Buying any piece of electronics gear is an investment, but the analogy is even more apt if you're buying a Samsung Blu-ray player. When the Samsung BD-P1500 was first released, it was a somewhat risky pick because of its $400 list price, disc compatibility issues, and long list of promised firmware upgrades. Since the initial release, however, its value has risen. The BD-P1500's online price has plummeted and it has received several firmware upgrades, making it Profile 2.0 compatible and ironing out compatibility issues.
We've knocked Samsung's excessively glossy designs in the past, but we're suckers for the BD-P1500's look. The faceplate is still glossy black, but it's completely flat and doesn't have a bezel, unlike its predecessor the BD-P1400. On the far right are some front-panel controls, including play, stop, and chapter forward/backward, but otherwise the aesthetic is minimalist. In our opinion, the BD-P1500 is the most stylish Blu-ray player we've seen.
While the menus of Panasonic's DMP-BD55 still feature blocky standard-definition graphics, the BD-P1500 has nice high-definition menus. They're easy enough to navigate, and we had no issues with routine tasks like changing the output resolution or audio output format.
Connectivity is standard. The most important connection is the HDMI output, which is capable of carrying both high-definition video signals up to 1080p and high-resolution audio. For analog high-definition video, there's also a component video output, but note that Blu-ray Discs are limited to 1080i over component and DVDs to 480p.
For audio, there's the aforementioned HDMI output, plus an optical digital audio output. Analog audio limited to just a stereo RCA output, whereas more expensive standalone players, such as the Samsung BD-P2500 and Sony BDP-S550, have multichannel analog outs. There's also an Ethernet port, which can be used for updating the firmware and to stream BD-Live content content.
Soundtrack support is pretty good, although not flawless. The BD-P1500 has onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD, but not for DTS-HD Master Audio. While the lack of DTS-HD Master Audio decoding is annoying, we wouldn't stress about it too much--even the experts have trouble hearing the differences between soundtrack formats in ideal environments.
Samsung fans will recognize the same remote the company has packaged with most of its products for the last couple years. There are playback controls just north of the center of the remote, and there's some slight differentiation--including Braille-like nubs--that make it possible to navigate in the dark.