Blu-ray Players

Introducing the models you'll want to take home (no, not Cindy Crawford)

Samsung BD-P1000

Samsung BD-P1000

The Samsung player is the first Blu-ray device to hit the market. Although we've already mentioned in our previous coverage that Blu-ray certainly isn't new (the Japanese have been using the technology for a few years), this is still the first generation of widely produced players - and that in itself is a scary prospect when approaching the cashier with a credit card.

Released in June, long ahead of most other Blu-ray players, the Samsung BD-P1000 was one of only *a couple devices able to play back ultra high definition discs. That's reason to suspect there might be some serious flaws in the initial design, and we'll discuss those along with its pros:

Pros

Crisp picture

The Samsung BD-P1000 features very crisp, clear visuals through its HDMI and component video outputs, when using Blu-ray discs.

Clearly better

The picture when using Blu-ray discs is undoubtedly a step above the standard DVD player - meaning you're actually getting what you've paid for.

Comparably cheap

The price - although $1,000 - is actually not that high compared to other Blu-ray players. That's right, a grand is considered cheap when perusing this field.

Cons

Competition is hurting

Many reviewers of the BD-P1000 were impressed with the visuals broadcast in HDTV - but none of the titles released in the initial batch, reportedly, look quite as good as those running on the (cheaper) HD-DVD player.

Nothing's perfect - at least, not yet

The picture still isn't perfect. Initial testing on some of the best new movies for Blu-ray reveals that Samsung's BD-P1000 is struggling with a visual softness. This is most prevalent in one of the first movies released, "The Fifth Element".

Bugs in the system

There are some substantiated reports of the Samsung player spitting out discs that have already been successfully tested. The message "This disc cannot be played" could be evidence that the much-heralded blue-violet laser still needs work in reading material.

Pioneer BDP-HD1

Still not quite cemented as a player that will be available before Christmas, the Pioneer BDP-HD1 improves on many of the Samsung player's flaws. It also increases the price, almost doubling the cost to the consumer at $1,800. That's a lot of coin to be throwing around just to watch Grease 2 over and over!

Pioneer

However, in considering many of the issues plaguing the Samsung BD-P1000, the price might just be worthwhile (if an $1,800 DVD player can possibly be justified). For one, the Samsung doesn't act as the center of a home media network. It really is *just a DVD player[Standard DVD Players] , and possesses none of the features that make the Pioneer BDP-HD1 the living room centerpiece (even if your wife thinks that Monet print is what draws the most attention).

Pros

Crisper picture

Although the Samsung BD-P1000 features some very impressive visuals that are hands-down better than the standard DVD player, the Pioneer tested here produces even clearer visuals. The softness isn't nearly as prevalent, and that alone could draw in the rich-ies.

Better than anything the Jones' own

You'll draw a jealous neighbor's eyes right to the Pioneer BDP-HD1, which acts as the center device in a media network. That makes it comparable to the similarly priced Windows Media Center , which integrates music, movies and games all into one wireless system.

Cons

$1,800? I says, "Pardon?"

As with any of the Blu-ray models being released in the first six months, the Pioneer BDP-HD1 sure ain't cheap. In fact, it's one of the most expensive DVD players ever made, and that's keeping many potential high definition fans far, far away.

Makes the PS3 look like chump change

Sony's upcoming gaming console, the Playstation 3, has taken much heat for its price compared to other similar systems from Microsoft and Nintendo. However, it comes with an internal Blu-ray player for $599. That's gaming AND Blu-ray for far less than half of the BDP-HD1.

Forget the CD collection

A huge drawback to the first round of Pioneer Blu-ray players is that the technology prevents playback of CDs. Take that in for just a second - if you still want to spend $1,800 on this system, then be prepared to make friendly with your PC, iTunes and our digital media section.

Sony Playstation 3

For a long time, games were considered child's play. Let's face it, even hardcore gamers must admit there weren't many media uses for the 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System, or the ensuing Sega Genesis and even Nintendo 64. That began to change with the release of the first Sony Playstation, which allowed gamers to play music back through CD. The Playstation 2 upped the ante with a DVD player, and in the years since other consoles have followed suit.

Playstation 3

The Playstation 3 boasts a powerful Blu-ray player; and although Sony is taking some serious heat for asking gamers to find $600 in their dorm room couches, the system is actually quite a deal, comparably. When considering the $1,800 Pioneer BDP-HD1, the PS3's price tag - which includes movie playback as well as the most impressive gaming visuals on the market - doesn't seem so taxing.

Pros

Cheaper than the rest

Although Microsoft and Nintendo fans would disagree, the PS3 offers a lot of value for the price. Since most Blu-ray players retail for $1,000 or more, the fact that the console provides both movie playback and high-end gaming is pretty impressive.

Say goodbye to regional coding

In the past, neither games nor DVDs made in Japan could be played on a North American system. The same was true when traveling to Europe or a few other popular tourist destinations. Sony is doing away with this and is instead cramming all region-specific languages on a single disc.

High Definition games, too

Although it was recently announced that the PS3 will not be able to support 1080p in games, it does still utilize 1080i. The difference is hardly monumental, and trust us on this one - games still look great.

Cons

Bottom line: it's still a risk

Whereas Microsoft is allowing gamers to decide whether they want to invest in HD-DVD by offering the device as an optional add-on (making the console itself much cheaper), the Sony PS3 is banking on the success of the Blu-ray player. There's no choice on the matter, and no guarantee the Blu-ray won't end up like Betamax.

Still costly for a console

Even though the PS3 offers great value, the general mistrust of new technology may result in older movie watchers simply ignoring the console. That means the primary audience remains the more accepting younger generation, which could lead to a drop in popularity for the device if 15-30 year olds simply can't justify the $600 expense.

Good luck finding one this Christmas

No matter how much Johnny begs, you might not be able to get him that sleek, black PS3 this holiday season. That's because the initial shipment for North America is just 400,000 units (with the Japanese receiving a paltry 100,000). If anyone remembers the headaches caused by long Microsoft Xbox 360 lines last year, be prepared to increase the Advil requirement for this device ten-fold.