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All posts tagged "blu-ray"

Monday, June 15, 2009

Samsung's Wall-mounted Blu-ray Player

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 03:00 AM

"Its glossy black finish and polished Darth Vader design make Samsung's newest Blu-ray box, the BD-P4600, stand out from every other player on the market. Well, it actually doesn't stand anywhere at all — it comes with the metal brackets to mount it on a wall or plant it on a desktop pedestal. And like Lord Vader, this model packs some serious force with its built-in streaming for Pandora music and Netflix movies."

I've always been surprised that there are not more options in wall mountable DVD/Blu-ray players. With the growth in wall-mounted TV's, a wall-mounted player seems to be a logical option. Unfortunately, all the wall-mounted players I've seen tended to be rather specialized products and were priced accordingly. I don't care about a wall-mounted player so much for the living room since I have lots of other components that are not wall mountable anyway. But I've got a 32" LCD wall-mounted in the bedroom and having to make space on a nearby dresser to put a DVD player takes away from some of the elegance of a wall-mounted TV.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Harman International Unveils Its First Blu-Ray Disc Player With BD-Live Interactivity

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 01:30 PM

"Harman Kardon, a division of Harman International Industries, Incorporated (, today announced the introduction of its first Blu-ray DiscTM media player, the Harman Kardon® BDP 1. The Harman Kardon brand, long respected in the sound industry, builds on its home theater heritage by offering the exciting new features of the next-generation of Blu-ray Disc media. By including BD-Live with the BDP 1 player, home-theater buffs who have vast Blu-Ray-disc movie collections have access to a new world of interactive content, including games, ringtones and other specialized Internet content. With its elegant design, the BDP 1 complements high-definition displays and audio/video receivers, while the unique Harman Kardon user interface simplifies setup and operation."

There aren't that many big-brand-name players making Blu-ray players, so it's nice to see another step into the field - although the name Harmon Kardon fills me with some anger given what I recently went through with my Harmon Kardon amplifier - more on that later. The direct-from-Harmon-Kardon price of $499 USD seems more than a little steep, especially since I didn't see anything in the specs that jumped out at be as being significantly different over other Blu-ray players on the market today.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Content: Have You Double-dipped? Triple? More?

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Talk" @ 05:00 AM

OK, I confess, as much as I hated having to do it, I have gone back and purchased multiple copies of the same content in different formats. Normally, I'm against this as a matter of principle since I figure I should not have to pay twice for the same content. Of course, the move to HD content changes that equation for me since just like the move from VHS to DVD, whether you like it or not, you are getting a higher quality level, which has value. For VHS, over time, I've replaced everything in my collection with DVD. For DVD, I'm being more selective since a) for a lot of content the difference from DVD to Blu-ray is negligible or unimportant and b) Blu-ray players are backwards compatible so I can still use my DVDs. But, there are always certain titles that I'll want the latest and greatest versions of.

Star Wars is an obvious example for me. I've bought it 4 times already and I'll be buying it a 5th when it eventually comes out on Blu-ray. Lord of the Rings is another example, I bought the regular and extended versions on DVD, but I'll only be picking up the extended versions on Blu-ray since I find the extended version massively superior to the theatrical release. Also, I'm a big Firefly fan, so I bought Serenity on DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-ray. Interestingly, I don't plan on buying the Firefly series on Blu-ray. I rented it and found that due to the grainy style of the series, it did not benefit much from the Blu-ray transfer. So, what are your guilty pleasures that have caused you to double dip for the same content?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Intel Showcases TV Widgets

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:30 PM

"It is a massive effort, and it does appear to be helping drive a slow increase in Blu-ray sales. However, I remain largely unconvinced that Blu-ray is anything more, at least right now, than something folks occasionally use to showcase their wonderful new TVs. That could change, though. I just got a presentation from Intel's Digital Home group that suggests that by early next year, I may become a convert."

Rob Enderle laments the difficulties in using Blu-ray but his mind is opening to a new technology from Intel that might help boost Blu-ray player sales; TV Widgets. Unfortunately, I think that this may only serve to muddle the market further and create more frustration. First, TV Widgets do not address any of the problems that Enderle has from being able to play a full length Blu-ray on his laptop on battery power to the lack of manufacturer-sourced Blu-ray players integrated into cars. Second, while techno geeks may appreciate added functionality to Blu-ray players, exploiting the latent power within them, I tend to think that most people just want a simple device that plays movies. I could easily see more than one person getting confused and increasingly frustrated trying to add widgets, or get rid of them from his TV. Adding features is great, but we are still living in a world where user interfaces need a considerable amount of work first.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gizmodo Tries Out the LG BD390

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 12:30 PM

"Nowadays, a test of a so-called Blu-ray player involves so much beyond just playing a damn Blu-ray movie that the name "Blu-ray player" is a bit ridiculous. Nowhere is that more true than in the BD390, which tonight got an upgrade so that in addition to the Netflix and YouTube it already serves up, it also distributes CinemaNow video, and sniffs out music and video on your network to play, too. The BD390 is a great disc-playing supplement to a frill-less cable-co DVR, though many of its streaming-video perks overlap with those from TiVo or Media Center PCs."

