The BD-P1400's high-resolution soundtrack support is excellent. It has onboard decoding for Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD High Resolution, which means it can output these soundtracks either in PCM format over the HDMI output or via the analog outputs. For newer receivers, the BD-P1400 also offers bitstream output for high-resolution soundtracks. So if you have a newer receiver with onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, you can set the BD-P1400 to output audio over HDMI in encoded bitstream format--letting your receiver do the decoding, rather than the player. There should be absolutely no sound quality difference whether you let the receiver decode or the player decode, but some AV fans just love seeing the "Dolby TrueHD" light on their new receiver. The only addition we'd really like to see on the BD-P1400 is onboard DTS-HD Master Audio decoding so even those with older receivers could take advantage of this format, but it's not a major complaint since there are no other Blu-ray or HD DVD players with that capability.
Connectivity is also solid. There's an HDMI output capable of carrying both 1080p video signals and high-resolution audio. For high-def analog video, there's a component video output (limited to 1080i), and there's an S-Video output and a composite output for standard-def output. (As with all DVD players, there is no DVD upscaling available via component video). On the audio side, there's the aforementioned HDMI output, along with 5.1-channel analog outputs, both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, and stereo analog outputs. Rounding out the connectivity is an Ethernet port, which enables you to upgrade the firmware from the Internet--a feature that's been common to HD DVD players, but very rare among Blu-ray players.
The BD-P1400 is a
HD video performance
We started off our HD image quality tests using Silicon Optix's HQV test suite on Blu-ray. The Samsung BD-P1400 was set in 1080p mode using the HDMI output, connected to the Sharp LC-52D92U. Overall, the BD-P1400 evinced middling performance. It didn't pass the Film Resolution Loss Test, as the edges of one of the boxes exhibited strobe-like behavior--we've seen other players perform worse, but the Samsung still didn't pass. On the second part of the Film Resolution Loss Test, we could see some minor moirÃ© in the grandstands of Raymond James Stadium, but otherwise it did an acceptable job. It had no problem passing the Video Resolution Loss Test, demonstrating its competence on video-based material. On some additional video-based tests, the BD-P1400 did show some jaggies, but we tend to put less importance on these tests since there are very few video-based Blu-ray titles.
Next we switched from test patterns to program material, to see how the BD-P1400 handled itself with real-world movies. We began by spot-checking some problem scenes that we've seen trip up other Blu-ray players. On M:I:III, the BD-P1400 did well, showing no moirÃ© on the stairs at the beginning of Chapter 8. There also weren't any jaggies at the beginning of Chapter 16, when the limo pulls up to Tom Cruise. Switching to Ghost Rider, the grille of the RV was jaggy-free at the end of Chapter 6--a scene that often demonstrates 1080i deinterlacing problems. We did see some odd flashing behavior in Chapter 10 of Live Free or Die Hard, but further testing revealed it was in the source and not the BD-P1400's fault. We also sat through the majority of Pirates of Caribbean: At World's End and were very impressed with the image quality. So while the BD-P1400 didn't ace HQV's test patterns, it held up very well in with actual program material.
We also looked at some movies in 24 frames per second output, commonly referred to as 1080p/24. Unfortunately, output at 24 frames was not as flawless as it should have been. We saw quite a few instances of stuttering that wasn't present when had the BD-P1400 set at standard 1080p/60 mode, and it was frequent enough to be a nuisance. Of course, we've seen high-def players with 1080p/24 problems before that were solved with firmware updates, so we're hoping that happens with the BD-P1400.
Blu-ray operational performance
We did run into some annoying operational snags. For example, on Blu-ray discs with Java-based menu systems (like the Pirates of the Caribbean series), we ran into a problem where we'd pause the movie, walk away for a few minutes, and it would stop the movie completely. When we tried to play it again, we had to reload the disc and start from the beginning--instead of picking up where we left off. It's a pretty big annoyance, as we find ourselves pausing movies somewhat frequently, whether because of a bathroom break or a phone call. The BD-P1400 will stop after a few minutes of pausing on non-Java-based discs, but it's able to resume at the point where you left off.
The BD-P1400 also has one of the loudest disc drives we've encountered on any high-def player. When loading some discs, such as Live Free or Die Hard, the noise is noticeably annoying, comparable with a cell phone vibrating on a table. It never happened during a movie--that would have been downright unacceptable--but it was still pretty bothersome when it happened while just navigating menus.
Load times were a little disappointing. On M:I:III we were able to load the disc in 23 seconds, and starting with the player off it took about 55 seconds. Even worse was its performance on discs with Java-based menus, as it took us 3 minutes and 8 seconds to actually get the movie playing on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and 2 minutes and 27 seconds for Spider-Man 3. On Dead Man's Chest, comparable players were still slow, but considerably better--the older BD-P1200 took 2 minutes, 12 seconds before the movie started, while the PS3 took 1 minute, 54 seconds until we got the movie playing.
DVD video performance
Since many people have a substantial video DVD library, image quality performance on standard-def DVDs still matters. Using Silicon Optix's HQV on DVD, we took a look at how the BD-P1400 handled the tests. The initial resolution test confirmed it can pass the full resolution of DVDs, although there's some flickering on the image indicating less-than-perfect processing. The next two jaggies tests yielded average results, with some jaggies showing up on both a rotating white line and three shifting white lines. The following test, which involves a waving flag, was a little bit worse with considerable jaggies along each ripple. Even more disappointing was its performance on the 2:3 pull-down test, as there was significant moirÃ© in the grandstands as a racecar drove by.
Moving onto actual program material was somewhat better. The BD-P1400 did a good job of rendering the opening sequence of Star Trek: Insurrection, demonstrating its 2:3 pull-down prowess. Next up was Seabiscuit, and the BD-P1400 did a solid job with the difficult introduction, with few to no jaggies on the black and white photos. We also watched most of the movie Serenity, and most of the issues we noticed were minor. The BD-P1400 certainly doesn't live up to the HQV-powered standard-def processing of its predecessor, the BD-P1200, but it's good enough for all but the most demanding videophiles.