Pros: Plays Hi-Def Blu-rays, DVDs and CDs; easy to set up and use
Cons: Blu-ray discs are pricier; players are more expensive than DVD players
I wasn't really planning on getting a Blu-ray player for a while yet; I still remember both the exhilarations and frustrations of the transition from VHS to DVD only a decade ago and I really didn't want to start replacing my entire 100-title DVD library with Blu-ray discs.
After all, although high-definition TVs and Blu-ray players/discs are becoming less expensive with each passing month, the two DVD players we have here are still running fine (one's only been in use for seven or so months) and are compatible with our two Samsung LCD TV sets.
However, because technology stands still for no one and almost all new home video releases are touted as "now on DVD and Blu-ray" in the same way that VHS releases used to say "now on VHS and DVD" back in the late 1990s, I actually began to ask around if there were any models of Blu-ray player that could also play DVD-Video discs and CDs; if such a gadget existed, my reasoning went, then I could have the best of both worlds - a player that would play the new high-definition discs but would not necessarily make my existing DVDs obsolete, thus staving off a long and expensive "rebuilding" of my video collection like the one I undertook when I bought my first DVD player in 2000.
But even when several tech-savvy friends of mine assured me that some high-end Blu-ray players can play multiple formats, I still was not sure if I wanted to take the plunge and buy one in 2008. I've learned not to buy electronics on a whim - my first DVD player purchase taught me that in a painful manner - and I knew that I needed to get a player from a known brand, and to me that meant either Sony (which invented the Blu-ray format) or Samsung.
Not only that, but my tech "advisors" told me that a player along the lines I was talking about would cost me no less than $300.00; did I really want to spend that much in these uncertain economic times?
For several weeks I wavered back and forth on the issue, and it looked as though my decision was going to be "no" until the day I wandered over to Amazon to do most of my holiday shopping.
To be honest, I did not go Blu-ray Player Browsing at Amazon with a serious intent to buy anything. "It's just to see prices," I told myself, although I don't think I was too sure if that was true or not.
And at first, that's all it was - a price comparison search....until I saw a particular Samsung player that had a $298.00 price listing with Amazon's "strikethrough" symbol and a "click button to see lower price" option on the listing.
Curious to see the reduced price, I clicked the button, and immediately I was taken to the product page for Samsung's BD 1500 player, which not only plays Blu-ray discs at a full HD 1080 pixel resolution, but also met my personal requirement that it be "downward compatible" with DVD-Video and audio compact discs.
To my surprise, the price had been marked down almost $100; $202.00 is not exactly a "steal," but considering we're talking about a Samsung Blu-ray player which can play DVDs, CDs, and - of course - Blu-ray discs, it seemed to me to be a good bargain. (And since I chose the slower but much cheaper "Free Shipping" option, that's all it cost, too!)
Experience the Blu-ray difference with the SAMSUNG BD-P1500. You'll get incredibly detailed images with brilliant color in full high definition 1080p resolution....The BD-P1500 lets you have it all - watch your favorite DVDs and Blu-ray discs or listen to CDs with the highest-quality audio. - From the Samsung web site
Disc formats playable by the BD-P1500
•1. Blu-ray Video, BD-ROM, BD-RE/BD-R (Single sided)
•2. DVD Video, 5" and 3.5" single and double sided
•3. DVD-RW (V mode and finalized only), 5" (4.7 GB capacity)
•4. DVD-R (V mode and finalized only), 5" (4.7 GB)
•5. Audio CD, 5" and 3.5" single sided
As in all home video products manufactured for the U.S., Canadian, and other countries using similar TV color broadcasting systems, this player is only compatible with the NTSC color system.
And just as DVD players made for the North American region are factory set to play DVDs with the 1 region code, the BD-P1500 series will only play Blu-rays with the A region code, Region 1 DVDs, and multi-region DVDs. If you own HD-DVDs or any CD or DVD-like disc not listed above, e.g. DVD-ROM, CVD, CD-ROM, or 3.9 GB DVD-R disc for authoring, you're out of luck; they will not be playable on this player.
A look at the BD-P1500
To the casual observer, the player looks very much like a standard one-disc DVD player; the BD-P1500 might be a bit heftier looking than a slim Sony DVD player of 2007 vintage, but other than the layout of the function buttons on the front panel, there's very little on its black surface that cries out Blu-ray Player here!
I mean, you have your basic Open/Close Disc Tray button on the top left corner, the disc tray itself set to the left of the display panel, the Power On/Standby Button on the bottom left corner, the aforementioned display panel, and a cluster of function buttons on the upper right corner of the player.
The back of the unit has all the video/audio out jacks that all of us who own DVD players should be familiar with, most of them being the red, white and yellow "female" connectors that mate with the "male" plugs of standard RCA cables (one of which is included with the BD-P1500 model; owners of the 1500C model get a HDMI cable that connects to the HDMI (High Definition Media Input) socket of a LCD or plasma HDTV set).
Update: I have recently purchased a 6-foot HDMI cable to take advantage of the Blu-ray player's high-definition capabilities. Such a cable allows the BD-P1500 to not only play DVDs but "upconvert" their images to hi-def standards (1080i). This gives the viewer much better video and audio performance, and though it involves an additional expense, it is, in the end, worthwhile!
