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New Sony Players Cheat Blu-ray Specification Deadline

by October 22, 2007
Its almost ready - no, seriously...

It's almost ready - no, seriously...

In the market for a new profile 1.1 Blu-ray disc player to make sure that the player has all the latest features such as picture in picture commentary?

Sony doesn’t have it covered.

The newly available players are the Sony BDP-S500 retailing at $699.99 and the Sony BDP-S2000ES retailing at $1299.99 that became available as of October 17th.

Beware of any players announced or are available before October 31, 2007 as they are not required to meet specification profile 1.1, which mandates a secondary picture decoder and full Blu-ray Java support. Among other updates , the players will now support true picture in picture and not just two versions of the film recorded on the disc, one with faked over PIP.

Reader Comment: According to an email we received from Will, a reader, he confirmed with contacts at Panasonic Blu-ray certification center that any player CERTIFIED before 10/31 can be sold as Profile 1.0. Any player CERTIFIED after 10/31 must be Profile 1.1 to receive certification. So a player could be certified today as Profile 1.0 and not go on sale until 2008, and that would be within the guidelines for Blu-ray (the new 40 GB PS3 comes to mind as a prime example). We double checked this and it appears to be the case, meaning that consumers need to pay even more attention to the fine print when buying Blu-ray players this year.

Blu-ray’s lack of support for PIP and other features in profile 1 are to blame for a number of Warner releases that are effectively HD-DVD exclusives including Batman Begins and the Matrix box set collections.

For those readers unfamiliar with Blu-ray’s unfinished state:

Feature BD-Video (Grace Period Profile - Profile 1.0) BD-Video (Final Standard Profile - Profile 1.1) BD-Live (Profile 2)
Minimum built-in persistent memory 64 KB 64 KB 64 KB
Minimum local storage capability - 256 MB 1 GB
Secondary video decoder (PiP) Optional Mandatory Mandatory
Secondary audio decoder Optional Mandatory Mandatory
Virtual file system Optional Mandatory Mandatory
Internet connection capability No No Mandatory

The Blu-ray website is a little vague on the topic of what the profiles are and what they will mean to existing hardware. Just try searching Blu-ray’s product support for technical information or FAQ about ‘specification profile 1, 1.1, or 2’. Good luck with that.

These yet to be realized revisions have some in the movie industry worried about future compatibility of BD when using higher profile specifications on lower profile players. Remember, firmware updates can only fix software compatibility issues in existing players, not hardware shortcomings. That ‘virtual file system’ business looks like trouble in the making.

To verify that these new players are in fact only Profile 1, I downloaded the User Manuals for both players, and on page 5 of both manuals resides the following text:

"This player supports BD-ROM Profile 1 only. Playback of later versions of BDs other than BD-ROM is not guaranteed. Since the Blu-ray Disc specifications are new and evolving, some discs may not play depending on the disc type and the version..."

Profile 1 only and ‘some discs may not play’, that’s an absolute gem. I have provided the download links for both manuals from Sony for any who care to view the source.

Why Sony would release expensive midrange and high end players that are obsolete within two weeks of debut is beyond me.

Someone is going to get screwed.

About the author:
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Professionally, David engineers building structures. He is also a musician and audio enthusiast. David gives his perspective about loudspeakers and complex audio topics from his mechanical engineering and HAA Certified Level I training.

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