I have a confession to make: I can't stand regular DVDs anymore. I would call myself an early adopter of high definition. I owned the JVC D-Theater deck back in the day and a healthy collection of both D-Theater titles as well as D-VHS recordings of films played on various HD channels on cable.
I bought the first HD DVD player the week it came out and followed that up with the first Blu-ray offering from Panasonic (I had the Samsung on loan the week it came out). Going back and watching standard definition DVD now is like breaking out a VHS tape in terms of picture quality. Even the best DVDs don't hold a candle to the quality of the average Blu-ray or HD DVD release.
While I will admit a lot of the advantages of these new formats are lost on smaller screens (especially about 42" and less), the difference on my screen is enormous.
It was only a matter of time before Sony would finally release their constantly delayed Blu-ray player, the BDP-S1. Before Blu-ray players ever started shipping, I would have almost bet the home that Sony would be the first to have a Blu-ray player on the shelves. While they are not the sole creator of the format, they definitely have the largest stake in it. When it was Samsung that delivered the first player, I was extremely surprised.
Granted, the Samsung didn't get a very warm reception, so maybe it was to Sony's advantage, but we've come to find out that a lot of the issues with Blu-ray's rather dismal start out the gate had more to do with lackluster software, not hardware.
Now that we're past those days and the quality level of Blu-ray software has increased significantly, we're also seeing some new Blu-ray players hitting the market with a few more advantages than Samsung's first offering.
I like the buttons on the front of the player except for the power and eject buttons. These are along the top and are a bit flimsy. When you press them there isn't really any tactile feedback to know if the player actually registered the fact that you pressed them.
The lights on the front of the player offer a regal look, but they are a bit on the bright side. There is a central light on the front that cascades once a disc is loaded and could light up a room as dark as mine. Thankfully, all of the lights on the front of the player can be turned off (a feature I can always appreciate) except for the light indicating that the front lights are off. I guess they included this so people that accidentally turn the lights off know they are off.
The back panel is pretty standard fare. You get a variety of analog and digital connections, all of good quality. For video, you'll find composite, S-Video, component, and HDMI options. For audio, there are standard RCA stereo and multi-channel outputs (six-channel), and on the digital side you get Toslink, coaxial, and HDMI.
I was disappointed that the BDP-S1 doesn't support more than six channels of audio. Blu-ray has optional support of up to eight channels of audio and we've already seen some titles take advantage of this. Right now the Panasonic DMP-BD10 player is the only Blu-ray option that supports more than 5.1 via analog.