Gone are the days of a home theater setup with 50 different components. With all the horsepower behind a Blu-ray player, its no surprise that manufacturers are finding ways to make use of that processing power with added features. The LG BD390 is among one of these value-added Blu-ray players that handles Netflix, YouTube and various other streaming video services. It does this through an integrated 802.11n connection so there's no extra wires, antennas or other clutter coming out of the back of your home theater setup. It works great and there's only a few limitations, but it looks like it'd serve well enough to be your only connection to your TV aside from your cable box if you have one. I personally think media center PCs are more powerful, but those who want a simpler appliance to use, higher-end Blu-ray players like the BD390 might be more suited to you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Warner Brothers HD-DVD to Blu-ray Upgrade Program

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 11:24 AM

This is a really smart thing to offer consumers! Warner brothers is allowing consumers to swap their HD-DVD movies for Blu-ray movies, for $4.95 per movie and a $6.95 shipping charge on the whole order. All in all, not bad - I'd certainly pay $5 per movie to get them in Blu-ray format. Unfortunately for me, this offer is only available in the USA - but one of my American Thoughts Media editors may be getting a shipment from me to make the swap happen. It seems also that you only have to send in your DVD sleeve - you can keep the actual discs. I wonder if they do anything with boxed sets? I have Heroes season one on HD-DVD...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Samsung's BD-P1500 Blu-ray Player: Dysfunctional in the Extreme

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 07:17 PM

This is the review I posted to I figured I'd share it with the esteemed readers of this site - you'll want to avoid this product.

As a Blu-ray player, I have no signifant complaints other than by default the Bonus View is turned on and it will say the words "Bonus View" in every second of the movie. You have to go into the settings to turn this off - you can't turn if off with the remote, which is hugely irritating. Oh, and it's pretty sluggish starting up and with most menu functions. The REAL problem, and trust me when I say this, is this player's incompatibility with regular DVDs. Out of the box, I had problems with the player sputtering and stuttering while playing regular DVDs. And these were brand new DVDs, with nary a scratch or smudge. I tried updating the firmware - same problem. I used a DVD head cleaner - same problem. I called Samsung and sent it in for repair, got it back, and the third regular DVD I tried it it ("Cellular") started skipping wildly about half-way through. This is a brand new DVD, the first time playing it. Samsung released a buggy product, and they've already released a newer version (the BD-P1600), leaving all owners of this current product in the lurch. Do not buy this product - it's a classic case of a big company releasing a flawed product them quickly replacing it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Maximum PC Shows You How To Create Your Own Video Library

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 09:30 AM

"Now, ripping DVDs is our great challenge. Copying and transcoding the disc’s video into more efficient formats involves math an order of magnitude scarier than what’s required to rip audio CDs. A machine that will rip the latest Miley Cyrus CD in mere moments could take hours to extract and convert your copy of Alien vs. Predator to an iPod-friendly format. But with the right software, a quad-core-equipped PC, and a little know-how, you can cut your disc-rip time from hours to 30 minutes. Plenty of tricks and traps still await first-time rippers, but we’ll show you the basics and then walk you through some of the most valuable power-user ripping secrets."

I actually don't see ripping DVDs as a great challenge, but I have had the pleasure of going through lots of different programs over the years to back up my library. For those of you just getting into the whole process, either for backing up, or to create an instant access media library for your home theater, Maximum PC has put up a fairly good tutorial that will probably save you a lot of time and effort. It's quite thorough and even covers Blu-ray discs if you've got any. It even touches on how to stream your new library around the house. The only part I find lacking is that it doesn't provide you with any instructions on how to stream outside of your domicile. All I can add to that is to consider services like, which can take your media library and make it available to you anywhere so long as you have an internet connection.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Netflix Turning the Screws on Blu-ray Users

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home News" @ 03:00 AM

"Less than six months after Netflix imposed a $1 surcharge for Blu-ray lovers, the company has decided to jack up its rates once again. In an e-mail sent to subscribers today, Netflix said that it would be raising its Blu-ray access charge to as much as $9 per month on top of a normal subscription rate. The changes will go into effect on customers' billing statements on or after April 27, 2009 unless they remove the option from their accounts."

