Originally Posted by Andrew P
I wanted to add my thoughts as I was able to get my hands on a few BD movies today. My thoughts are very similar to the original poster with the exception of the follwing:
1. Build quality-The Toshiba has the edge here. While the Sammy looks more futuistic it is lighter and has a cheaper feel to it. It definitely is not in the same build category.
2. While the Toshiba is slower in loading discs by about 10-20 seconds, I feel that the Sammy is more sluggish in responding to button presses. I do have the never firmware on the Toshiba. Both players have been glitch free to this point. I never had an issue with HD DVD, but I did upgrade the firmware anyway, so maybe a light edge to the Sammy since it doesnt need a firmware upgrade.
3. Picture Quality- Id give the edge to HD DVD so far. In general, the picture seems more 3d and sharper. There are a few bad HD DVD transfers though. Same with The Fifth Element. But my overall opinion after 20 plus HD DVD movies and 4 BD movies is that the BD titles are a slight notch below.
I realize that the same movies are not available for both, but its a general feel that I get. BD movies look good at times, but it seems to be inconsistent throughout the movie.
Conclusion- We all know that price is a factor and based on that fact I cannot reccomend the Sammy at this time. It just doesnt provide anything additional for 2x the price. Most importantly the picture quality is slightly lower (possibly at best equal to) HD DVD.
The biggest advantage the Sammy has is more studio support, but until Fox or Disney announce release dates this is a moot point. If you have the money to burn (or love the Sony titles) then get the Sammy, but otherwise I suggest that you wait for the next BD player release.
Alrightâ€¦ after spending several days with the Samsung player and several different Blu-ray discs, I feel Iâ€™ve got an excellent grasp on what you can expect from this player and the format in general for the next few months. Old readers of DVDFile might remember that I used to be one of the siteâ€™s main reviewers for DVD content, so I do have a bit of a background here. Iâ€™m going to focus on what I viewed to be the best looking of the BD titles I viewed in addition to a title that hasnâ€™t been covered elsewhere: XXX. This is a title that provides for a longer running time than most of the early BD titles (123 minutes) and also contains lots of movement to test MPEG2â€™s abilities.
The short of it is that I completely agree with Andrew P and, by extension, BigMikeATL. Blu-ray, as it exists today in both hardware and software, is a good, but not great format. Iâ€™m starting to see a bit of a pattern with these early BD titles as they generally are shorter films with bright, colorful cinematography. Those are the conditions under which MPEG2 BD looks its best. While I was initially questioning what the early adopter appeal of films like Hitch or 50 First Dates could be, now I can understand it.
Letâ€™s start with SD ability as it compares to the Toshiba. Again, I put the player in the very good but not great slot. I think the Toshiba still presents a slightly sharper picture overall when compared to the Samsung. But the Samsung is very much improved over their older models. So if you owned an 841, 850, 941, or 950, you should be happy with the improvement that the BD-P1000 provides. However, those previous models provided an option to pillarbox 4:3 material and zoom 4:3 letterbox images, neither of which is possible on the 1000. So the Toshiba gets a point on that, but the Toshiba also lacks the ability to zoom 4:3 letterbox material, so shame on them both. But overall, advantage Toshiba on SD DVD presentation.
For BD ability, Iâ€™m now going back to my XXX disc and BD in general. Had this format and these titles launched in early April, I would have been happy. Unfortunately for Blu-ray, HD-DVD launched in mid-April and did two things to impair BD: Theyâ€™ve gotten more titles out to consumers and theyâ€™ve provided an HD experience that is better than BD. Now the difference isnâ€™t huge, but it should be noticeable, even to people who might not normally see these kinds of things. Sorry to have to say it, but BD is an unimpressive format in the shadow of HD-DVD. Had they happened in reverse, HD-DVD would have had to work hard to impress upon people that buying their player (even at half the price of BD) was worth the effort for the slight improvement they offered. Now, BD is in a position to justify a premium for a product that is slightly inferior to what is already available. When I first cracked open the HD-A1 in April and popped in that Last Samurai HD-DVD, I was wowed with what I thought to be the best HD image my television had ever produced. The HD image was smooth and rich with a sharpness and depth Iâ€™d never experienced. Most of the HD-DVD titles released thus far (with a few now famous exceptions) have this â€œpopâ€ that takes them out of the realm of what I would consider normal HD. The Blu-ray discs Iâ€™ve sampled thus far, while theyâ€™ve looked good to even great, have all lacked that â€œpopâ€ and instead generally look a lot closer to good OTA HD broadcasts. If you were to show me the XXX BD and tell me it was a Showtime broadcast, I wouldnâ€™t hesitate to think you were telling me the truth. But I would never believe that about most of the HD-DVD titles out there right now.
The sad truth is that MPEG2 just isnâ€™t cutting it against VC-1. Now while itâ€™s difficult to impossible to be able to judge the quality of one film in one codec against a different film in a different codec, I can stack the deck to try and approximate a decent comparison. I compared XXX BD to Unforgiven HD-DVD. Unforgiven is 10 years older than XXX, so this should have been a slam dunk for image quality in favor of XXX. Guess what, the VC-1 Unforgiven consistently outperformed the MPEG2 of XXX. Just look at chapter 4 of Unforgiven. All of the characters are sharply in focus, while the intricate detail in the background wallpaper is consistently resolved. XXX, by contrast appears somewhat soft and lacking in dimensionality. In all of the BD titles I viewed thereâ€™s a consistent soft, yet noisy quality to the images that appears as a mixture of natural film grain and digital noise. Fine details, such as rocks on the ground or wall textures, are often seen flickering slightly, which is often annoying.
