As any good arbitrator might tell you, one of the best ways to resolve conflicts is to move from an “either/or” mindset to a “do both and more” approach, which is exactly what Samsung does with its BD-UP5000 Duo HD player—a unit that handles Blu-ray and HD DVD discs as well as conventional DVDs and CDs. You really don’t have to worry about format wars if your player can handle every type of disc you’d want to play. And even though the format war is over (Blu-ray emerging the winner), you can still build a strong case for a do-all player, given the very large number of Paramount, Universal, and Warner titles already released in HD DVD format.
But the appeal of the BD-UP5000, as you’ll see in a moment, goes beyond its multiformat capabilities; Samsung has equipped this player with powerful video processing features that help it produce exceptionally good onscreen images—regardless of disc format. Highlights of the BD-UP5000 include:
pixel s Boasting an impressive feature set, Samsung’s BD-UP5000 combo player not only provides excellent Blu-ray and HD DVD playback, but also does a superb job of upconverting conventional DVDs thanks to the inclusion of Silicon Optix HQV Reon video processing engine.
Like all other HD DVD players, the BD-UP5000 is fully equipped for Web-enabled extra content and features an Ethernet port to connect to a router, which also provides firmware update capability. For Blu-ray, the unit is shipped in a Profile 1.1 Ready condition, which means it has the requisite hardware on board to provide picture-in-picture with select upcoming BD releases, with a promised February firmware upgrade slated to activate the functionality (the upgrade wasn’t available at press time).
For DVD playback, as well as for optimum 1080i HD upconversion to 1080p, the BD-UP5000 sports the Silicon Optix HQV Reon video processing engine, which is a top-tier video deinterlacer/scaler/upconverter. While most Blu-ray and HD DVD movie releases are in 1080p format, many other programs are mastered in interlaced 1080i, such as some TV series releases as well as music concerts and documentaries.
From an audio standpoint, the BD-UP5000 is less well endowed, providing regular Dolby Digital and DTS functionality, with only twochannel (main Left and Right) Dolby TrueHD output and only downconversion of DTS HD Master Audio content, which must be configured in the set-up menu in order to listen to discs so encoded.
The remote control isn’t backlit, but includes a dozen glo-key buttons for disc navigation and TV volume and channel control, which puts it at least a step ahead of conventional remotes. The on-screen display is clear and logical, with large icons and easy maneuvering via the remote’s traditional up/down/left/right/ enter cursor keypad and features a screen-saver, which helps prevent burn-in on plasmas
Compared to first-generation Blu-ray and HD DVD players, the BD-UP5000 is somewhat quicker at startup and takes less time to bring up the disc’s menu. It’s not as quick as a dedicated player, with a still-pokey 35 seconds from disc load to startup with Blu-ray discs and HD DVDs. The player did, however, exhibit a quicker 15-second startup with DVDs and music CDs.
From a video processing standpoint, the BD-UP5000 is up there with the best of them, thanks to its onboard Silicon Optix HQV Reon processor. This processor enables the Samsung to provide topnotch deinterlacing of 1080i-originated programs to 1080p and to do an excellent job of DVD upconversion. Not surprisingly, the Samsung easily passed tough torture tests found in the Blu-ray, HD DVD, and standard definition DVD versions of HQV’s test discs—discs designed to highlight the HQV processor’s prowess. For example, the HQV high-def test discs include a 1080i SMPTE resolution pattern consisting of a single pixel grid along with rows of single pixel height rows. With inferior 1080i-to-1080p deinterlacing, the result can be a combination of blurring and flashing of the alternating rows, but with the Samsung results were lab-perfect, with no smearing, line doubling, flashing, or other degradation. The player also did a great job with DVDO DVD and Pioneer Blu-ray tests discs I had on hand. With the first-season set of the FX network’s legal thriller series Damages on high def Blu-ray, I see a picture quality that ranks up there with first-tier HD movie releases, with a lush color palette and pinpoint sharpness that will astound viewers who had to suffer with the 4:3 standard definition broadcast run. Turning to Transformers on HD DVD, Michael Bay’s heavily effects-laden tentpole looks simply stupendous, with the extensive CGI-originated action sequences devoid of compression artifacts. One of the Samsung’s greatest strengths is its ability to make the most of conventional DVDs— even problematic ones. While most properly mastered DVDs present no great challenge to a player or display’s video processor, there are some that have bugaboos and require serious video massaging, which is just what the Samsung provides. One of my favorite concert DVDs is Roy Orbison’s Black & White Night, which unfortunately exhibits obnoxious feathering effects (from one or more of the cameras used to capture the event) that are visible during certain sequences. The picture literally falls apart every so often, with obnoxious combing and tearing along with an obvious softening of the picture. Here, the HQV processor works its magic, removing all of the combing and tearing, and eliminating most (but not quite all) of the jaggies—a fantastic improvement on a disc with so many close-up shots of shallow-angle guitar strings and the like.