I have not received my e-mail yet, but I'm not particularly pleased by this. On my plan, this amounts to a 4x increase in the Blu-ray surcharge. Given that less than 25% of the movies in my queue are even available on Blu-ray, I just can't justify the extra cost and will be cutting the Blu-ray option from my account. Regardless of whether you think the cost is justified, I think this is a marketing blunder. By setting the surcharge at $1 last year, they set an expectation as to what the pricing structure should be and making such a massive change so quickly is bound to peeve off some users.

Tags: blu-ray, netflix

Saturday, March 21, 2009

OPPO Ships BDP-83 To Beta Users

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 09:30 AM

"Here she is -- the world's very first universal Blu-ray player. Oh sure, we may have heard of Denon's absurdly expensive DVD-A1UD first, but that bad boy just got delayed for a second time over in Japan. OPPO, on the other hand, has managed to push out a few hundred of these BDP-83 decks to brave beta testers across America, and we were fortunate enough to score one."

It is not as cheap as your basic Blu-ray player, but it has just about every feature you could want from an optical disc player. Okay, it won't play HD-DVD, but it does handle DVD, SACD, CDs, AVCHD, MKV and of course, Blu-ray discs. Also of note is that it uses the Anchor Bay chip for de-interlacing, upscaling and general video quality goodness that's normally only seen in much more expensive players. The BDP-83 looks to provide the best value if you're looking to update your video player. Sure, something like the PlayStation 3 lets you play games, but its DVD playing abilities just are not on par with what the Anchor Bay chip can provide. With Engadget holding a beta unit in their hands, I'm sure we'll see a more thorough review soon.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Is there a New Chinese Competitor to Blu-ray?

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:00 PM

"Everyone assumed the high definition format war was over after movie studios abruptly bailed on the HD-DVD format seemingly over night, but could it be just beginning? China certainly hopes so, whose China Blue HD (CBHD) just received a shot in the arm from Warner Brother's announcement that it plans to support the format with several films in the first half of 2009."

To even have a chance this would have to be absurdly cheap. Cheap as in a $50 player and movies priced comparable to normal DVDs that were preferably dual disks like many HD-DVD's were. Even then, I'd say the chance of success is doubtful. More than likely, this is a play by Warner Brother's to get some kind of concession from the Blu-ray camp.

Tags: hardware, dvd, hd, blu-ray

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blu-ray Licensing to be Unified

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 09:00 PM

"Look, we don't really "get" people who aren't willing to buy the latest and greatest thing regardless of the price and / or current economic state, but evidently there's a rather large sector still clinging to their antiquated DVD format. Blu-ray proponents Panasonic, Philips, and Sony are looking to change all that by knocking down the tab a few notches."

For those of you harping over the high prices of Blu-ray technology, from players to burners to movies, it looks like there might be a light, albeit dim, at the end of the tunnel. The unification of license granters should reduce the cost of everything Blu-ray, though only marginally since it only affects the cost of the license. Still, it's welcome news and leads me to believe that one day, there will eventually be Blu-ray technology that costs what DVD technology costs today.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why Are Blu-ray Sales Suffering?

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 07:00 PM

"Blu-ray U.S. disc sales have tripled in the past year, according to The Digital Entertainment Group, but there's a slight problem--Blu-ray sales are still lower than where film studios would like them to be, and there's no indication that Blu-ray sales will top DVD sales anytime soon. The studios blame Blu-ray's performance on the economy, and claim that if we were enjoying better economic times, the format's sales would be higher. But there's one person, Bill Mechanic, a film producer and former Fox Filmed Entertainment chief, who believes there's more to this story."

It seems as if HD-DVD isn't Blu-ray's greatest challenge. The venerable DVD is still putting up a fight against Sony's fledgling format. While Blu-ray has been around for years now, its sales are not meeting expectations. I have to agree with Bill Mechanic's idea that DVDs are hurting Blu-ray sales more than the economy. While Blu-ray definately provides more features and a sharp HDTV signal, it seems that most people aren't willing to pay a high premium for the extra content and clarity. Having an HDTV myself, I can certainly appreciate 720p and 1080p video, but DVDs fit in that category of "good enough" for me to watch most things. In fact, when shopping, I find myself thinking that Blu-ray is only worth it for certain videos, like documentaries, or movies that provide a lot of visuals. The rest, I look for in the bargain DVD bin! Am I the only one here? Is everyone else busy replacing their DVD collection with Blu-ray discs?

