HD-DVD’s fatal fall at the beginning of 2008 kick-started the race to build players that meet mass demand with consumer-friendly price tags. Samsung’s BD-P1500 is among the first to challenge the $400 low water mark set by the PlayStation 3 with an even lower retail price of $299. A recent update from Samsung has added BD Profile 2.0 support to the player, bringing it up to speed with its pricier competitors, and making it solid and affordable choice for average home theater buyers looking to break into Blu-ray.
Features and Design
Like many of Samsung’s home theater components, the BD-P1500 adopts a glossy black fascia, a minimalist front panel, and a slim profile at just 3.3 inches tall. Besides the disc tray, only an illuminated power button, one-line LCD display and four-way control pad adorn the face. While it doesn’t scream Blu-ray like some of Sony’s units, we appreciated the understated look and found that it fit in with the rest of our home theater gear just fine.
Around back, you’ll find all the standard composite, component, and HDMI video outputs, along with the more unusual optical audio outputs and stereo analog RCA connectors. Unfortunately, the player offers no multi-channel analog outputs, which even its predecessor the BD-P1400 had. It does, however, have an Ethernet jack for pulling firmware updates from the Internet, as well as a USB 2.0 port to perform the same task without connectivity, or expand its memory.
In the second case of inaccurate advertising from Samsung that we’ve seen recently (the first being the lack of promised equalizers on their HT-X710T,) we found Samsung advertising an S-video port on the Samsung’s spec sheet that doesn’t exist on the actual unit. Granted, few people will probably miss it on a unit so explicitly tailored toward HD, but the consistency of the inaccuracies concerned us.
The player will handle Blu-ray, DVD and audio discs, and supports BD Profile 1.1 out of the box, with a recent upgrade providing support for BD Profile 2.0
Simply plugging in the BD-P1500 and connecting it to an HD set via an HDMI cable will be the only setup required for most users – but we were disappointed that Samsung didn’t include an HDMI cable – only cheaper composite video and stereo audio cables. Since HDMI has become the de facto standard on all HDTVs manufactured within the last few years, we expected better out-of-the-box compatibility, especially with the lack of multi-channel analog audio outputs.
After supplying our own HDMI cable, our Anynet+ TV detected the player’s Anynet+ capability and synced up flawlessly, allowing us to the use the TV’s remote for the Blu-ray player without any fiddling. While Samsung is currently the only manufacturer building this function into its TVs, we were at least pleased to see that the company’s effort to make its product play nicely together actually worked as intended (and as advertised).
As expected, video playback from the Samsung box looked outstandingly crisp, fluid and clean. While some head-to-head comparisons show the box trailing competitors in image quality, we discerned no noticeable difference between the BD-P1500 and any other Blu-ray player in our comparisons.
We did experience some minor hiccups in the player’s menu operation: Most notably, it actually cut producing signal for a full second before playing bonus elements from Jumper. This caused our TV to spazz out every time and report a missing signal before abruptly beginning playback, a small annoyance.
Image Courtesy of Samsung
No one in their right mind spends over $1,000 on an HDTV and another $400 on a Blu-ray player just to watch DVDs. But since many people still have extensive DVD collections, a player’s ability to upscale them properly remains an important feature. The BD-P1500 performed competently, but not quite as well as purpose-built scalers like Oppo’s DV-981HD. For instance, we missed the ability to tweak the scale to fill more or less of the screen, and other fine tuning options. But overall, most consumers will probably find that the BD-P1500 performs as well or better as their last DVD players, and more importantly, it gets rid of one more box in the home theater system.
The on-screen menu for the BD-P1500 offers only three options: audio, video, and setup. While the first two merely act as play buttons for their respective media, the last unlocks a respectable set of tweaks for picture and audio format, language, and even network settings for Web updates. As with Samsung’s better high-end TVs, the menus are clean and well-designed, but we were irritated that they were only accessible by stopping playback completely. Granted, you can perform common tasks like turning on and off subtitles or changing audio formats on the fly through a handful of remote control shortcuts, but other tasks like changing from 16:9 to letterbox format will still require grinding your movie to a halt in order to fiddle. To counterbalance this inconvenience, Samsung does include a translucent overlay accessible through the “info” button that displays all possible angles, chapters and audio modes, among other options, and allows viewers to quickly leaf through them.
Samsung’s remote won’t win any awards for industrial design, but it gets the job done. It’s a simple matte black rectangle with a slight curve to the bottom to make it easier to hold. The most commonly used buttons for navigating movies have been made to glow in the dark, and a directional pad toward the bottom makes navigating disc menus a breeze.
If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive Blu-ray player to bring your home theater up to speed with the full HD experience, Samsung’s BD-P1500 won’t lead you astray. Its simple operation, respectable performance and low price make it an ideal entry-level player – especially when many major retailers have pushed it far south of $300.
• Stylish, unobtrusive fascia
• Crisp video playback
• No included HDMI cable
• Accessing menus can be clunky