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Considering a Blu-Ray Player

July 16, 2008

With the high definition video disc format war having been won by Blu-Ray, I am now considering purchasing a Blu-Ray player. Having followed the new players coming out on EngadetHD, and done a fair amount of reading of the Blu-Ray Player forum on the AVS Forum, I have determined that the following features are I would like to have, in order of importance:

 

  • The ability to use BD-Live now or in the future. There really is no close substitute for this feature that allows interactivity over the internet for those discs that support it. Even if I don’t use it that much, it would bug me to have a player that did not support this capability.
  • The ability to be controlled by infrared universal remote. I have a Harmony universal remote for each TV in the house that has a high WAF (wife acceptance factor) and having to use an additional remote to play Blu-Ray discs would be bad.
  • The ability to output Dolby Digital or DTS through an optical output. I purchased my receiver before HDMI was prevalent and it does not handle HDMI sources, so for the time being I will be relying on component cables and an optical output.
  • The ability to have the player decode different sound tracks in the player itself rather than just sending the bitstream for a given sound track to my receiver. This seems to be essential for taking advantage of the picture-in-picture features that combine a secondary audio track with one of the main sound tracks from the movie.
  • Price. I would prefer not to spend more than $400 on a player.
  • The ability to handle all of the audio tracks once I get an HDMI capable receiver. As I understand it Blu-Ray discs may contain a number of different types of encoded audio tracks: (i) Dolby Digital 5.1, (ii) DTS 5.1, (iii) LPCM, (iv) Dolby Digital Plus, (v) True HD, (vi) DTS-HD HR and (vii) DTS-HD MA. I’m not sure I could hear the difference between these, but all other things being equal I would prefer that the player feed any of these audio tracks to my receiver in case my audio tastes become more refined. All Blu-Ray players must support output of (i) thru (iii) and (iii) thru (vii) can only be output using HDMI (or in some cases, analog cables for each channel).
  • No audio problems. Some of the players still seem to have problems with audio dropouts in some movies. A vocal group experiences these problems for some players, many of which can’t be repeated and may be due to compatibility issues between the player and given receivers.
  • A relatively fast startup time after discs are inserted. The early players took much longer to start playing a disc after insertion than the current crop of players.
  • The ability to upconvert DVDs. This generally requires HDMI if the player is doing the upconversion. This seems nice, but to the extent I watch DVD movies these days they have been ripped and I watch them using MyMovies on an Xbox 360 Media Center Extender, so this is less important. Another alternative would be the ability to pass unprocessed video from a DVD to a receiver that would do its own upconversion.
  • No extra memory is needed for advanced features. The Blu-Ray profile 1.1 and 2.0 specifications require 256MB and 1GB, respectively, of persistent memory to be compliant. Some players allow those requirements to be satisfied only by plugging in a USB memory stick.
  • Slow motion and frame-by-frame advance. These are pretty basic transport controls, but at least one new DB-Live Blu-Ray player is without them.

I’ve considered the PlayStation 3, the Sony BDP-S350, the Samsung BD-P1500. I have not seriously considered the Panasonic DMP-BD50 (because of its $700 price tag and not being available quite yet) or Sony BDP-S550 (because it will not be available until Fall). These are the only BD-Live capable players and none satisfied all of my criteria.

I’m currently leaning toward the Samsung BD-P1500 for reasons I’ll explain in more detail once I make a purchase (something I’m not in a huge hurry to do, but a big enough hurry that I probably won’t wait until Fall).

[Updated 7/16/08]

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