Your screen's resolution will determine what format you can use -- but only expensive 'Full HD' 1080p models with 1,920x1,080-pixel resolutions will be able to display the highest currently available 1080p format. This format progressively scans the maximum number of picture lines and claims to produce more detail and cohesive movement than anything we've seen before.
Blu-ray discs also feature enhanced interactive menus using high-definition graphics to select various options such as subtitles, commentaries and even games. You can directly access these menus during playback and even customise their appearance. The first Blu-ray films are only just being introduced now, but Samsung supplies two discs, the action film S.W.A.T. and a live jazz compilation to get you on your way.
The player is also backwards compatible with conventional DVDs and CDs including -R/RW and DVD-RAM recording formats. An integrated scaler means that standard-definition images can be upconverted to high-resolution formats up to 1080p for close to hi-def image quality.
On-screen menus are neatly presented, but with surprisingly few functions. You can choose to access information from discs or memory cards with a full range of playback options. We had imagined more elaborate functionality, but this system is incredibly easy to use and selecting the appropriate output resolution is the only adjustment that requires attention.
The improvements to image quality over standard definition are immediately apparent as soon as you play a high-definition film. Almost surreal detail levels expose the slightest nuances in tones and textures whether you're sat near or far away from the screen. Distinctive black levels and beautifully balanced colours enhance realism, while movement glides effortlessly across the screen. It's quite simply the finest picture we've ever seen from a disc player.
We're not totally convinced that this exceptional quality justifies the exorbitant outlay for both player and accompanying screen, however. Die-hard enthusiasts won't care, but the progression in picture quality isn't as pronounced as the difference between DVD and VHS, which might leave the average consumer wondering what all the fuss is about. And even while playing 1080p content, there are still some digital artefacts upsetting colour and shadow gradations.
Upscaled DVD image quality isn't particularly impressive and it's difficult to notice much difference between 1080i and 1080p pictures, which won't please anyone who's paid the extra for a top-of-the-range screen.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide