How not to review a Blu-ray player

Okay, I’m putting together a roundup of all high definition disc players currently available in Australia. I’ve reviewed most of them, but there are three that I haven’t. One is the Sony BDP-S300, one is the Toshiba HD-E10 and the final one is the Samsung BD-P1400.

I got onto the relevant PR companies, and I was able to get the Sony, which arrived today. Neither the Toshiba nor the Samsung were available in time for my deadline. So I’ve been researching the latter on the Web. I saw somewhere an intriguing suggestion that the Samsung may be capable of outputting the new high definition audio standards as bitstreams so that they can be decoded by one of the several new home theatre receivers with this capability. So I did some more googling around looking for something definitive on this.

Samsung’s website was useless (although I found the unit’s manual to download). And then I found ‘Samsung BD-P1400 Blu-ray Player Review‘ at Hardware Secrets. This looked promising. There were two pages, with the opening subheaded ‘Introduction and Tests’. I read through the review and am a little surprised when I come across five paragraphs discussing connections, HDMI cables and so forth, amounting to 466 words. Goodness me, some of the reviews I do are required, for space reasons, to be 500 words in total! This seemed like a strange digression. And the first paragraph was pretty unclear anyway, seemingly confusing home theatre receivers with HDMI switching with those that fully support HDMI, including the audio.

The very next paragraph commenced: ‘Before playing a Blu-Ray disc we decided to play a DVD.’ I raised my eyebrows a little, but, well, each to his or her own. It seems that the reviewer was unhappy with some odd behaviour when the player was showing DVDs. It seems that it inserted a significant black border around the edges of the picture when the output was set to 1080p. We are not informed which disc (or discs) this was a problem with, whether other video output settings were tried and so on. Reading a linked Sony review suggested that the problem was caused by the DVD itself carrying an incorrect aspect ratio flag.

And then I get to this paragraph:

We stopped our tests here. It wasn’t worthwhile seeing how this unit played Blu-Ray discs. If a new unit cannot play our DVD collection the way it supposed to be, then the unit pretty much worthless.

What an appalling statement! When you review a Blu-ray player, you review it with Blu-ray discs! I have yet to find a Blu-ray player (or a HD DVD player) that plays DVDs as well as my preferred DVD players, and I mention that in my reviews. That’s why I continue to have a DVD player plugged into my system. Admittedly I haven’t stumbled across this particular issue, but it is irrelevant. The purpose of a Blu-ray player is to play Blu-ray discs. It should be reviewed with Blu-ray discs.

I expect, and would hope, that if I ever submitted a review like this to one of my editors that they would reject it out of hand.

Incidentally, the Samsung manual is useless on the matter on which I sought information. Oh well. I shall have to ring the Samsung product manager in the morning.

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