State of Blu-ray - CEDIA 2008
What is on the forefront of many consumers' minds is Blu-ray. Sure, it is all the talk on the forums and with enthusiasts, but when will John Q. Public start to care? We'll tell you when - when prices come down. At CEDIA this year we took a look at some of the newest Blu-ray players that are either already in stores or will be soon. Some companies seem to be pushing for as many features as possible at the lowest price while other seem to be skating along thinking that a Profile 1.1 player should sell just fine at $600 - $1000. Hey, don't forget that you can pay up to $2200 for a player if you really want a flagship model. All that extras money seems to be spent on analogue audio circuitry, but some people really value that in a player.
The LG BD300 represented one of the more exciting players we saw at the show. This model had the integrated Netflix movie player and blew the pants off the ($99) Roku implementation of this software. For one, it was faster, providing almost real-time updating of any Netflix queue reorganization, additions or deletions. To contrast, the Roku box has to be manually "prompted" to update its queue. Plug any USB thumb drive into the BD300 and LG's new player will send photos and music to the display for you to enjoy. The player features BD-Live and Bonus View. Unlike many other players (some costing much more) it is not "BD-Live ready" it actually works out of the box with no firmware update or additional storage required. Those planning on playing back their DVD collections on this device will be pleased to know that it upconverts your DVDs to 1080p via its HDMI output. When prompted, LG's product manager would not specify which video processor they were using for upconversion and scaling, so we assume it's generic. The player will retail for around $399 and is expected to be available in October.
For more information, please visit www.lge.com.
Sony Electronics showed off its new BD-based 5.1 HTiB system with S-AIR surround wireless rear speakers. This system has an HDMI input that supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA audio and has 1 HDMI output to get picture to your display. The system is BD-Live "ready", which implies that it requires firmware and/or storage and the single component video input can be upscaled to 1080p via HDMI. Other features include Sony's xross media bar (XMB) which provides easy (for Sony, that is) menu navigation, Digital Cinema Auto Calibration for automated surround sound setup and their new BRAVIA Sync for Theatre which is essentially an HDMI CEC profile system that allows you, via HDMI, to control compatible displays with the same remote you use for the home theater system. Both this system and the smaller BDV-IS1000 also include Sony's Digital Media Port, which allows users to add such items as a cradle for iPod (which is included in the system), and a Network Walkman cradle, a PC client device and even a Bluetooth adapter (sold separately). The BDV-IT1000ES (which includes slim floorstanding speakers) retails for $1,999 and the BDV-IS1000 (which has the golf-ball sized speakers) comes in at $1,000.
For more information, please visit www.sony.com.
Sony BDP-S5000ES and 400-disc Megachanger
Sony also showed off its BDP-S5000ES Blu-ray player which will go on sale for $2000 (what a bargain - NOT) in November and features Sony’s new HD Reality Enhancer and Super Bit Mapping technologies. The new features basically adjust edge enhancement and provides 14-bit interpolated bit depth. The player also includes Sony's new Precision Cinema HD upscaling technology for 1080p output of regular DVD discs. The player is fully BD-Live capable and includes a 1GB Micro Vault flash memory. Sony also surprised us with a new 400-disc Blu-ray megachanger that will be unveiled (and given a model number designation) sometime in 2009. It's already been deemed to work with Escient and Control4.
For more information, please visit www.sony.com.
Panasonic DMP-BD35 and DMP-BD55
These players are almost identical except for the build quality of the BDP-DM55's upgraded audio components. The DMP-BD35 is a BD-Live (profile 2.0) player and has a memory card slot for playback of music and photos. The player also decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio in full 7.1 via HDMI. It also runs at 24p so it will blend well with displays that support judder-free 24p input. CEC is included and the device can be operated directly (thanks to HDMI CEC) with any compatible Panasonic Viera display. The DMP-BD55 takes all of this and adds 7.1 analogue audio outputs and a whole suite of upgraded audio components. The video system is completely identical. Pricing was not yet finalized, but we have the inside (though unconfirmed) scoop that the units will be priced around $399 and $499 to compete with other products which appeared simultaneously at CEDIA this year.
For more information, please visit www.panasonic.com.
Pioneer Elite BDP-09FD
Pioneer's latest Elite product has dual HDMI 1.3a outputs, unusual for any Blu-ray player to say the least. It also features a Pioneer-developed 16-bit Marvell QDEO video processor (Pioneer has been known to make video processors for other well-known name-brand products). The DACs used within are the Wolfson Audio running in its dual differential mode (there are eight of these). In general the build quality of this 45-pound product is absolutely insane. Judging by the toroidal transformer and caps shown inside this unit, the weak of heart (and wallet) need not apply. It's got the latest features such as BD-Live (profile 2.0) and even supports 4GB of internal storage to boot. With that said, however, you've got to be insane to pay the $2200 asking price unless you or your clients simply want "the best" regardless of whether you'll need it or not. The player should be shipping this month if all goes according to plan, so start saving your pennies.
For more information, please visit www.pioneerelectronics.com.
Not to be outdone, Integra also announced its first high def offering since the canceled HD DVD player of last year. The DBS-6.9 is a Profile 1.1 machine with component, composite, and HDMI outs and coax, TOSLink, and analogue audio outs. There are no 5.1 outputs so in order to get the best audio you'll need an HDMI capable receiver. It does sport 192kHz/24-bit DACs and is Deep Color capable. At $599, this isn't the cheapest Blu-ray player on the block and it is unclear if it will decode DTS HD or Dolby TrueHD. Shipping will be "soon" according to the reps (thanks, how helpful).
For more information, please visit www.integrahometheater.com.
Marantz is probably relying on brand loyalty or the propensity for people to match their components to sell their $799 Profile 1.1 Blu-ray player. While it sports 150MHz/12-bit video and 192kHz/24-bit audio DACs and HDMI 1.3a, the price tag seems a little high. The BD7003 has component, composite, and HDMI outputs and will only output raw TrueHD and DTS MA for you to decode the audio at their receiver (no on-board decoding via analogue 7.1 outputs). 1080/24p support is included as is 1080p upconversion for standard DVDs. This unit has stereo audio outputs only so you'll need an HDMI capable receiver to take full advantage of the high def audio formats. But hey, it supports DivX so that's something... right?
For more information, please visit www.marantz.com.
Yet another Profile 1.1 Blu-ray player in a long line that hasn't figured out that the PS3 costs less and does more. For $749 you'll get standard DVD processing and
scaling up to 1080p, 3:2/2:2 pull-down, HDMI 1.3a output with Deep Color
support, DivX version 6 support, and 1080p / 24fps output. The upside is that it is $450 less the Denon's next most expensive Blu-ry player, the DVD-2500BTCI which retails for $1,199. The build quality of the 1800BD is very nice and analogue audio output should be very good with Burr-Brown DACs. We just wish it decoded TrueHD and DTS HD natively rather than bitstreaming it. The DVD-1800BD ships in October.
For more information, please visit www.denon.com.
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