I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1 Blu-ray player. Aside from the company’s reputation for building excellent video products, this player has one feature that lifts it above the others currently in the market: 1080p/24 output. What’s so special about that? Read on to find out.
When you go to your local googolplex, you see the movie as it was meant to be seen—projected onto the screen at 24 frames per second, with each frame repeated two or three times. However, when you watch a movie at home, you typically see it displayed at 60fps, with each frame repeated four or six times alternately.
Why the difference? Video is based on a frame rate of 30fps, which is easily doubled, so most TVs and video sources use 30 and 60fps. As a result, movies on DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray must be converted from 24 to 60fps, a process that can make any motion on the screen look a bit jerky.
So why not just show movies at 24fps on home theater systems? Because most video source devices can’t send signals at 24fps, and most TVs can’t accept signals at that rate. So much for that idea.
Not so fast—Pioneer is among the few, er, pioneering companies to offer TVs that accept 24fps signals and repeat each frame three times, just as in commercial cinemas. It’s only natural, then, that Pioneer would complete the chain by giving its BDP-HD1 Blu-ray player to ability to deliver 24fps signals. Of course, the BDP-HD1 can also send signals at 60fps for use with the many displays that can’t accept 24fps.
The BDP-HD1 is quite hefty, bespeaking quality when you pick it up. The disc tray feels much more solid than the Panasonic DMP-BD10’s. Aside from the normal A/V outputs, the Pioneer also sports an Ethernet port, allowing you to connect it to a home network.
What can a Blu-ray player do on a network? Plenty. Pioneer’s BDP-HD1 is compatible with Windows Media Connect and Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standards, which means you can browse and access video, music, and photos stored on any Windows XP computer or DLNA-certified file server on the network. It also implements Microsoft’s PlaysForSure, which assures that certified content purchased online will play without problems.
Unfortunately, there are a few missing features. Perhaps the most important feature missing is the BDP-HD1’s ability to play CDs and recordable Blu-ray discs. Another drawback is no support for any of the advanced audio codecs, such as Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD.
Although it’s not illuminated, the remote is reasonably well organized, though it’s a bit more cluttered with smaller buttons than I’d prefer. The menu buttons around the four-way cursor cluster are a bit confusing as well—which one do I use for what? I finally figured it out, but it’s somewhat non-intuitive. Also present are a few basic controls for the TV.
The menu system is exceedingly well-organized and intuitive. A Setup Navigator helps you through the setup process when you first turn the player on, and you can call it up any time you want.
The Pioneer took longer to boot up with no disc than the Panasonic (48 vs. 21 seconds), but it took less time to load a disc (36 vs. 53 seconds). Booting up with a disc in the tray took longer than the Panasonic (1.5 minutes vs. 1 minute). Overall, I must say the Pioneer was much more responsive than the Panasonic, skipping chapters and calling up the menu more quickly.
Because the player cannot read recordable Blu-ray discs, I was unable to use Stacey Spears’s test disc, so I moved on to some Blu-ray movies. The first thing I noticed was that motion and camera pans were smoother than they were from the Panasonic—not that the Panasonic was bad in this regard; in fact, it seemed fine to me until I compared it with the Pioneer, which simply looked smoother. This was evident in the pan across the village rooftops at the beginning of Corpse Bride and throughout Pearl Harbor, with its soaring planes and aerial pans across the doomed destroyers.
The detail on Corpse Bride was exquisite, from the texture of the skeletons’ bones to the tattered wrapping of Emily’s wedding gift to Victor. The colors of the underworld (which, interestingly, are much more vivid than the relatively monochromatic world of the living) were gorgeous, though it’s hard to say they were, uh, realistic.
Superman Returns certainly did not disappoint. As the jetliner falls to earth, the detail of the city below was sharp and clear; in another scene I could read the newspaper in Lex Luthor’s hands. Skin tones were completely natural, and blues were nicely differentiated, as in the light azure sky against the deep aqua water in Luthor’s pool.