Samsung BD-P1200 Blu-ray Player Page 3
Other aspects of the Samsung's subjective performance were comparable to the best I've yet seen. Not better—the bar is already set very high—but certainly every bit as good. As a device for playing back Blu-ray Discs, the Samsung's image quality sits at the state-of-the-art.
This is undoubtedly helped by the best video processing I've yet seen in a Blu-ray player. Credit the Silicon Optix REON chip here. It scored good, at a minimum, on all of my standard video processing tests, and excellent on many of them. The 480i-to-1080p (HDMI) conversion was superb, and 1080i-to-1080p deinterlacing was outstanding as well, with full recognition of 3/2 pulldown. The latter is less important with a Blu-ray player than in a display, since few BDs are mastered in 1080i. But the REON chip is certainly doing everything you could ask of it. And while most of the source material I used in this evaluation was high-definition from Blu-ray Discs, the Samsung also proved to be an excellent upconverting player—which was no surprise in view of its first-class video processing.
As noted earlier, most of my viewing was done over HDMI with the player set to output 1080p (both at 60fps and 24fps). That's logical, since my reference display (the JVC DLA-RS1) is 1080p. But I also checked out the player in HDMI at both 1080i and 720p. In 1080i its performance was very close to 1080p, though with very subtly less saturated color. 720p was less crisp-looking than 1080p—no surprise there—but it was certainly not soft and the differences were only clear on a near-AB comparison. But the results will differ somewhat on different displays.
I also checked out the performance of the player using a 1080i component output (the maximum resolution available from the component output with a Blu-ray Disc). I was startled to find that it actually looked sharper than the HDMI link. But it was perhaps a little overdone; that fine grain I mentioned earlier was even more evident. A reduction in the display's Sharpness control helped considerably, without producing a soft image. Some viewers might actually prefer the look of the component link. I leaned that way at first, but ultimately returned to the subtly more natural look of the HDMI connection. It's likely that the results you get will be more dependent on characteristics of the component input on your display than on the player.
As with most upconverting players, you may have to change the player's resolution to a maximum of 480p to properly display 4:3 or non-enhanced letterboxed program material. Many displays lock you into 16:9 mode when they sense a 720p or 1080i/p source resolution. The JVC projector I used is restricted in that way, but 4:3 programming looked fine if I switched the player to 480p. Some displays, however (like the Sony VPL-AW15 projector), do retain a full range of aspect ratio options with higher resolution inputs.
On the audio side, I had no complaints at all about the multichannel audio passed from the Samsung over its HDMI outputs. Film sound was comparable to that from any other high-definition player I've yet tested.
I also listened to both the SPDIF coaxial digital output and the multichannel output, using music as a source for each. I limited this test to two-channel music, with the left and right front speakers driven full range without a subwoofer, since I was primarily interested in judging the player's basic sound quality.
Used as a transport, from the player's coaxial digital output, the Samsung did a fine job. It was just a little more forward through the midrange and low treble than the Pioneer Elite DV-79AVi DVD player I generally use as a CD transport, a bit slower in operation, and would not jump immediately to a desired track simply by pushing the track number on the remote. (You can use an on-screen display to select the desired track, but I don't want my display turned on while I'm simply trying to listen to music.)
While I marginally preferred the sound of the Pioneer-as-transport at first, I began to waver toward the end of my listening. From its coaxial digital output, the Samsung is the best-sounding high def disc player I've yet reviewed when playing back CDs.
I can't say quite as much for its sound from the analog outputs. It was never irritating, edgy, or objectionable in any serious way. But it sounded a bit more homogenized, less well defined, and less spacious than the direct digital feed. What we have here, however, is essentially a comparison between the D/A converters in the player and the D/A converters in the receiver, with some analog stages in both devices as additional variables. How this comparison fares will also depend on your particular AV receiver or pre-pro.
I have experienced minor skipping or freezing- up on most of the Blu-ray players I have used or tested. The BD-P1200 fell into the skipping crowd. But after eliminating all the possible variables, I could only attribute one serious, repeatable freeze-up to the player. On one sample of The Patriot, chapter 9 seized up consistently. The Samsung refused to play past it. A second sample of the disc worked fine, and a second sample of the Samsung I was able to try also worked without a hitch on both discs.
A defective disc? Possibly. But the disc played perfectly on two other players: a Sony BDP-S300 and a Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1. The most conservative conclusion I can draw here is that some samples of the Samsung may be more sensitive than average to less than perfect discs.
(I did experience a serious problem with another Blu-ray Disc on both samples of the Samsung, and the Pioneer, until I cleaned off a few fingerprints. I handle my discs very carefully, but fingerprints can be especially hard to avoid near the edges of a disc. Another tentative conclusion based on relatively limited sampling of discs is that of the three players mentioned here, the Sony BDP-S300 appears to be less sensitive than the Samsung and perhaps the Pioneer to such smudges.)
On several occasions when I skipped to a different chapter on the disc, the HDMI connection broke lock. On two such events I had to unplug the player to get it up and running again. On several other break-lock occasions it came back up quickly, but with the image bathed in a pink-violet tint!
Why was this? The HDMI digital video from consumer disc players is in component digital form (Y-Cb-Cr, not to be confused with a player's analog Y-Pb-Pr outputs). But many displays can accept digital video in either component or RGB form. When an HDMI link is established, those displays may default to RGB if the proper data are not received from the player telling them that the signal is Y-Cb-Cr digital component. And digital RGB playback of a digital component Y-Cb-Cr source will result in just such a wacky color palette. With the Samsung, I could clear the problem consistently by switching to another input and back again (breaking the HDMI lock and giving the HDMI another shot at a proper lockup). But this should never happen and has not, in my experience, with other Blu-ray players.
This is a good place to mention that all of these observations, and most of my viewing comments as well, were made through the excellent HDMI switching in a Denon AVR-4306 AV receiver. While I did use a direct link on occasion to verify my observations, I also wanted to include playback of multichannel PCM (where available) in the reviewing experience, and the best way to get it was via an HDMI link to the receiver. Running an HDMI source through a switcher on its way to the display may weaken the link and make it more susceptible to a disconnect. But since most of you will want to hook up your system this way (if not now, then in the future), the tendency of the Samsung to break an HDMI lock more easily than other players I've tested must be noted. (It should also be noted that when it did break lock it was as a result of a command such as a chapter skip; it did not break lock randomly during normal viewing.)
Yet another issue involved audio, specifically uncompressed PCM tracks. The video processing in the player (indeed, in any player) results in a little video delay. It's usually small, and in any event many AV receivers and pre-pros have adjustable audio delays that can compensate for it. On the Samsung, however, the delay is noticeably longer with uncompressed PCM tracks than with the corresponding Dolby Digital tracks that reside on the same disc. This was the case only with 1080p/24 playback, not 1080p/60. The problem did not exist in the Sony DVP-S300 I compared it to. While you can correct for this if your receiver has enough delay time available (most will), that means that you will have to dial in a different delay for multichannel PCM playback than for other audio formats, which could be a real nuisance.
The Samsung BD-P1200 has some performance characteristics that I hope are cleared up in future firmware upgrades. It's also possible that the new models coming out soon will address them.
Whether or not these oddities will influence your purchase decision is another matter. They must be weighted against the player's overall performance, which is second to none among the standalone players we have tested.
Unsurpassed playback of Blu-ray Discs
Superb video processing both for BDs and for upconverting standard definition DVDs
Above average operating speed
More prone than average to freeze up on marginal discs
Will not decode Dolby TrueHD
Audio/video lip sync issues with 1080p/24 HDMI playback of uncompressed PCM soundtracks