Scheduled to be released in summer 2006, Blu-ray high-definition DVD players from Pioneer, Panasonic and Samsung set forth to conquer the world of video. Though initial models that were estimated at selling between $1000 and $1800 were deemed pricey, that did not last long as competition from HD-DVD and more manufacturers geared up.
HDTV sets with the newer, potentially sharper, 1080p resolution were on their heels, coming out over the same time frame. And sales of the players were predicted to help drive those of the sets and vice-versa.
Technical side notes, before launching into the first of our product reviews: the amount 720 or 1080 represents the number of horizontal lines of pixels, with the larger number corresponding to 1920 x 1080 resolution. The letter ‘p’ or ‘i’ stands for progressive and interlaced, respectively. Interlacing ‘paints’ the screen in two passes, one for even lines another for odd, progressive does so in a single pass.
Overall picture quality is determined by several things, not just the total number of lines or pixels. Interlaced projection has to paint the lines in such a way as to fool the eye to avoid flicker. That depends on frame rates, which also come in a variety. Differing frame rates and projection methods introduce the need to convert signals. How, and how well, that conversion is done has a large effect on the perceived picture quality.
Blu-ray DVD uses a blue light laser to illuminate the pits found in any DVD disc (now known as BD discs). Blue light has a shorter wavelength, allowing the pits to be spaced closer together, so more information can be packed into the same space.
One of the advantages of the new Blu-ray players is their ability to output a 1080p signal via the HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) jack. HD-DVD models are capable only of 1080i resolution. Most current sets convert the signal anyway, though, so you won’t see any difference. But newer, 1080p native resolution sets will become common in HDTV over the years.
Pioneer’s foray into the HD player market will offer some features not found on the Samsung. The BDP-HD1 is expected to make use of their proprietary Home Media Gallery software that allows viewers to display digital photos, listen to music or watch movies all stored on the home computer.
All that content can be displayed in 1080p, but of course this is useless unless the source material has sufficiently good resolution to take advantage of it.
Pioneer makes excellent quality consumer electronics goods (their CD changer is the best on the market) and has for decades. Their HDTV models are highly rated and consumers can expect a reliable, well-performing unit.
But those features and that quality will come with a stiff price tag. The BDP-HD1 was slated to premier for $1,800.
There are many more models out in the marketplace today. So before you rush out to tackle your home improvements with a home entertainment center, check out more of our reviews to see which products would work best for you.