So, a Blu-Ray player appeared in the studio today because they were released yesterday at the major resellers. Ours is a Samsung model with a smattering of movies, and everyone was quick to hook it up to the HDTV and play some movies.
It seems like whenever a new format appears, "The Fifth Element" is very quickly released on that format as some kind of standard video test. The movie looks terrible. It looks like they picked a source off some LaserDisc from eight years ago. Blocky artifacts are everywhere. The SuperBit DVD looks better than this.
Then we saw "50 First Dates." To make things even more sad, the video on this title turns out to be noticeably better looking than the others. The demo reels being used at demo stores are supposedly better than all of this, but even they don't look like a big jump over DVD unless you get really close. Of course, stores goof around with the settings of their TVs so they all burn as bright as torches, but the difference is still not there.
It turns out after looking at some technical specs that they're using MPEG-2 for the movies' compression. That's completely the WRONG choice for HD video. Supposedly the players can support other codecs but every movie, EVERY movie, they decided to go with the worst possible choice in standards for what they want to do.
Nowhere did any of these films look better than what I've seen of HD-DVD, many times they often looked worse. And this Sammy player cost $999. If you're willing to put up with the shoddy levels of build quality seen in Sony's game machines, you can get Blu-Ray and an HDMI cable out the door next year at about $600, but you could get HD-DVD with HDMI for $100 less *AND* have less copy-protection kludgery than you get from Blu-Ray.
They should have just kept this in the prototype labs until it was ready for prime-time, not shoved it out the door with a bunch of inferior MPEG-2 movies and try to swindle people into paying a four-digit figure for it. Blu-Ray is much more expensive, for a product that is similar-to-inferior, running on a completely inappropriate compression format and gives little to no advantage over HD-DVD, which may see players drop to $350 at the end of the year.
Just what kind of creative mind-looseners are being passed around at Sony, anyway?