Samsung’s BD-P1000, 50GB Discs and The Digital Bit’s

August 30, 2006

Samsung Blu-ray PlayerBefore I get started I want to say that unfortunately the format war has already resulted in polarizing opinions to the point of hostility and resentment between supporters of the respective camps. This is truly regrettable but again unfortunately not entirely avoidable.

Unlike the VHS vs. Beta debate we now have to contend with the influence of the video game industry in a home video format. Right or wrong I have to believe that if Sony hadn’t insisted on inserting a Blu-ray drive into the PS3 and Microsoft hadn’t announced the HD DVD add-on for the 360, we’d enjoy slightly more rational conversations about all of this.

Two more comments before I get to the subject of today’s post. As stated previously I happen to believe now is the time to discuss what’s on our collective minds about both formats. Let’s take advantage of the time we have now to further scrutinize how we’ll choose our next video format before, not after one side has gained enough forward momentum.

I find my self in the unusual position of actually defending a Blu-ray partner today, ok defending might be a stretch but I do feel inclined to comment on the speculation that arose from Bill Hunt’s comments about the Samsung BD-P1000.

For those who don’t follow Bill’s “The Digital Bit’s” DVD news and reviews site, Bill has been reviewing and commenting on DVD releases for over 10 years, like myself Bill was smitten by the promise of hi-def DVD’s long before the general populace was even aware they were in the pipeline, Bill however threw his allegiance in the other camp.

Bill Hunt has been accused of everything from covering up HD DVD’s superior image quality (thus far) to being a paid shill for Blu-ray, imagine the surprise of readers and detractors alike when last week he declared “I’m somewhat surprised to find myself saying this, but HD-DVD is quietly making Blu-ray Disc look pretty silly” Bill went on to say:

“If the BD camp doesn’t do something dramatic and fast… they will have lost the hearts and minds of the early adopters to HD-DVD. To my thinking at least, HD-DVD is looking better and better all the time… and it seems to me it’s now the format to beat.”

Bill even went on to expound a bit on the subject Monday afternoon. Those statements should put to rest any accusations of past indiscretions or favoritism toward Blu-ray, Bill was simply going on what many others based their early preferences on, the promise of more studio support and higher capacity.

Of course as we’ve come to find out since, the 50GB discs have suffered from poor yield rates thus far and even when that difficulty is overcome they might not be used as much as the single layer 25GB Blu-ray discs. This would effectively hand the storage capacity lead back to HD DVD who has thus far used 30GB discs for the majority of their releases. Speaking of which I was a bit insulted to see that Blu-ray’s “superior storage capacity” would equal out to a grand total of two disc’s in 2006.

And then there’s the subject of studio support. I’ve said from day one that studio support shouldn’t be used as a gauge in a format war because studios are notoriously fluid in their support for video formats. Sure they may indicate early preferences to which hardware they feel offers the best chance of market acceptance but what if those studios were fed the same line as the potential consumers? End result studio and consumer alike may wind up hoodwinked.

50GB dual-layered Blu-ray Discs

But getting back to storage capacity for a second, Bill Hunt also ruffled a few feathers with his assertion that the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player can’t play 50GB Blu-ray discs in its current state “Sony STILL can’t get their 50GB dual-layered Blu-ray Discs to work right on the existing and prototype players. The current Samsung player, as shipped, will not play them”

Ouch, Bill you’re a braver man than I. But seriously before you write Bill Hunt’s statements on BD50 off as the ramblings of a disillusioned Blu-ray fan, you might want to consider the source. Bill has operated ‘The Digital Bit’s since 1997, generated many industry contacts and has even been invited to see an early demo of Pioneers unreleased Blu-ray player. Given all that I’m not quite so sure his claims should be brushed under the table.

But I do have to point out that if these claims are indeed true (Bill obviously enjoys better Blu-ray contacts than I do) I would be blown away if the players couldn’t be firmware updated to read the 50GB discs, in theory the laser assembly itself should be within spec and whatever difference exists from the final BD50 discs to those that Samsung used to test the players should be addressable by a firmware update. At least I hope so for those early BD-P1000 adopters.

The unfortunate part is two-fold; Samsung has been placed in the precarious position of whether their player will indeed read a disc that isn’t available yet. If those 50GB discs were available these rumors could be quantified or squashed immediately.

I also find the fact that Sony’s Don Eklund stated “discs released this year will start to include some original value-added features. But they likely will not use the BD-Java interactive technology, which is integral to such extras as content updates over the Internet, until January” a bit troubling.

This again provides fodder to conspiracy theorists who insist the BD-P1000 isn’t capable of full BD-Java functionality. Never mind the fact that the BD-P1000 doesn’t even have an ethernet port. In my estimation the real let down in Blu-ray’s entire “launch” and I use that term loosely is the varying degree of functionality present in the products thus far.

