD Audio, MP3 and JPEG photo display as well. The player can read BD-ROM, DVD-Video/RAM/-RW/-R, CD-RW/-R and Audio CDs. However, BD-RE/-R discs aren't supported at all, though newer firmwares might change this. It can also read CF, MicroDrive, MS PRO/Duo, SD, Mini SD and RS MMC cards from its built-in card reader. There have been initial reports of compatibility with 50GB Blu-ray discs, but the BD-P1000's first firmware is supposed to have this fixed and our unit plays the 50GB Superman Returns disc just fine.
On a down note though, the player feels very sluggish and its software, lacking. The BD-P1000 runs on Java, taking ages (that's 23 seconds too long) to 'boot' up before the disc tray and menus can be accessed. Its audio player and photo viewer software are very rudimentary, which is to say that they work, but its clunky interface and slow access/response times may drive you up the wall.
The BD-P1000 uses the same HD decoder chip as the Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player, which is the Broadcom BCM7411. This means that the player isn't really capable of displaying native 1080p streams from source, as the output from the decoder is 1080i. Instead, Samsung has implemented a Genesis Faroudja FLI8638-LF video processor/scaler into the path to de-interlace the video back into 1080p.
Because video has been interlaced from 1080p/24 to 1080i/60 and then de-interlaced back to 1080p/60, there is a slight jerkiness in motion, especially pans and small artifacts. The aggressive noise reduction of the Genesis chip also takes the edge off certain scenes, but that is really a matter of preference. That being said, image quality on our Samsung LA46F71B 46-inch 1080p TV is great and we tested with the new VC-1 encoded Superman Returns and S.W.A.T., one of the better MPEG-2 BD Disc transfers out there.
Perhaps the best value of the BD-P1000 is its upscaling capabilities, a 'side effect' of having the Faroudja processor. A pretty significant feature for this player and allows DVD upscaling to 720p, 1080i or 1080p depending on your TV capabilities. The player strictly adheres to EDID information on your TV though, and automatically scales to the appropriate resolution.
The Final Say
Being an early adopter means putting up with the many quirks of a technology, which Samsung will come around to fix in due time. No doubt, the Samsung BD-P1000 itself is a stylish and well built player. Of course, it has no competition now, being the first and only BD player in the global market, but it is an impressive piece of technology nonetheless and its capabilities to enhance existing DVDs to look good on your HDTV softens the blow of its US$999 launch price.