Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray Player

The BD-P1500 is Samsung's fourth-generation Blu-ray player. Its elegant high-gloss, piano-black chassis is sure to stand out in any equipment rack. While dedicated Blu-ray players haven't reached rock-bottom prices yet, the BD-P1500 is Samsung's least expensive to date at $400, $150 less then the BD-P1400 that came out less than a year ago. The BD-P1500 is not the holy grail of Blu-ray players, but its feature set and lower price could be just what you've been waiting for.

As a source device, the BD-P1500 does exactly what is supposed to do—play Blu-ray discs and, of course, standard DVDs and CDs. It upconverts DVDs to 720p, 1080i, or 1080p resolutions. If your display supports it, the BD-P1500 can output 1080p/24 via HDMI for superior picture quality, particularly fast-motion movie sequences.

The BD-P1500 features an HDMI 1.3 output that supports advanced video features such as Deep Color and x.v.Color. While these extended specs are not currently available in any prerecorded source material, content shot on the new HD camcorders that record directly to recordable Blu-ray discs and implement Deep Color and x.v.Color can be played on the BD-P1500 in their full glory.

A key feature of the BD-P1500 is the ability to pass both lossless audio formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, as native bitstreams to an A/V receiver (AVR) or pre/pro with built-in decoders for these formats. It is also capable of decoding Dolby TrueHD into multichannel PCM and sending it via HDMI to an older AVR that doesn't decode the lossless audio formats. However, it cannot do the same for DTS-HD MA. The only way you can hear the full resolution of a DTS-HD MA soundtrack is to send the bitstream from the player to an AVR capable of decoding it.

The cost of AVRs with this capability is dropping pretty dramatically. For example, the Onkyo TX-SR606 lists for $600—combine that with the BD-P1500, and you have a pretty high-end system that is compatible with all the latest audio and video codecs for around $1k.

Aside from the HDMI output, there is component video, which also supports 1080p output. Interestingly, Samsung provides a composite output but not S-video. In the short term, I guess it's necessary to continue providing standard-def analog video outputs, but what is the point of buying a Blu-ray player if you intend to use an SD output? Dropping SD video outputs seems reasonable, but the choice to drop S-video over composite—considering it is the superior output of the two—is curious.

On the audio side, a TosLink optical output is joined by a pair of stereo analog outputs. There are no coax or 5.1-channel analog outputs, either. Purists who prefer coax S/PDIF over optical or even HDMI will have to remove the BD-P1500 from their short list.

An Ethernet port lets you connect the BD-P1500 to your home network, making it possible to download firmware updates from the Internet. Updates can also downloaded to your computer, copied to a USB flash drive or CD-R, and loaded into the player. Finally, you can get an update CD directly from Samsung by calling (800) SAMSUNG.

Despite the newness of the BD-P1500, there is an important update expected in the near future—Profile 2.0 (aka BD-Live). According to Samsung, this update is imminent, but an actual date was not provided before press time.

Initially, I was informed that there would also be a firmware update allowing the BD-P1500 to decode DTS-HD MA. But as I was finishing this review, I learned that Samsung has announced no plan to implement such an update after all.

BD-Live requires 1GB of onboard memory, but the player has only 256MB internally. Thus, when you update the firmware to BD-Live, you must also insert a flash drive with at least 1GB into the USB port and keep it there.

Since BD-Live offers online and downloadable content, you'll really want to connect the player to the Internet. If you don't have a network access point in your media room and don't want to install one for only a single piece of gear, you can access the network using the AC power lines already in the room; check out the products at Homeplug Powerline Alliance.

The BD-P1500 implements Samsung's Anynet+ technology (aka HDMI CEC), which lets you control many Samsung devices—as well as many CEC-compatible devices from other manufacturers—using the remote that comes with the BD-P1500.