Tags: dvd, blu-ray

Friday, January 23, 2009

My First Blu-ray Experience? It Sucked

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 11:13 AM

That's a blown-out DLP bulb from my Toshiba TV. What does that have to do with Blu-ray? Keep reading. Back in November, I finally got around to re-doing my home theatre rig. I was replacing the DVD player, the amp, and wiring everything through the amp via HDMI (a first for me). After I got it all connected, my wife and I sat down to enjoy our first Blu-ray movie: Hellboy II [Affiliate]. Being the comic/superhero geek that I am, I was really looking forward to Hellboy II but never managed to see it in the theatres. So I put in the disc, and start the movie. I was puzzled to see a text overlay in the upper left corner that says "BONUS VIEW" right from the first frame of the movie. I expected it to go away eventually, but it doesn't.

On the Samsung remote control I pressed the Bonus View button expecting to toggle this text off the screen. It didn't do anything. Puzzled, I started searching through the Hellboy II disc menu, thinking maybe there was some option for Bonus View that's somehow turned on by default. I couldn't find anything, so we stopped the movie and watched a regular DVD instead. Not a great first impression there Mr. Blu-ray! Read more...

Tags: hdtv, blu-ray, dlp

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sharp Announces All-in-One Blu-ray TVs

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 10:00 PM

"According to Sharp executive Mike Troetti, the company will release two Aquos LCD HDTVs with embedded Blu-ray players next month, right after they're unveiled during CES 2009. The TVs will come in 32 inches and 42 inches, and the latter will have 1080p HD resolution and a 120Hz frame-rate processing. Both sizes will feature a multiple slot loading rig for easy transitions between Blu-rays, DVDs and CDs. For the moment, there's no word on whether the TV will be able to play the full suite of Blu-ray disc profiles."

I imagine many of us probably balking at the idea of any television with an integrated DVD or VCR. However, their simplicity made them very popular with a lot of people. Now the same is available but with Blu-ray players! Hooray! I personally don't care for Blu-ray and all the complications that come along with it, but I can definately see the attraction for my friendsthat don't know the difference between a USB and HDMI cable. Like Wired, I have concerns about video quality and long term Blu-ray viability but I think that the simplicity will have these telvisions sell like hotcakes. Any of you tempted?

Tags: sharp, hdtv, blu-ray, aquos

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Poem to Blu-ray: Let Me Count The Ways In Which I Loathe Thee...

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 04:42 PM

"Blu-ray player sales are sucking wind as well they should. According to Cnet, sales of the DRM infected format players are dropping like rocks. The not so bright people out there had expected sales to skyrocket once the format war was done, but it didn't. They thought was people would ignore the massive defects of Blu-ray and buy like the dumb sheep that they are, handcuffing themselves to the Sony bank account. Surprise, it didn't happen. US consumers are still dumb sheep, but this time they are realizing what is being done to them and they aren't biting. Sony's hope of having 50% of disc sales this year be Blu-ray are more likely to happen because of falling DVD sales than rocketing Blu-ray."

It's official, Charlie Demerjian is my new hero. Why? Because he wrote this article that, with all the subtlety of a wolverine tearing into a pack of bacon, points out (with a sharp, bloody stick) the problems that Blu-ray has. Some of these are similar to what HD-DVD struggled with (high disc prices, marginally better quality), and some are uniquely Blu-ray issues. This delightful article will be sure to get your blood boiling if you're a big Blu-ray fan, though if you are, I'd love to hear your counter-points.

Tags: sony, blu-ray

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dell Offers Sub-$1K Blu-ray Laptop

Posted by Suhit Gupta in "Digital Home News" @ 08:00 AM

"Dell, which has more than a little clout in the PC market, on Friday announced that consumers can now spend less than $1,000 to get a Blu-ray-equipped laptop. More specifically, the Round Rock, Texas, company said that it's offering a Blu-ray disc playback option with its Inspiron 1525 laptops starting at $879. There's also an option for a Blu-ray burner drive, but Dell doesn't seem to be ready to disclose that price just yet. The Inspiron 1525 made its debut at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, where CNET Reviews offered up an early assessment: "Hands on with the Dell Inspiron 1525." The laptop features a 15-inch screen and an HDMI port for connecting to high-resolution displays and HDTVs."

Less than a month after the demise of HD-DVD, Dell makes this move. It would be very interesting to see what the blu-ray burner drive price is too. But watch out - blu-ray technology can really drain the battery life of this laptop.

Tags: laptop, blu-ray

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Want to Backup Your DVD and Blu-ray Discs? Check Out AnyDVD!