Moving Forward…

Here we are nearly six months after HD DVD’s launch and we still don’t have disc from both camps encoded with the same video codec nor do we have a 50GB Blu-ray to compare with HD30. All in all we can basically write the last 6 months off as any indicator and to be quite honest it will be October before we have anything else to gauge Blu-ray’s performance with.

Am I impatient? Your damn right I’m impatient I’ve been waiting for hi-def DVD for over two years. As stated previously the format war wasn’t my choice, I doubt very many HD fans would have chosen a scenario that resembles this one. Imagine a boxing match where one fighter throws up his hand mid-round and says ‘wait I’m not ready’, who wouldn’t flip the channel?

With every day that passes where one side’s mantra remains two more months, holiday 2006, 4th quarter 2007 we’re reduced to pawns in a consumer electronics pissing match. I say lets start asking for results instead of talk, one side has clearly shown they were ready before the other, my critical eye is and will remain firmly focused on the side that prolongs the eventual mass acceptance of hi-def discs. Simply put their wasting my time.

Speaking of which, last minute update here. Bill Hunt had this to say in his ‘My two cents’ today:

“We should also mention that Sony is reporting to us (in light of our post from last Friday) that the issues with regard to hardware compatibility with the new 50 GB BD-ROM discs has been (or is being) resolved as well. So good news for you Blu-ray fans out there. We’re going to be visiting Sony in the near future to learn more on this, so stay tuned for that.”

“has been (or is being) resolved” Gotta love firm responses to important questions like that. Has been means over, done, end of conversation. is being means more waiting.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Blu-ray


Comments

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Shawn,

    Disagreeing with me or Bill Hunt? No need to be sorry about the HD DVD player load times, the second-gen players recently introduced in Europe, (and in the U.S shortly) have significantly quicker load times. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying your purchase.

    Absolutely we’re in total agreement that all the Samsung players are firmware upgradeable, which again confuses me as I stated “I would be blown away if the players couldn’t be firmware updated to read the 50GB discs” indicating I’m of the opinion the players can be upgraded to read the 50GB discs (if need be) not that I’m somehow in doubt as to whether the players themselves are FW upgradeable.

    Again, “This article” being mine or Bill Hunts? Much of what I’m citing here comes from the articles linked to at ‘The Digital Bit’s’ by Bill Hunt. I also haven’t seen any specifications on the new Samsung players much less any that indicate ethernet support, could you pass that along to me?

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Shawn,

    Disagreeing with me or Bill Hunt? No need to be sorry about the HD DVD player load times, the second-gen players recently introduced in Europe, (and in the U.S shortly) have significantly quicker load times. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying your purchase.

    Absolutely we’re in total agreement that all the Samsung players are firmware upgradeable, which again confuses me as I stated “I would be blown away if the players couldn’t be firmware updated to read the 50GB discs” indicating I’m of the opinion the players can be upgraded to read the 50GB discs (if need be) not that I’m somehow in doubt as to whether the players themselves are FW upgradeable.

    Again, “This article” being mine or Bill Hunts? Much of what I’m citing here comes from the articles linked to at ‘The Digital Bit’s’ by Bill Hunt. I also haven’t seen any specifications on the new Samsung players much less any that indicate ethernet support, could you pass that along to me?

  • Shawn

    Im on of the early adopters and I couldn’t disagree with you more. After buying my player I never want to see a DVD again. And I’m sorry HD DVD players taking a full 1 minute to load thats ridiculous.

    All players being made today are upgradable via firmware. The new Samsung’s release will have an ethernet connection.

    This article seems one sided toward the HD-DVD camp. Samsung has also chimed in to say they will support the 50GB on all players.

  • Shawn

    Im on of the early adopters and I couldn’t disagree with you more. After buying my player I never want to see a DVD again. And I’m sorry HD DVD players taking a full 1 minute to load thats ridiculous.

    All players being made today are upgradable via firmware. The new Samsung’s release will have an ethernet connection.

    This article seems one sided toward the HD-DVD camp. Samsung has also chimed in to say they will support the 50GB on all players.

  • Caleb

    You know, between this news about the 50Gig disc and the delay in Europe for the PS3 AND the limited amount of players due to hit US shelves on the 17th, I’m about ready to say on the record that the final nail has been cast to later be driven into Sony’s coffin. Given that Sony is losing money on every PS3 it makes and counting on licensing rights to sustain them, I believe that they are in seriously hot water and it will take some amazing magic or some devilish industry trickery to save them.

  • Caleb

    You know, between this news about the 50Gig disc and the delay in Europe for the PS3 AND the limited amount of players due to hit US shelves on the 17th, I’m about ready to say on the record that the final nail has been cast to later be driven into Sony’s coffin. Given that Sony is losing money on every PS3 it makes and counting on licensing rights to sustain them, I believe that they are in seriously hot water and it will take some amazing magic or some devilish industry trickery to save them.