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In the world of Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD being the first product on the shelves is of utmost importance, just ask Sony. That is why Samsung have pulled out all the stops to bring their Blu-Ray player to market before anyone else. The BD-P1000 has been on sale in the States since June and as of next month it'll be on the shelves here in the UK. So what is all the talk about?

The next generation of high-definition content require larger capacity discs in order to hold the vastly greater information required to represent high-definition picture and multi-channel sound. Both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD do this but each technology is being supported by different industry heavyweights. Numerically Blu-Ray has far greater support than HD-DVD with backing from manufacturers such as Sony, Pioneer and Samsung and film studios such as Warner Brothers, Fox and MGM. With that line up Blu-Ray shouldn't have any shortage of content in the future.

With the BD-P1000 Samsung wants to be seen as the first to market with a Blu-Ray Disc or BD player. When it was launched in America earlier this year, it was the first BD player in the World. Here, widespread availability is marked for end of October. Samsung's own Blu-Ray recorder will come out sometime next year, however representatives were unwilling to elaborate with exact dates.

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The player is aesthetically appealing with blue LED lighting where possible (presumably to complement the Blu-Ray theme). On the back you find a single HDMI connector, component, S-Video, analogue 5.1, optical and coaxial connections. Although the unit we saw was a Korean display model the same connectivity options will be present on the UK unit.

Time spent waiting while navigating through the menu has come down from early pre-production players but the colourful row of on-screen lights displayed instead of an hourglass makes an appearance fairly.

Featuring a chip which 'upscales' traditional content to 1080p resolution, even standard DVDs can be made to look a lot better. This may sweeten the deal for owners of large DVD libraries who want to forgo the expense of ditching and repurchasing all their titles.

The player will come with two titles bundled; SWAT and Legends of Jazz. Sony Pictures confirmed that pricing for titles would be £25.99 for new releases and £17.99 for catalogue releases. Even with the large industry backing the Sony Pictures representative was only able to confirm around 10 titles by Christmas. All of these would be catalogue releases retailing at £17.99.

Sadly it does seem that content will be the problem for early adopters. Most journalists I spoke to were unimpressed with the picture quality and it was clear on most of the titles we saw there was a lot of noise in the picture, visible even from a distance. In some freeze frame shots you clearly see heavy colour compression too. However this wasn't present on all demonstrations and one really showed that if it was done right, the picture quality of Blu-Ray is certainly impressive.

Supporting acts

Samsung took the opportunity not only to launch their Blu-Ray player but a full high-definition supporting range of LCD televisions. The LE40 and LE46 (40" and 46" respectively) can display the highest resolution supported by the high definition DVD formats, 1080p. What Samsung are keen to show is their complete solution to Blu-Ray early adopters.

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The LCD television itself looked mighty impressive with some excellent aesthetics, reminiscent of Pioneer plasma panels. Featuring neatly hidden speakers, a piano black bezel, the LE40/46 looks every bit the part. Featuring Samsung's own S-PVA technology meaning every pixel is actually made up of two sub-pixels perpendicular to each other, the LE40/46 has a viewing of 170 degrees.

Interestingly the television doesn't feature an integrated Freeview tuner, however one can argue whether someone purchasing a true high definition screen will want anything other than high definition programming. Currently Sky’s HD broadcasts are transmitted at the lower resolution of 720p.

Connectivity wise, Samsung have the bases covered. A couple of SCART connections remind you of what you won't be missing out on, with S-Video also present. For much better picture quality component is present and two HDMI connectors too. We were viewing the BD-P1000 through a HDMI connector (component cannot support 1080p resolution).

Much like their BD-P1000, both models will feature an 'upscaler' so content which isn't native to the 1080p resolution can be displayed as so. Upscaling won't yield the same quality as native 1080p content, however its certainly not a bad thing to have. If you were to combine with the BD-P1000 which also has this identical feature, the upscaling will take place on the player rather than the television.

The admission fee

It is only the early adopters that will pay the heavy premium for a Blu-Ray player at the moment with prices expecting to be around the £1000 mark, even though in the States it can be purchased for around $750. Expect the LE40 (40") to be priced around the £2200 mark with the LE46 (46") to be £2800.

Samsung say that around 170 Currys stores will carry their Blu-Ray player and television. They are likely to bundle them together resulting in slightly more digestible pricing, with the 40" unit and the BD-P1000 coming in at around £3000 and the 46" priced at around £3500.

Having spent a few hours looking at Samsung's Blu-Ray offerings on their LE46 LCD television I have no doubt that Samsung has done a decent job with their products. The player is capable but like any first generation unit it may be slightly rough around the edges. The LE46 46" LCD television was superb. Styling that is well beyond it's price tag, picture quality looked good, contrast, even in the brightly lit studio was perfectly adequate and all major connectivity options are there. Pricing is very good too, it's a lot cheaper than Sony's 1080p X Series Bravia LCD panel and having seen that in action I can honestly say the £800 price difference doesn't show up.

What worries me is that the content simply isn't there. Samsung believe that if they build a solution the users will come. Sure, they probably will, but the picture quality of some of the content I saw is not something that would leave me impressed having spent the best part of £3000. Samsung have done their part, now it's time for the film studios to step up to the plate and deliver titles that will do this kit proud.