Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-Ray Disc Player Review
Having just reviewed the brilliant plasma HDTV (Samsung PN50A650) unit which displays full 1080p resolution, we have been introducing you to the HDTV that has changed the television landscape. We’ve come so far with technology that it’s really amazing to see and to experience how leaps and bounds further these new HDTVs are over old trusty CRT televisions.
One of the must-have items you’ll come across with your purchase of an HDTV, to further the High-Definition experience, is a Blu-Ray disc player. Actually this will compliment your HDTV since it is essentially made for it.
Now I’m sure most of you have heard about the Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD war that had been going on previously, yet at the end of all of this, Blu-Ray came out on top and is now the media format we are going to be transitioning into the future. I say transitioning because most people are still accustomed to standard DVD format. DVD is still widely available and adopted by all movie studios. I’m not sure when DVD’s will be phased out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on shelves for let’s say four more years. Fact is that most people have DVD players and have not upgraded to an HDTV.
With that said, what does Blu-Ray have to offer you? It offers you the experience, much like that of upgrading from old television to a new HDTV. The creation of Blu-Ray brings you from a resolution of 480 lines of detail, to a resolution of 1080 lines! That is 225% more resolution (or 600 more lines of detail) that you’re seeing on your new HDTV set (provided your HDTV can do 1080i/p).
Blu-Ray is still a relatively young media format. It was out for a while but not necessarily adopted widely, the same can be said today. The first commercial Blu-ray disc players were available around 2003, but were expensive and had issues that needed to be sorted out such as copyright protection that movie studios wanted to be stronger than that of the standard DVD we have all come to know (how easily it can be copied for example).
Anyway, Blu-Ray discs are physically the same size as that of a DVD but the differences are they can store up to 50GB (dual-layer) and 25GB (single-layer) respectively. In comparison, DVD’s can store up to 8.7GB of data (dual-layer) and 4.7GB of data (single-layer). Blu-ray discs are read and written by a “blue” laser and standard DVD’s use a “red” laser. Most if not all Blu-ray disc players today can read both Blu-ray discs, and standard DVD discs (and up-convert these DVDs).
Anyway let’s just get on with the review…
You’ll notice in the specifications that the BD-P1500 is a profile 1.1 player and not of the newer 2.0 type. Profile 1.1 is called BonusView and profile 2.0 is called BD-Live. What are the differences? Very simply put, BonusView is a special feature on some Blu-Ray discs that allow picture-in-picture video commentary while the original movie is playing. If you’re a special feature junky then you probably want this feature. For some people, watching the movie is good enough.
BD-Live is totally different than BonusView and is more processor and storage intensive. Think about BD-Live as something like Xbox Live (where you can see movie trailers through the internet) or AppleTV (where you can stream Apple movie trailers online). BD-Live is basically the same thing, and like Xbox Live and AppleTV, require an internet connection to make BD-Live functional.
BD-Live allows you go on the internet and see trailers of upcoming or already available Blu-ray movies. In addition, you’re going to need space to store this content, so a requirement of profile 2.0 is to have 1GB of local storage, whereas profile 1.1 only has a requirement of 256MB of local storage. It’s up to you to decide if you want to go with profile 1.1 or profile 2.0. For me personal, I rarely ever go online on my Xbox to watch movie trailers, I have my computer to do that…so profile 2.0 probably isn’t a need for me.
The Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray disc player comes in a very attractive light blue corrugated box. Opening the box will reveal the following items, not really having a bundle…
You know what I was really disappointed with off the bat? Seriously this is a Blu-ray disc player with abilities of outputting at 1080p. Only folks with HDTV’s would go out and spend money on a Blu-ray player, and why should they expect to open the box and be presented with only a composite video cable out of the box.
It amazes me why Samsung decided to include the lowliest of cables out there…On the box reads “Delivering FULL HD Entertainment Experience”. Seriously who decides to use a composite video connection for an HDTV, let alone for a Blu-ray player? Samsung should have at least provided a component video cable, if not an HDMI cable. Providing a composite video cable in 2008 is an insult. I just don’t get it! It’s not like people have purchased a Blu-Ray player for use on their CRT television…
Luckily I had an HDMI cable on hand, or else I would have to make a trip down to a store and get ripped off with markups purchasing an HDMI cable or component cable.
By the way, head over to Monoprice to purchase all your cabling needs for great low prices (my small plug).
How it looks
The Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray disc player looks very simple, yet elegant and contains a glossy front face. The rest of the unit is matte black (going glossy might be going overboard). Matte surfaces on electronics can handle dust much better than its glossy counterparts.
This player has a very simplified design with very few buttons on the front of the machine. Everything you need is already on the remote. The unit is long in size and that could be a problem for some. It barely fit the entrance of my cabinet. You'll see in the gallery, I think Samsung could have made it more compact if they repositioned the PCB's and maybe stacked the drive on top the green PCB. But I'm just being picky. All of the players I've seen are about the same size so I can't really fault Samsung for being the same.
