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New Pioneer Blu-ray player: Not so Elite

Pioneer announces a new Blu-ray player, the Elite BDP-94HD, which lacks cutting-edge features such as HDMI 1.3 that we've seen on other players.

Pioneer's new Blu-ray player, the BDP-94HD
Pioneer's new Blu-ray player, the BDP-94HD

Pioneer announced its new Elite BDP-94HD Blu-ray player today, following up on its first generation BDP-HD1. Besides the new model name, there doesn't look to be much of a change from last year's model. The biggest addition we can see is onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD, which means it should be able to decode Dolby TrueHD soundtracks and send uncompressed PCM soundtracks to a compatible receiver via HDMI. Pioneer is also claiming to have revamped its Home Media Gallery feature, which allows for some basic network media streaming using the Ethernet port and supposedly the capability to download media straight from the Internet. There's also support for HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (CEC), which allows compatible products to send commands to each other via the HDMI port. It will be shipping later this month with a suggested price of $1,000.

We can't get too excited about the BDP-94HD, considering the press release doesn't mention that it has HDMI 1.3 and CrunchGear reports that it indeed has only HDMI 1.2. If it had HDMI 1.3, it would allow the BDP-94HD to send encoded Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master soundtracks to compatible receivers, which should also be released later this month. There's also no mention of enhanced DVD upconversion performance, which we felt was a little lacking on last year's BDP-HD1. We're also hoping the BDP-94HD offers the capability to play standard audio CDs, a glaring omission on the BDP-HD1. With the Samsung BD-P1200 ($800 street price) sporting by an HDMI 1.3 port, excellent upconversion thanks to its HQV video-processing chip and standard CD play, the BDP-94HD has its work cut out for it. On the other hand, we did like the Home Media Gallery functionality on the BDP-HD1, so we're interested to see how they've revamped that feature.

Source: Pioneer press release.