Affordable Blu-ray With Few Compromises
Sugg. Retail: $299.95CAD, $249.95USD
I haven’t seen a Blu-ray player for $49.95 at Costco yet, but prices are coming down, as this recent model from Samsung
attests. The BD-P1500
is being sold for close to $200 in Canada, and for as low as $150 in the US. But it’s not a stripped down model by any means, with HDMI 1.3 output for full 1080p at 24 fps, and Samsung’s Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC) connectivity, “which allows you to operate compatible HDMI products with a single remote”, according to an online blurb. “USB and Ethernet ports enable firmware updates and networking connectivity.”How many users will avail themselves of these features is hard to estimate.The BD-P1500
also plays regular DVDs in most format variations, upsampling them to 1080p, or 1080i through the component outputs. In audio it supports Dolby True HD and DTS-HD. What the 1500 lacks is 6-channel analog output, as can be see in the rear panel closeup pic. However, most buyers will probably opt for the combined A/V HDMI output with their A/V receivers. Analog 2-channel outputs are provided, as well as optical digital. If these omissions worry you, you can spend twice as much for a universal player like the new OPPO
. What the BD-P1500
does offer that is unusual is Ethernet connectivity and control, especially with other Samsung
products, especially their flat panel TVs. I didn’t have that option, with just the player itself, but did find it interfaced well with my own home theatre through its component video and optical digital audio outputs.
I watched, in whole or part, numerous Blu-ray and DVD discs, including the wonderful A View From Space
(which blends several Classical music audio streams with one hour of HD space shuttle video), the filmsTalladega Nights, The Devil Wears Prada,
(all well-shot feature films), a pair of WHO concerts (Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970,
and The WHO At Kilburn 1977)
, a concert in Glasgow by Paul Rodgers (Who is he?), as well as our regular test and demo DVDs, such as The Thomas Crown Affair
, and a couple of IMAX films, The Magic Of Flight
The two hit movies were very impressive in their colour and resolution, though Babel
showed quite a lot of film grain, and the two WHO concerts were sensational visually and sonically, especially considering their age. The Kilburn
is the best of the pair, catching them at their creative peak after the WHO’s Next
album came out, and just before the death of drummer Keith Moon, who is truly amazing here. The audio mix is quite a bit better (both were fully remixed from multichannel masters) in Kilburn
, with the true dynamics of a live performance captured as best they can for hearing in a home setting (in other words, crank it!).The IMAX movies looked great, even in Zoom setting of the PRO710
to fill the screen. My first conclusion from the Blu-ray viewing was that it’s nice to finally have a format that shows up the limitations of film so fully.The picture quality was as good as any I’ve seen on my Pioneer Elite PRO-710HD
display, with very accurate and vibrant colour and superb greyscale. Looking at our Benchmark and Digital Video Essentials test discs, I saw little to fault from the BD-P1500
. A few of the motion tests showed some dot crawl and other minor artifacts, but these were just things we become used to with DVD, and Blu-ray is simply better in every way. Perfection is always elusive, and there are probably better players out there at higher prices, but this one is an amazing value for its video performance with both DVDs and Blu-ray discs.
With respect to DVDs in particular, the Samsung does an excellent job, upsampling them to 1080i in this case through the component outputs, but did not quite match the native 540p performance of my reference Pioneer Elite DV-AX10 player as upsampled by the PRO-710, though very close. As I have discovered in my years of working with digital audio formats, upsampling to a given sampling frequency, say 192 kHz, still does not match a native 192 kHz signal in resolution. You simply cannot synthesize digital video or audio by upsampling if the actual information is not there in the first place.
And, turning to the audio side, this is perhaps not the player for the person wanting to sample the newest Dolby and DTS formats, with its strictly 2-channel analog output. To hear these in super surround, you’ll have to use a decoder or receiver that accepts HDMI and decodes these formats. It should also be noted that the BD-P1500 does not support DVD-Audio nor SACD, so those with these discs will hear them at CD or Dolby Digital resolution.
Having lived for many years with HDTV, both off-air and from XpressVu satellite, I do confess that I’m spoiled for good, and can hardly bear to watch non-HD channels. But the whole video presentation game has been ramped up another notch by Blu-ray, even when I have to view it at 1080i, since broadcast signals seldom approach the purity and detail of a really good Blu-ray disc.
So, if you want the true glory of Blu-ray at an incredibly affordable price, run out to your nearest Samsung dealer and snap up this player before they’re all gone. I’ve seen BD-P1500s offered at well under $200USD, and not much above in Canada. I see this player as the perfect start to upgrading your home theatre to this latest video format winner.