Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc player
The first consumer Blu-ray machine lands in the UK
For the jazz disc, the big issue was the resolution of the picture, which once again was way superior to DVD and had the edge over Sky HD. Filmed in a fairly bland-looking studio, the camera focuses on the faces and the instruments of the musicians revealing incredible levels of detail from pock-marked skin through to specks on jackets.
One rather clever feature is that the player automatically works out the maximum resolution of the TV and then tailors its performance to suit. We tested the player using Samsung's 46in 1080p LE46F71B 46 LCD TV, so it was straight 1080p output to 1080p monitor. If, however, the TV only has a resolution of up to 1080i - the maximum for many HD sets - it works to output at that level. To be honest I'm not entirely sure what level of difference it makes. There is a frothy debate online about the merits of 1080p sets over 1080i ones, with some reviewers claiming you can't see the difference.
As for sound quality, I didn't get the chance to hook up the player to a surround-sound system to test out its Dolby Digital capabilities, but its stereo performance admittedly through the TV's speakers was reasonable. The Samsung will also play a variety of other discs and most usefully it will upscale your existing DVDs to the 1080p format. Of course they don't rival Blu-ray discs in terms of image quality and resolution but as a standalone DVD player this delivers very high quality performance.
Good too is the menu system, which is not only simple to use but also has a 3D feel. Finally, the BD-P1000 is very smart looking player. The player is finished in a very strokable black piano shine - watch out for smudges! - with a front-mounted control that has a tasteful blue backlight.
You'd expect a £900 player to be rammed with features but sadly the BD-P1000 is not. You get a smart-card reader for playing your JPEGs, MPEGs and MP3s, but that's about it. And Samsung doesn't seem to have spent too much time on the remote control. It works reasonably well, but isn't especially comfortable to hold, and the menu control buttons are oddly sited.
The worst part though is that there is only a very limited range of Blu-ray titles on sale at the moment. So this player is very much for early adopters who are going to commit to the format no matter what. Unless you have to be first on the block with Blu-ray, it surely is far better to see over the next 12 months whether one of the two competing formats establishes itself as a clear winner.
One thing is for sure: with Toshiba now not launching its HD DVD players in the UK until mid-December and this player only available in fairly limited quantities, the new optical disc formats aren't going to make much impact in the UK this Christmas.