Other connections include a USB host port (for flash drives which contain software upgrades), a LAN port (which connects to Samsung's web site for firmware upgrades), and a "component video out" connection. The USB port, incidentally, is only for software upgrades and can only be used with standard USB flash drives.
Setting it up
If you own any DVD player that doesn't require an S-Video cable - in other words, one with the standard RCA A/V input/output cables - connecting the BD-P1500 will not require a PhD in rocket science. If your DVD player still works is still connected to your HDTV's AV1 I/O jacks, and you have room in your media center or TV stand, simply plug the RCA cables into the I/O jacks in the AV2 area (usually found on the side of the TV).
Once you connect the RCA cables to the TV and the Blu-ray player is in its desired spot in your media center, plug the power cord into your wall socket or, better yet, a surge-resistant power strip. If the sky-blue Samsung Blu-ray "Welcome" screen doesn't appear and no sound is heard, check your RCA cables and make sure the plugs are properly mated with their corresponding socket; if any of your connections looks wrong (the red output plug is in the yellow one, say), simply unplug the player from the power source, and carefully disconnect the BD-P1500.
Make sure your output plugs match the I/O jacks in either the AV1 or AV2 areas, and then carefully connect them. Once this is done and you've set the player back in its place in your media center, plug theBD-P1500's power cord into the wall socket or power strip.
Press the Power On button; you should now see your start up screen and hear a musical chime.
Now, although the BD-P1500 does have a quartet of function buttons off to the right of the display panel (Play/Pause, Stop, Search, and Skip), most of the time you'll be using your remote control, which has the aforementioned functions plus a baker's dozen of others, such as Pop Up Menu, TV/AV Device selection, a separate On/Off switch for your TV (if you own a Samsung TV, the remote is preset to work with it; the manual contains a page of manufacturers' codes to program your remote to turn on/off sets made by most HDTV manufacturers, including Aiwa, Hitachi, LG, Magnavox, Philips, Sony and Zenith.
There are also TV Channel Selection and Volume Up or Down keys, a button that turns Subtitles On/Off, a numeric keypad, an Info button, Audio buttons that activate sound options on Blu-ray or DVD discs, and a bunch of specialized buttons that work with specific Blu-ray discs. In essence, the BD-P1500's remote is almost a universal remote, especially when the player is connected to a Samsung TV or the remote is programmed with the proper manufacturer's code (provided in the manual).
Having owned at least three DVD players since 2000, I was able to set up the BD-P1500 fairly easily. I did get my RCA cables mixed up at first (I was, perhaps, a bit too giddy after receiving it), but I saw what I had done wrong and in no time I had my Blu-ray player up and running. I didn't have any Blu-ray discs handy since I didn't want to get too debt-ridden at Amazon and didn't order any with my BD-1500. (I did get Spider-Man 3 at a local Walmart store a few days ago, but my review is based mostly on the test-run period with DVDs only.)
I do have many DVDs - mostly movies, of course, but also of some old TV shows which were shot in "full-screen" format - so I did test the player's "downward compatibility" features.
In a nutshell, this is what I've noticed so far when I play DVDs:
•· The audio and video quality of DVDs - particularly those of feature films along the lines of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - are about the same on a Blu-ray player as they are on a standard DVD player. The quality of the sound and picture from the DVD is about as good as that of a standard analog TV channel on an HDTV: you can see and hear it all right, but it can't compare in clarity or crispness to a Hi-Def channel. This is to be expected, since the DVD was designed for sets with 435 lines of resolution, while the Blu-ray discs have resolutions of 1080 pixels. (My TV can display 720 pixels, not quite the max but close enough.)
•· When a DVD contains either an episode from a TV show or a pre-1954 feature film not shot in CinemaScope or any other "widescreen" format, the Blu-ray player will not stretch the image to fill the screen. Rather, it'll replicate the "curtain" or "vertical letterbox" effect HD channels use to make "full screen" TV images appear at their "proper" ratios, albeit without the fancy colors or effects most HD channels use on their curtains.
•· When playing the DVDs which contain the original theatrical release versions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, the letterbox and curtain effect are combined and the movie images appear on the TV surrounded by a black "square."
Apparently, the 1977, 1980, and 1983 versions of the Classic Trilogy were transferred to the DVD format from the laserdiscs rather than from a digital negative, so the 2006 discs lack the anamorphic widescreen format borne by their "updated Special Edition" 2004 counterparts (which are also included In the Limited Edition '06 two-disc packs).
•· The sound and picture quality of a 1080p Blu-ray disc (Spider-Man 3, in my case) are excellent. Remember how sharp and clear movies looked and sounded on DVD in comparison to VHS videotape when "digital video discs" were the New Best Format?
Well, the Blu-ray disc's clarity and crispness are comparable to the difference between analog TV channels and Hi-Def ones. The colors are more vivid, the image is much sharper, and on a TV with kick-butt speakers or a home theater sound system, the audio signals are clearer and more "movie-like."
Although I've only owned my Blu-ray player for less than two weeks as of this writing, I am quite happy with my decision to buy it. Considering that (a) it was priced nearly $100 less than its MSRP and (b) it allows me to buy discs of both formats without worrying about "compatibility issues" later on, purchasing the BD-P1500 was a good move. It's nice to know that I don't have to use my DVDs as fancy coasters when my older Samsung DVD player finally wears out, and at the same time I can start adding Blu-ray discs to my video library so I can enjoy all the features of my HDTV set.