With Blu-ray discs, the BD-P1500 performed well, with quicker load times and more responsive menus. One BD test disc I routinely use is Joe Kane’s Digital Video Essentials HD Basics, which features sliding menu bars that call up text for the language chosen, as opposed to menu graphics with embedded text. With Samsung’s earlier BD-P1200, the menu choices appeared with very noticeable jerkiness as they slowly slid into view. The BD-P1500 was much faster (by at least twice) and much smoother—an obvious improvement.
The BD-P1500 also features BD Profile 1.1, the so-called “Bonus View” function, which, as mentioned above, provides a picture-in-picture commentary function. A recent release, Jumper, with Hayden Christensen in the lead role, includes this feature, with pop-up windows appearing during certain scenes where the teleporting effect that is the theme of the film occurs.
To my surprise, the BD-P1500 proved temperamental and refused to play nice with this disc’s Bonus View option, stopping dead in its tracks and locking up solid, necessitating a power down/power up reboot. After multiple tries, I hooked up the BD-P1500 to my home network via the player’s Ethernet port and checked to see if there might be a system update that could possibly cure the problem. Yup, sure enough, the BD-P1500 called home and found an update, which downloaded and installed smoothly, taking about 10 minutes to do so. Once I powered it up again, voila! The film’s Bonus View feature worked flawlessly, presenting interesting commentary from the filmmakers, including “how we did this scene” background info, along with factoids about the various locales used in the movie. I certainly wouldn’t use the feature on first viewing, but in this case, I found the film’s Bonus View additions to be interesting and even amusing. Some statistics that popped up (the height of New York City’s Empire State Building, for example) were presented in feet, inches and fractions of an inch, though the filmmakers humorously listed NYC’s elevation above sea level as “6 feet/1 meter,” whereas one meter is just a tad more than 3 feet.
To test the player’s TrueHD and HDMA capabilities, I hooked it up to a Denon AVR-3808CI (reviewed in Playback Issue 11). I only needed to change the default digital output in the player’s set-up menu to ensure that the TrueHD and DTS-HD bitstreams exited the player intact, as opposed to the default down-conversion setting. Once I did that, the Denon’s front panel display lit up showing both types of bitstreams correctly received.
For music lovers, a must-have Blu-ray disc is the recently released Divertimeni, from Norway’s TrondheimSolistene (Trondheim Soloists) classical ensemble (reviewed in Playback Issue 11). Recorded in ultra-high resolution and mastered with DXD’s 32 bit/352.8kHz system, the release features five different mixes: stereo and multichannel PCM tracks at 24-bit/192kHz resolution, mutltichannel Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio tracks (again at 24/192 resolution), and a conventional Dolby Digital (48kHz) track. A second hybrid SACD disc is also provided for comparison purposes, though the Samsung is not configured to play SACD material. Nevertheless, the Samsung had no problems with any of the tracks on the Blu-ray disc, providing linear PCM when I configured it to do so, and also properly passing the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio tracks.
The disc’s light and airy classical selections have just the right balance between front stage clarity and definition and the gentle and effective spaciousness added by the surround channels. And, with all of the various flavors of soundtracks provided, audio fans will have a field day switching back and forth to see if they can hear any differences between the high resolution formats. I certainly couldn’t, but then I didn’t expect to be able to hear any differences given that both TrueHD and HD-MA are bit-for-bit identical to the original PCM soundtracks.
Overall, the BD-P1500 is a significantly improved model over its predecessor, and carries the same retail price tag. The addition of the Profile 1.1 Bonus View feature allows viewers to get more out of their Blu-ray movies, and the inclusion of multi-channel Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio output via HDMI will certainly appeal to audio enthusiasts looking for the maximum resolution surround sound experience. DVD playback quality is somewhat spotty, however, and I do wish that the front panel display wasn’t so dim as to be almost unreadable.