On the back of the machine is where all the connections are made. These connections include composite and component inputs, HDMI, Optical Digital Audio Out, and a USB and Ethernet port for firmware upgrades.
The remote control that is included with the Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-Ray player is a very slim unit. It feels nicely in your hands and buttons are all rubberized and have a great feel to them. Unfortunately the remote hasn’t the ability to be illuminated at night and is a shame. Having the PN50A650 remote control (that can be illuminated) beside the BD-P1500 remote control (that can’t be illuminated) just totally is wrong. So watching a late-night Blu-Ray movie, I struggle to find out where the buttons are.
A nice feature of the remote is that you can use it to control your current Samsung television. This Blu-Ray remote can turn on your TV, change sources, increase volume, a little more.
The remote control provided is much of that of the clicker system of the PN50A650’s remote but minus the wheel. You have separate up, down, left, right buttons and a separate enter key in the middle.
How it performs
The Samsung BD-P1500’s menu look and setup is identical to that of the Samsung PN50A650 HDTV. In fact this type of style is used throughout most of Samsungs new lineup of products. Thus the menu is very easy to navigate and user friendly. The intro screen is just a cloudy blue screen with the Samsung logo located at the top.
The GUI is sluggish and slow to respond to user inputs so it is kind of a downer. This alone kills the experience because if you need to rewind, fast forward, or just do something that should be simple, it takes a real long time to complete. I found myself shaking my head and frustrated at times because of the sluggish feeling, and other times I would keep pushing the button so it can speed up, yet nothing would happen until 1-2 seconds after I mashed the same button five times in a row. I know that my friends PlayStation 3 is much faster at responding than the BD-P1500. I don’t know if a firmware can fix a sluggish GUI but something should be done.
There aren’t too many options in the menu so there’s not really much you can do. Out of the box the BD-P1500 has support for Dolby TrueHD but none for the more flexible and better DTS-HD Master Audio decoding (if you’re not using a receiver/speaker setup, this doesn’t really matter to you). Apparently only the PlayStation 3 has this feature.
The Samsung BD-P1500 is just a simple Blu-Ray disc player with no extras. This thing can only play Blu-Ray, DVDs, and audio CDs. No support for media formats such as VCD, DiVX, JPEG, MOV, and WMA, nothing of that nature. As of a result you’re very limited to multiple formats, so Samsung has to price the BD-P1500 accordingly to the competition and may win some consumers who just want a basic player.
The prices I’ve seen for the Samsung BD-P1500 goes for about $100 less than the amount you would pay for a 80GB PlayStation 3 (up here in Canada) which can play Blu-Ray discs, and do a multitude of other things such as play more video formats, play video games, go online, store and view photos and more. But I’m sure you can find it for less if you look hard enough. You’re going have to decide if the extra $100-110 that you save is enough to let you go with the BD-P1500 or shell out a little bit more for something that can do multiple things in one machine.
Loading standard DVD’s took about 15 seconds for the player to start to process an image on screen while loading a Blu-Ray movie took a long 25 seconds for the player to start to “recognize” the media (started to show the loading bar) and took maybe another 15 seconds to put a JAVA menu on screen. Not necessarily the fastest loading times I’ve come across, even for reading DVDs. The drive inside the BD-P1500 is a little noisy during seeking for the disc, but once the disc is found and being played, you can’t hear a thing under operation.
Negatives aside, when the Samsung BD-P1500 is in use it provides very good picture quality. Image quality and detail of Blu-Ray movies amaze you and frankly make you not want to go back to watching old standard DVDs. Everything is sharp (even up close), really colorful, detailed, and makes you feel that you’re there with the actors/actresses on screen. You zone out and are immersed into it. Frankly I’d say watching Blu-Ray movies is just as good as watching it in theatres. The only thing that could be missing from the experience is your sound system, and that is why I told you to invest in something other than your integrated speakers.
DVD upconversion gave a little bit of mixed reviews. I frankly could not tell that much of a difference of upconversion on the BD-P1500 than that of what the Xbox 360 (the 360 is known to be poor performer on this front). All I really noticed was the image was just a tad sharper but still soft.
The Samsung BD-P1500 is competitively priced and creates its own niche. Someone looking for a solid basic Blu-Ray player on the cheap but doesn’t need the extras like BD-Live may want to place the BD-P1500 on the shortlist.
The Samsung BD-P1500 is a good basic Blu-Ray player. It may be a bit limited on its features and a bit slow to respond during operation, but once you get it up and running, image quality is very good for Blu-Ray movies and will do what you ask of it without much problem.
For me though, would I personally buy it? No I won’t because the PlayStation 3 is such an attractive machine for about $110 more and is in my opinion more bang for your buck. But I’m not you; you need to decide what’s best for you.
Pros and Cons