EXCLUSIVE: First Review of the Samsung BD-P1200
SamsungÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s BDP-1200 is the latest Blu-ray player to hit the market. It is also the earliest second-generation machine in the format to appear, beating out Sony and other Blu-ray supporters by about three months. The BD-P1200 includes a number of performance enhancements not available in the first Samsung player or in any of its competitors. These include faster boot-up, load times, better upconversion of standard definition DVDs and with some discs, improved HD performance.
The all glossy black finish provides an understated quality to the BDP-1200Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s exterior. It is one of the smallest high definition disc players I have encountered measuring only 16.9 (w) x 12.8 D x 3.1 inches high. The remote control is similar to the unit that is supplied with SamsungÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first generation model the BD-P1000, though it is just a tad longer. Like the earlier version itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not backlit, making it impossible to read in rooms with low ambient lighting. Samsung supplies only a stereo audio/composite video cable. Before overpaying for an HDMI cable at one of the big electronics retail chain stores, read my article on HDMI cable at http://hdgurucom.wpengine.com/?p=12
The BDP-1200 is the first Blu-ray player to be equipped with the Silicon Optix (SO) HQV Reon signal processor. To test the playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s upconversion (converting standard definition 480i DVD up to 1080p) and deinterlacing (converting native 480i SD DVDs and 1080i Blu-ray discs to progressive) capabilities I used the newly released HD HQV Blu-ray Ã¢â‚¬Å“BenchmarkÃ¢â‚¬Â test disc from Silicon Optix and the SO SD DVD test disc.
The HD HQV Benchmark includes tests for video noise, video resolution, Ã¢â‚¬Å“jaggiesÃ¢â‚¬Â and film cadence detectionÃ¢â‚¬â€all recorded in 1080i video. The resolution test may also be used to test if a player or display properly deinterlaces 1080i sources, the most common format for video-based content seen on broadcast and cable networksÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ HD programming.
The Samsung also incorporates a longer list of features than its first generation Blu-ray player (the BD-P1000). However, like all other Blu-ray players the latest Samsung lacks a number of functions that the Blu-ray format is capable of performing. On the audio side the BD-P1200 supports Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS but does not support DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD.
On the video side, the BD-P1200 (according to a Samsung spokesman) does not allow pop-ups such as the directorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s head overlaying a movie when the commentary track is activated. The BD-P1200 has an Ethernet connector but it can only be used for firmware upgrades. It will not permit downloadable applications such as new movie trailers or interactive games. To date, none of the Blu-ray players have this capability.
In additon, it is not possible to access the “Easter Egg” video test patterns found on Sony Pictures Blu-ray discs. The code is 7669. The BD-P1200 does not permit the entry of more than a three digiit number. A Samsung executive told the HD Guru adding this functionality may be possible in the future via a firmware upgrade.
What capabilities does BD-P1200 possess? It will output 1080p and will play at either 60 Hz or 24Hz via its HDMI output (the player also has component video output up to 1080i). The Samsung will play discs in the following formats: BD-ROM, BD-RE and BD-R (25GB or 50GB), DVD-Video, DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW discs as well as audio CD discs including ones recorded using the MP3 codec.
For most of my image quality evaluations I used the superb Pioneer PRO-FHD1 1080p plasma monitor. This is a full 1920 x 1080 panel that features dot-for-dot display of 1080i/p sources (in this mode the players output is not scaled within the monitor). The Pioneer was set at 72Hz output for judder free viewing when using discs recorded at 24 frames per second (movies).
Evaluations began with the timing of Blu-ray disc boot-up and loading. The Samsung wins the Blu-ray speed race with Ã¢â‚¬Å“offÃ¢â‚¬Â to full boot-up in just 30 seconds. Once booted up the BD-P1200 required as little as 23 seconds (the time varied slightly using different BD-ROM discs) to begin playing a disc. One note, using the Pioneer monitor I occasionally encountered issues with the copy protection (HDCP) using the HDMI connection. This produced a Ã¢â‚¬Å“snow screenÃ¢â‚¬Â followed by a black screen and audio pops until the discÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s content appears. This was only experienced with the Pioneer plasma, other HDTVs connected to the BD-P1200 via HDMI functioned properly. I cannot determine if the compatibility problem lies within the Samsung or the Pioneer plasma, though I have not had this issue with any other HD disc player I have used with the Pioneer monitor.
Viewing a number of recent Blu-ray movie releases, including Babel, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Wild and Rocky Balboa confirmed the playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s phenomenal high definition performance. However, the HD Guru finds that all of the latest high definition players including the Sony BDP-S1, Panasonic DMP-BD10 and the Pioneer BDP-HD1 perform equally well with the latest film-based Blu-ray discs. By the way, the discs mentioned were beautifully transferred with none of the scratches, dirt or artifacts that marred many of the early Blu-ray releases such as The Fifth Element.
The Blu-ray HD Ã¢â‚¬Å“BenchmarkÃ¢â‚¬Â confirmed the SamsungÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s flawless video HD performance, with the player passing all of the tests. The content on the Benchmark is video based 1080i (as opposed to film based 24p) which allowed me to confirm the BD-P1200Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s ability to properly deinterlace native 1080i disc content currently found on concert videos such as John Legend at the House of Blues. For comparison, I repeated the resolution loss test using the Sony BDP-S1 and was surprised to discover the Sony player drops 1080i to 540p using its 1080p output mode. This means 50% of the resolution within the disc is lost. The reduction was clearly apparent when viewing the test discÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s video sequence of a stadium where the upper deckÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seats disappear and form moirÃƒÂ© patterns. This resolution loss was also noticed when viewing the John Legend disc using the Sony player set at 1080p output. (For more on this test see http://hdgurucom.wpengine.com/?p=17)
Fortunately the Pioneer PRO-HD1 can properly deinterlace a 1080i signal, so changing the Sony playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s output from 1080p to 1080i recovered the full resolution 1080 lines.
With the high definition tests completed I moved on to the standard definition HQV test disc. The Samsung passed all the tests and verified the playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s noise reduction circuits are highly effective (they only function with standard definition discs). The DVD SD version of Babel appeared sharper than on any other Blu-ray player I sampled. Its performance is only equaled by the Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player, which uses the same Silicon Optix Reon chip set.
The Samsung BD-1200 provides a high definition image equal to the best Blu-ray players I have tested. Its SD DVD performance sets a new standard for Blu-ray players. If you desire a Blu-ray player and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel the need for the features the player lacks (such as Dolby TrueHD output), its performance and low price ($799 retail) makes this Samsung a fine choice for viewing all DVDs and new Blu-ray discs.
The HD Guru awards the Samsung BD-P1200 its top Ã¢â„¢Â¥Ã¢â„¢Â¥Ã¢â„¢Â¥Ã¢â„¢Â¥ rating and recommendation.
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