Sunday, June 25 is the official release date in the United States of the first Blu-ray DVD player to come to market, the Samsung BD-P1000. We intend to perform a comparative test with several projectors and Blu-ray discs over the coming weeks, and assess how this initial Blu-ray release stacks up against the HD-DVD offering. However, if you are thinking of purchasing the Samsung player on release, we can offer some preliminary observations. We have evaluated the BD-P1000 with three discs thus far, playing them on the Canon SX60 and the Optoma HD7100.

1. The House of Flying Daggers. This visually stunning film has suffered a poor transfer to Blu-ray HD format. The image is soft to the point of distraction, and borders on unwatchable when projected to 100" diagonal. However, it is blurry even when displayed on a 40" monitor.

2. The Fifth Element. The Blu-ray edition of this film is much sharper than The House of Flying Daggers, and is pleasant to watch. However, it is not a huge improvement over the already fine transfer of the Superbit standard definition DVD. On the HD7100, the BD version shows a subtle improvement in detail, but most wouldn't notice the difference except in a side by side comparison. On the Canon SX60, the advantage of the BD edition over the Superbit DVD is a bit more pronounced, but still not a revolutionary step forward.

3. Terminator. This disc is also decidedly sharper than The House of Flying Daggers. However it manifests some wide variance in quality from scene to scene. On occasion there are hints of it being more than a standard definition source, but in many scenes there is no discernable difference between this "high-definition" edition, and the video quality we see on many of the better standard definition DVD transfers.

Overall, our initial experience with the Samsung Blu-ray player and the initial Blu-ray discs leaves us underwhelmed. The image quality does not measure up to what we would expect from a high definition source, and it certainly falls short of the hype. Though there is an obvious difference in quality between the three Blu-ray discs we have on hand, even the best of them falls short of the video quality of our HD-DVDs. Some of this is attributable to the fact that these initial Blu-ray discs are encoded in MPEG2, whereas the HD-DVDs are in VC1. Nevertheless, given the high resolution format, we should simply be getting better pictures on screen than those we are seeing.

We cannot yet determine to what degree the limitations may be in the Blu-ray discs versus the player itself. In point of fact, the Samsung BD-P1000 player may turn out to be terrific with higher quality media. We will continue to evaluate this player and more BD releases in the days to come. Those thinking of stepping into the world of high definition DVD may wish to wait until more is known, and more Blu-ray players and higher quality Blu-ray discs have come onto the market.