Posted by Tim Williamson in "Digital Home Software" @ 12:30 PM

"Film studios that have switched to Blu-ray may have crowed a little too early because the much-praised BD+ copy protection is an ad absurdum affair now, too. With today's release of version of AnyDVD HD it is now also possible to make backup security copies of Blu-ray discs protected with BD+. Richard Doherty of the Envisioneering Group will have to revise his statement from July, 2007 regarding BD+: "BD+, unlike AACS which suffered a partial hack last year, won't likely be breached for 10 years". It is worth mentioning that since he made that statement only eight months have gone by."

If you're looking for a way to backup your DVD and Blu-ray Discs, AnyDVD may be the software you need. It runs in the background on your PC, and when inserting a DVD or Blu-ray disc, it automagically removes the copy protection, which then allows you to use a DVD backup tool to make a copy of your disc. Now through March 30th, when you purchase directly from Slysoft [Affiliate] and use the coupon code "easter" you can receive 20% off AnyDVD (and any other SlySoft product)!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Announcing Corel WinDVD 9 Plus Blu-ray

Posted by Tim Williamson in "Digital Home Software" @ 11:00 AM

"The DVD playback picture just got much clearer with the introduction of WinDVD 9 Plus Blu-ray. Video lovers can stop worrying about formats thanks to the newest release of the world's number one DVD and video playback software. With the inclusion of All2HD -- the most advanced upscaling technology available -- standard-definition videos and DVDs play back at near-HD quality. For users who desire the ultimate experience, WinDVD 9 Plus Blu-ray can play back HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies with the latest features and tools including BonusView (picture-in-picture), Advanced Navigation and HD audio from Dolby and DTS, as well as support for AVCHD and H.264 formats. Either way, WinDVD 9 Plus Blu-ray provides a superior video playback experience."

WinDVD has added the ability to playback Blu-ray and HD DVD video on your PC (as long as you have the required hardware/software components). Conveniently, Corel offers a useful downloadable tool that examines your system and will tell you if any components aren't up to par for Blu-ray/HD DVD playback. WinDVD also includes a proprietary technology called "All2HD" which claims to upscale standard and DVD video to near HD quality (I'll have to see it to believe it!). I just have a plain old DVD drive in my PC, but how many of you have a Blu-ray/HD DVD player in your PC?

Monday, January 21, 2008

There's More to HD Than Bit Rates and Resolution

Posted by Jeremy Charette in "Digital Home Talk" @ 07:00 AM

Over on EngadgetHD I've been having a discussion about bit rates with George Ou of ZDNet. George argues that unless the content you are watching is at least 28 mbps 1080p, it's "fake HD". Nevermind that the HD spec. includes resolutions from 1024x768 up to 3840x2160, and that it doesn't specify a bit rate (or rates). He goes on to say that Xbox Live Video Marketplace downloads in HD are "slightly better than DVD but nowhere near 1080i over-the-air HD broadcast quality."

Unfortunately George's argument is so narrow that he is ignoring several other factors that are for more significant. The real world considerations go far beyond bit rate and resolution. The per pixel bit rate for 720p XBLVM downloads is nearly identical to a 1080i OTA broadcast, and even identical to real world HD DVD bit rates. Granted, the resolution is lower, but the you won't see any added compression artifacts over 1080p HD discs. As it turns out, resolution is a non-issue for most people:

Almost every HDTV in homes today is 720p, not 1080p. The extra resolution available on HD DVD and Blu-Ray is wasted on most people. What's more, to take advantage of that extra resolution, you'd need:

  • 1080p native source (many lower end HD players can only to 1080i or 720p)
  • A 1080p HDTV that can display full resolution with 1:1 pixel mapping
  • Screen size larger than 50"
  • To be sitting closer than 10 feet

So who can tell the difference given these conditions? Maybe a tenth of a percent of all HDTV owners? A hundredth? Less? Yes, HD DVD and Blu-Ray are better than XBLVM downloads under theoretically ideal circumstances, but the vast majority of people will never notice the difference.

Then there's the issue of compression algorithms. DVD is encoded in MPEG-2, whereas most HD content is encoded in h.264 or VC-1. To hear George tell it, you'd think they were equals. Fact is the newer codecs result in smaller file sizes, fewer artifacts, and better picture quality. Next thing you know George will be arguing that JPEG should be abolished and all cameras should shoot in RAW.

It really irks me when people focus on minutiae, rather than taking the big picture into account. Full 1080p video downloads aren't yet practical. There isn't enough bandwidth to make it work. Most of the HDTV sets out there are 720p. In the real world, Xbox Live downloads are just as good as HD discs. Better yet, you don't have to make a trip to the store to pick one up.

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