My five-way Blu-ray player comparison review is out in the new issue (Feb/March 2009) of Sound and Image magazine. The review covers lower cost players: the LG BD300, the Panasonic DMP-BD35, the Samsung BD-P1500, the Sharp BD-HP21X and the Sony BDP-S350.

In the summary table, just after the physical dimensions and the like, I specify the firmware version installed in the player. This is a relatively new innovation for me. The fact is, consumer electronics are less and less hardware devices these days, and more and more special purpose computers. Imagine comparing two identical computers, but with one of them running Windows XP and the other running Windows Vista. They would be like completely different machines, even though their hardware is the same.

With Blu-ray players and digital TV receivers this is pretty much the case. New firmware versions are issued quite often, addressing bugs, adding features and so on. For example, Samsung recently added BD-Live capability to its BD-P1500, several months after its launch. So when I review one of these devices, it’s important to say which firmware is installed. Of course, I always make sure that the latest available firmware is installed at the time of the review. Already both the Sony and the Samsung units have had their firmwares upgraded between when I wrote the reviews and when they appeared in print today.

I suggest you keep an eye out for reference to firmware when you are reading reviews.

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