Following the untimely demise of my PlayStation 3, I decided that my best option was to buy a dedicated Blu-ray player.
Having looked at the various options around the £150-£250 price point, I ended up opting for this very well specified Samsung.
For me it ticked a few essential boxes beyond the obvious picture/sound:
Upgradeable, good connectivity options and stylish.
The unit certainly looks very inoffensive and even the remote is one I could live with (although I'll be using it to program my universal remote). Apart from that you only get a manual, start-up guide, batteries and RCA (red white yellow) cable.
Switch on time!
After around five seconds the screen comes to live with a pleasant little Samsung screen and tune. I had already connected an ethernet cable to the unit as my router is by my TV. This immediately prompted me to update the firmware which I thought was excellent (rather than having to manually activate the process seperately). You can of course choose to skip this if you wish. After the update it's a case of setting up a few things like language options and audio/video settings to suit your set up.
In goes the first Disc, Wall-E (a solid 'test' disc in my opinion). Now I was the first to expect the "here we go, this is going to take waaaaay longer to load up than the PlayStation 3" scenario. But short of getting a stopwatch out and timing things, the loading time didn't seem wildly different either way.
But the differences between the two were about to become apparent. The picture on this Samsung is simply fantastic. I couldn't quite believe that there was so much of a noticable improvement after hearing that the PS3 is one of the best. Using exactly the same cable that the PS3 was using, the picture looks so much sharper and vibrant. Great start.
The same could be said of upscaled DVDs. A quick blast of the Toy Story DVD and there are moments where the picture really does look VERY close to an HD image. Impressive stuff and for comedy fans you'll be pleased to hear that the Zoolander DVD is also ridiculously good looking.
On to the audio and a similar surprise was in store. Using the same optical digital cable to the same surround sound amplifier, the sound had real clarity and separation. I don't know how the PS3 deals with Blu-ray audio but the Samsung does all the hard work before putting out the signal to the amplifier. Either way, there was a noticable improvement which I did not expect.
BD-live (interactive functions) work without problem and are just as slow as on the PS3.
In summary, a superb player for the money in terms of features, picture, sound.