Samsung has managed to be the first in the UK to launch its Blu-ray player capable of playing the latest high-definition discs to give you vastly improved picture quality.

It's slim and stylish design, which carries the current blue circle motif found on other Samsung products, sits stylishly in tune with the company's new range of HD Ready televisions. The screen is easy to read and offers basic information as any standard DVD player. Underneath a silver flip down shutter is an 11-in-2 memory card reader that supports most formats bar Fujifilm and Olympus' xD Picture Card.

Connection to a television is via either Composite, S-Video, Component, or HDMI sockets and for pure HomeCinema audiophiles there is also an coaxial and optical digital audio outputs rather than having to rely on the HDMI cable to do it for you.

Once you've got it hooked up to an HD Ready television, preferably one that supports 1080p rather than just 1080i (we tested the unit on Samsung's LN-S4696D 46-inch Wide HDTV with Integrated DCR Tuner and 1080p Ready television) and you're ready to start enjoying crisper images from the word go.

Press the rather ugly looking remote and 5 seconds later we were still waiting, with one noticeable difference over standard DVD being the load times of the discs and the chapters on the disc. This might be first generation, but it still took long enough to start for you to begin shifting uncomfortably on the sofa.

Get past that, and the picture results either upscaling a standard DVD or playing a Blu-ray Disc (hey isn't that the point) are stunning. We haven't yet tested the player against Toshiba's standalone HD DVD player yet to see how it competes, but as a standalone offering image detail was clear and crisp even compared to Sky's HD service on the same television.

Where the Blu-ray player succeeds, is in things like animation and action. However image quality is somewhat based entirely on the quality and the mastering of the footage. In the tester disc that comes in the box, the quality of image resolution varied massively on the different trailers on the disc. A trailer of Pirates of the Caribbean for example looked very grainy and full of noise, however Chicken Little, an animated movie, was crisper than ... well, a packet of crisps.

Features new to users over standard DVD is a greater emphasis on menus. The pop-up menu is one of the player's key menu selling points and allows you to search the disc's menu system while the movie is playing in the background. Why you would need this we aren't sure, because in our minds if you are watching the movie you aren't doing much else, but none the less it's there if you want it.

Brilliant I hear you cry, where can I get one? And that's the rub. The BD-P1000 costs a mind blowing £1000 when it launches this month in the UK. That's almost twice the price of the US price of $1000 and a whopping £400 more than the announced price of Toshiba's HD DVD player due in November.

If that wasn't enough, you will also have to worry about which format will be successful and eventually win out. Just as older readers will remember the joys of Betamax over VHS, buying this player at this stage could be, like Laser Disc, an expensive mistake.


Whether it's Blu-ray or HD DVD it is clear that the improvement in quality (don't forget you will need to buy a television capable of 1080p resolution to get the full benefit) is very impressive and just as DVD took over from VHS, either Blu-ray or HD DVD will take over from DVD in time.

However there are too many question marks hovering over this player to recommend that you go and blow a grand on buying one, and then another couple of grand on a television to really appreciate what you've bought.

Amazing, but hindered by a format war and ridiculously gob-smacking price tag.