- Written by Kris Deering
- Published on 10 January 2008
Blu-ray Video Performance
The Blu-ray camp has always been the most consistent when it comes to video playback quality. Toshiba has delivered quite a few HD DVD players onto the market, but their video output features and quality have been vastly different from each other, and in my opinion, not nearly as impressive across the board as the Blu-ray camp.
The 1400 does not feature a standalone video processing chip like its predecessors did and instead relies on the Sigma Designs HD decoder chip for its video processing duties. This has its pluses and minuses depending on what you want this player to do at the end of the day.
The player supports output resolutions of 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p60, and 1080p24, with the latter two requiring use of the HDMI output. All resolutions are derived from the decoding chip. Like all of the Blu-ray players with a 1080p24 output, you will only see this output resolution if the software is encoded as such. Some Blu-ray discs are not encoded as 1080p24. The Samsung does not have a forced 1080p24 output either, so it must see support for this resolution from the EDID information of the attached display in order to enable it. This has caused some frustration with some end users in previous models, as the HDMI interface doesn't always cooperate when it comes to EDID information.
As I mentioned before, I recently reviewed the Samsung BD-P1200, which featured onboard Silicon Optix Reon video processing. That was the only Blu-ray player with a high-end video processing chip, and its video performance was quite impressive compared to the majority of the Blu-ray players out there. To date it is still the only Blu-ray player to do well with both DVD playback and Blu-ray playback with video based content. Samsung dropped support for this feature with the BD-P1400, and this took its toll in several areas of video performance.
On the Blu-ray side, the 1400 cannot derive a true 1080p image from 1080i based content. While this does not affect the majority of Blu-ray software, there is an increasing number of Blu-ray software titles mastered in 1080i60, including concert videos, TV series, and nature documentaries. Using two different test patterns from our custom Blu-ray test disc, this player could not properly convert 1080i to 1080p with material having a 2-3 or 2-2 cadence. If you have this player set to 1080p60 for playback and view 1080i based material, it instead does a "bob" style de-interlacing which truncates the on-screen resolution and results in a softer resolution. You can read more about this in our 1080p article found in the Technical Articles section (linked from the home page).
Another issue I found with this player is its 1080p24 output. After updating it to the latest firmware, it was plagued with a stuttering issue when I selected 1080p24 for playback. Currently I am using a Marantz VP15S1 1080p DLP projector that is fully capable of displaying 24p material with no issues at all. I played back several Blu-ray discs from various studios, and all exhibited minor stuttering and skips throughout playback when it 24p mode. If I switched the player to 1080p60, the issues went away. Hopefully Samsung will address this issue with a future software update, but until then, I recommend using the 1080p60 output if your player exhibits the same issues.
With film-based Blu-ray discs, the 1400 does a great job with its 1080p60 output. It has no signs of Y/C delay via its HDMI output, and there are no active pixels cropped from the image. The decoder does not have any chroma upsampling error (CUE), an issue that has continued to show up on quite a few HD players out there.
The 1080p60 output is pure 1080p from the decoder, with no I/P conversion being done after the chip. The BD-P1000 used the new Genesis/Faroudja “Cortez” chip to derive its 1080p60 output, while the 1200 used the previously mentioned Silicon Optix Reon chip.
The full dynamic range of the video signal is intact. It passes both above-white and below-black information from the video signal. Using a luma burst, I did notice a slight exaggeration of high frequency detail compared to some of the other Blu-ray players on the market, resulting in a slightly edgier onscreen image. A chroma burst pattern showed the full resolution of the chroma signal being delivered, with no apparent softening of the image.
Overall, I would give the Samsung BD-P1400 an average rating for Blu-ray playback. Its performance is almost identical to most of the players with the exception of the issues I saw with the 24p output. I would like to see Samsung return to its support of higher end video processing with future designs similar to what they delivered with the 1200, as this provides the best overall viewing experience regardless of the content being played back.
DVD Video Performance
There is no doubt that DVD is still the preferred video playback medium for consumers right now. Even the best selling Blu-ray titles haven't managed to make much of a dent if any in standard DVD sales, and it will probably stay that way for a while. Consumers who end up purchasing a Blu-ray player like this one will probably transition their DVD playback to their Blu-ray player to alleviate having to use separate players for their movie watching experience.
The Sigma Designs decoder also handles all of the DVD video processing duties, and unfortunately doesn't do that great of a job. The BD-P1200 did an outstanding job with de-interlacing and scaling duties with DVD playback due to its Reon processing, but the 1400 doesn't offer that kind of support.
I performed our entire suite of DVD Benchmark tests on the 1400, and the results were in line with what we've seen from most flag-based progressive scan DVD players. The 1400 does do proper 2-3 pulldown on film-based DVDs so long as the flags are perfect in the 480i video stream. Any break in cadence results in combing or the player switching to video based processing that softens up the picture quite a bit.
For DVD playback, this player does exhibit CUE issues with alternating 2-3 based content like we've seen from many Disney DVDs. You will probably see a slight flickering in fine detail around solid pronounced colors such as red, blue, and green. The 1400 does have a chroma filter though for interlaced chroma signals, but it does not apply it for any other cadence.
If you are looking for top flight DVD playback in your system, I would either recommend using a separate DVD player with better video processing capabilities or looking at other Blu-ray player options.