Saturday, November 17, 2007

Samsung's New Combo HD Player: Way Too Pricey

Samsung has been teasing us for months about its upcoming dual-format HD player; first, there were only rumors, then word came in April that the Blu-ray/HD DVD player was, indeed, actually coming, but Samsung didn't reveal much beyond that. Today, however, we're getting the main specs, some pictures, a release date (before year's end) and a price: $1,049. Ouch. The first pictures of the BD-UP5000 are pretty much what you'd expect—a big black box with a your standard digital readout and some blue glowing buttons. Under the hood, however, is the good stuff, including full compatibility with the HDi- and BD-Java-powered interactive extras on both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs, neatly fixing a problem that plagued LG's spotty combo HD player, the BH100. You'll also get full 1080p output for Blu-ray and HD DVD (including 24 frame-per-second playback on Blu-ray discs, making for smoother, more film-like picture), the latest in high-def audio formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD), and an HDMI 1.3 port (which can send both video and Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD sound to your receiver). The BD-UP5000 could be a silver bullet for your Blu-ray/HD DVD compatibility woes if money's no object; for the rest of us, however, the $1,049 price tag is simply too high. Why? Because for a total of $800, you can pick up a 60GB PlayStation 3 with a built-in Blu-ray drive ($500) and a cheap Toshiba HD DVD player ($300). Yes, that's two boxes compared to a single BD-UP5000 player, but you'll be getting a next-gen gaming console in the bargain. A Samsung rep admitted to me that the company may lower the BD-UP5000's sky-high price tag depending on market prices in the next few months; let's hope Samsung follows through on that.