Iâ€™m also curious about how many of these initial discs are truly 1080p. I saw more stairstepping and artifacting throughout one viewing of XXX than I have in 2+ months of HD-DVD viewings. Hereâ€™s a few moments for referenceâ€¦ at :38 the tail of the Revolutions logo there is some pretty good banding visible. Right after that, serious jaggies on the XXX logo that starts the film. At 32:08, look at the grill of the car for more jaggies while 10 seconds later, at 32:18, youâ€™ll also get some pretty good stairstepping at the base of the balcony. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you view it), these artifacts donâ€™t appear on the SD Superbit version of the film when viewed on the Toshiba A1. More surprising, they also donâ€™t appear when the Superbit DVD is viewed on the Samsung BD-P1000. The banding was visible on the Superbit, but it was much less severe than the Blu-ray banding.
Essentially, from what Iâ€™ve seen so far, visually Blu-ray is, at its best, all of the worst qualities of HD-DVD right now. If youâ€™re someone who was bothered by the HD-DVDs of The Fugitive, Full Metal Jacket, and Perfect Storm, youâ€™re not going to find a ton to like in some of these early offerings. Again, they can look really, really good, but they donâ€™t consistently look great. How much of this is a byproduct of the Samsung player is unknown until other players make it to market but a few things are pretty clearâ€¦
Sony, as a company, has a lot riding on the success of Blu-ray. With as much at stake as they have, these titles needed to raise the bar over what weâ€™ve already seen. But because as a company they seem to be more focused on their royalties and the ability to cross promote, they have succeeded in being the second to market with the second best product. Hereâ€™s an example of what I meanâ€¦ The XXX disc has a selection in its menus for â€œPreviews.â€ These are the SD MPEG2 trailers for Stealth, Into the Blue, and SWAT. So thereâ€™s approx. 200-250MB taken up by Sony trying to get you to buy other Sony products. With that space, Sony could have instead done a few other things. Why not include the XXX trailer and the Rob Cohen commentary? Why not use that 200MB to try and eliminate that banding at the beginning of the movie? Instead, Sony appears to have needed that space to get you to spend more money rather than providing us with the best product to entice us to spend more money. Compare that with the Warner and Universal titles, which are not only visually more impressive, but also packed to the rims with bonus content. Universal certainly didnâ€™t need to include all the stuff from the more expensive 2 DVD Cinderella Man, but they did and provided an excellent value on that disc.
Sony has two things that have to happen and happen fast in order for Blu-ray to really make this a good race: They need to implement the advanced video and audio codecs and they need to get 50GB discs working. They have to do both of these and they have to do them fast. With only 50GB and still working MPEG2, theyâ€™re probably going to be able to equal or hover slightly below HD-DVD as it exists now. With newer codecs but only 25GB discs, theyâ€™ll be able to match HD-DVD visually, but will have a 5GB disadvantage. Only with both of these in existence will this format even have a chance. And they need to do this much sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, by the time the Sony player launches in mid-August, there are going to be maybe 30 titles available, while HD-DVD, by that point in August, will be sporting double that and could be up to as high as 75 different titles.
A few of the quirks about the Samsung BD-P1000 that I havenâ€™t seen mentioned yet are the resolution and audio settings. On the video side, Iâ€™ve had a few instances where the resolution would change on the player without me having to select it. It switched from the 1080i that I had set it to to a very much inferior 720p setting that softened the picture even more that I found it at 1080. Iâ€™ll be curious to see additional comments as the player becomes more widely available and whether the player switching itself from 1080 to 720 happens with others. On the audio side, Iâ€™m running the player HDMI to a new Denon 3806 HDMI in. Unfortunately, there seems to be something bungled with how the player handles the bitstream vs. PCM tracks. To play the Dolby 5.1 track, the player has to have the digital out in the playerâ€™s menu set to â€œbitstream.â€ However, if you select one of the Sony uncompressed 5.1 tracks from the menu, it will only play back in 2-channel PCM. Selecting PCM from the player menu will output 5.1 PCM via HDMI, but then converts the Dolby tracks to 2-channel PCM. So you could potentially have to change player settings depending on the disc and soundtrack you want to hear. Can anyone else using their player via HDMI confirm this behavior?
Ultimately, the potential is there for Blu-ray to succeed, but it is unclear when that potential might be approached. For all of the complaints about HD-DVD not being ready for primetime, I think that despite all of its faults, the bottom line is that HD-DVD delivered the big jump up in picture quality and interactivity that many of us were anticipating and has set the bar in terms of HD. Blu-ray, unfortunately, has failed to go â€œBeyond High Definition.â€
Toshiba 50â€ 50H13 DVI in from
Denon 3806 HDMI out and in from
Samsung BD-P1000 HDMI out and
Toshiba HD-A1 HDMI out