Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Samsung BD-P1600 Blu Ray Player

Samsung BD-P1600Most of us remember when home entertainment went from the good 'ol VHS tape to the DVD. But probably all of us remember when we switched from DVD to either HD DVD or Blu Ray DVD. For awhile, there was a big "war" between the two systems. Everybody was worrying about which ones to get, which one was better. Even the new video game consoles got involved. The Xbox 360 went the way of HD DVD and Sony's PS3 turned to Blu Ray. In the end, we all know who won, and if you don't, then try going to Walmart and asking for an HD DVD player and see what happens.

Samsung was the first producer to come out with a standalone Blu Ray player. However, as of 2008, Samsung was starting to trail the pack working hard to keep up with Panasonic. While Panasonic was shipping its first Profile 2.0, Samsung was still launching their 1.1. Samsung promised that future versions would be up to par and now, it seems, the tides have shifted.

Samsung has just launched the BD-P1600 which comes complete with all the features one expects on a Blu Ray player. The P1600 comes with Profile 2.0 compatibility, and onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. But Samsung's BD-P1600 goes above and beyond the norm. The P1600 provides improved operational speed, Netflix and {andora streaming, and the ability to to add Wi-Fi capabilities by way of a USB dongle, which is sold separately. But not all is well in the land of the BD-P1600. Users of the player have one major fault, the flip down panel that runs along the entire front of the system.

The seamless and sleek front panel design. On first look, you wonder where the disc tray is, until you realize that the whole front flips down. The eject button and on/off button are all located behind the panel, which gets tedious when you want to do something. The panel does pop up and down whenever you eject the disc tray with the remote. But the panel does feel very weak and it wouldn't surprise anybody if the tray broke off or stopped popping back up. There is also a USB port under the panel if you want to use it for something like BD-Live Storage. You are forced to use this port because the back one is taken by the Wi-Fi adapter. You will also have to perminatley have the panel down if you use the USB port which looks tacky.

It is obvious that you will be using the remote more often than the buttons on the system. The remote that comes with the system is a good redesign over the previous model's remote. However, here are some problems. Fortunately, most of the buttons are logically placed with a good separation. Yet important buttons like pop-up menu, disc menu, and title menu are stuck at the bottom of the remote and, to make it worse, are unclearly labeled. Another feature that would have been great to see on the remote is easy access buttons for Netflix and Pandora. To activate these features you will have to dive into the menu system, yet it really isn't much of a hassle.

The interface for the player is visually nice. It has bright colors and HD graphics. However, some may not be fans of the vertical alignment for the set-up menus which could be confusing to some. But luckily you do not have to go into these menus very often so it doesn't amount to a huge issue. On the flipside, the interfaces for Netflix and Pandora are great. The Netflix interface is identical to the Netflix Player by Roku. And, like all Netflix instant streaming devices.

The BD-P1600, like most 2009 Blu Ray players, is Profile 2.0 compatible. This means it can play back the internet enabled BD-Live available but you will need to have the player connected to the internet via an ethernet cord or the Wi-Fi and have a USB connected for storage.

The BD-P1600 has onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. What this means is that this player can decode those soundtrack formats so they can be played back on almost every single HDMI-capable AV receiver. Also supported is Bit stream output, in case you want your decoding to be done in your AV receiver. And the P1600 also has the capability to play DVDs with DTS formats like DTS 96/24, ES, ES Matrix, and Neo:6. This player has standard connectivity with the main connection being the HDMI output which can handle 1080p HD video and high-resolution multichannel audio. This player also comes with a component taht allows you to play Blu-Ray at 1080i and DVDs at 480p. Audio connections are also basic which includes an optical digital-audio output and an analog-stereo output.

The BD-P1600 performs well overall on visual performance. It is very responsive and loads movies and menu screens faster than most Blu-Ray DVD players. The player performs well a=on almost all Blu-Ray movies and, since there are way more standard DVDs than Blu-Ray ones, it is important that this device play those DVDs in good quality as well, and it does.

Overall the Samsung BD-P1600 is one of the best Blu-Ray players on the market. It is a step up from Panasonic's devices and a large step up from Samsung's previous models. The BD-P1600 has a price tag of around $252.99 to $299.99 depending on where you buy. However, this price is raised a bit considering you have to by the Wi-Fi dongle separately which will run you around another $80. But with this price tag comes quality. Nearly all reviews of this device have received a rating of 4 out of 5. A good by if you are in the market for a Blu-Ray player or just want to blow your tax refund check on a piece of technology.

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