Review Around a decade ago I witnessed my first demo of a DVD player. I stupidly then proceeded to tell a room of fellow journos that it would never take off as a format until it was recordable. Well, as you can imagine, certain people have never let me forget that indiscretion. So when faced with the first sample of Blu-ray - the next generation DVD/high definition DVD (you decide) chances are I am going to play it safe. Well, alas no. In my opinion optical disk systems really are on their last legs and the future is hard disk and flash based storage and beyond.
So while there is a lot to like about Blu-ray and Samsung's player in particular, I'm not entirely sold on the format becoming anywhere near as ubiquitous as DVD. But for the time being if you want a high-definition movie player under your TV set it's going to be Blu-ray or Toshiba's HD DVD.
Choosing which to back is a tricky business too. Blu-ray clearly has the support of a larger section of the consumer electronics industry, but HD DVD is cheaper - the UK players could sell for as little as £600 - and some critics claims it has better picture quality.
Although there is huge number of Blu-ray supporters Samsung has done the smart thing by getting its models to the UK first. Sony, Philips, LG et al will deliver their players shortly but it is likely that this is the model that will grab all the early headlines. So what do you get for your money?
The main and in fact possibly the only reason to invest in a Blu-ray player is picture quality - watching Hollywood movies in the highest resolution possible. While I personally have been sold on HD from day one - I love sports and documentaries in HD - I have been less impressed with the HD movie offerings from both Sky and Virgin Media (née Telewest). Maybe that's because the difference between the output of a decent DVD player and an HD satellite signal is much less than that of, say, a standard-definition satellite signal and an HD one. The films in HD look fine, but to be honest they don't blow you away.
What though of Blu-ray's pictures? Samsung supplied us with two discs, SWAT and Legends of Jazz, both of which have excerpts which highlighted just why Blu-ray has massive potential. For SWAT it was more of an overall feel. There is obviously a huge difference in terms of resolution between Blu-ray discs and standard DVDs, and yes there is greater detail when compared with Sky's HD movie transmissions. However, the clincher for me were the colours which were rich and striking without ever being saturated.