Rating: 4 WaterTowers
For Christmas this year before we run out of money (remember starving blogger and substitute teacher) my wife gave me a Sony Blu Ray player.
Prices have come down and apparently she got a really good deal at Best Buy in Tracy, CA. She also purchased a few movies to watch (Batman, Indiana Jones, 27 Dresses, and The Mummy 3).
I promptly got to work setting it up and watching a movie.
The video and audio quality are outstanding. Even though my HDTV is old and does not have the full resolution needed to see the full video quality…I can see the jump in quality from what I am used to. Extremely impressive.
Quick HDMI Lesson
The High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cable gives you the highest possible quaility between your set-top box, DVD player, etc and your HDTV (followed by, in order of decreasing quality: component cables, S-Video, then RCA).
The main reason for this is that HDMI delivers full bandwidth digital signal to your TV. With component, S-video, or RCA connections the signal would have to be changed to analog then back to digital again. This process results in losses that can be visible. With HDMI the signals stay digital all the way thus….no losses (well not really but good enuf for our purposes here).
Our HDMI Situation
Before I start with the Blu Ray, there is one other piece of information. Our 4 year old Sony HDTV only has one HDMI port (port 7). If you are going to buy an HDTV, make sure you get one with at least 3 HDMI ports, and more if possible.
With 1 HDMI TV port I had to make some decisions, but, it also gave my wife something else to get me for Christmas…an HDMI switch that alows me to connect multple HDMI capable devices to the one TV HDMI input.
Knowing my dedication to Black Box Catalog, my wife surprised me with the SW214A, 3 to 1 HDMI Switch from Black Box (what a geek…I like getting a Black Box switch for Christmas….how funny is that?). It cost a bit more than other solutions, but, my experience with Black Box over the years has been nothing but good, so I figure this will last for a very long time.
In my final configuration, I have our new Comcast Cable Box and the Sony Blu Ray player connected to the TV via HDMI. To use one device (Cable or Blu Ray), the other needs to be turned off. Not a problem once you get used to it.
The following schematic shows our “final” home theater configuration.
Installing the Blu Ray Player
Once I gathered the needed HDMI cables (three of them), the Black Box switch and the Sony Blu Ray player, it was a simply a matter of connecting it all together and powering it up.
The HDMI cables are easy to connect (they only go in one way), as was the audio cable (fiber) to our Bose audio system. The Sony Blu Ray player has an Internet connection for “BD-Live” interactive services (more later on that) and since I had a cat 5 cable at my TV for VUDU (see my review of VUDU), I connected it as well.
With this version of the Sony player (BDP-S550) there is a 1 Gig memory stick for the interactive BD-Live stuff. I plugged that into the appropriate slot in the back.
With everything connected, I fired it up.
When you put in a disc, I noticed that the Blu Ray player takes good bit of time getting ready to get to work. With my old DVD’s it was ready to go very quickly, a few seconds. With Blu Ray, it a few TENS of seconds. Not that that is a problem, just something to be aware of.
Putting the disc in and playing it, I noticed that my Bose was on “PCM 2.0”. Although the sound was very good, I knew this was not right. Referring to the Sony Blu Ray manual (I hate reading manuals…) I found several audio settings that needed to be changed because our Bose is quite capable of handling advanced audio protocols such a Dolby Digital Surround Sound, 5.1 channels, DTS, etc.
Once those changes were made, the Bose displayed “Dolby Digital 5.1” or “DTS 5.1” for the movies we watched.
This is a new interactive capability that comes with Internet capable latest versions of Blu Ray players. With this you can watch trailers, find out information on upcoming movies, and share the movie experience with your friends (I have read where a web cam can be set up somehow and you can watch the movie with your friends on-line).
I used BD-Live twice and was not impressed. I watched a few trailers and the video stopped many times and a few times completely restarted. Very poor, expecially when I have the nealr y perfect video streaming VUDU experience behind me.
Overall, I will hold judgement on BD-Live. I am not excited about it, but, maybe as time goes by I will warm up to it.
Watching a Movie
Eye popping video, ear splitting audio quality. The quality of our home theater is 100% better than the quality at our local theater. The only thing lacking is popcorn, cell phones going off during the show, and the proximity of our most beloved store: Barnes and Noble (see my Book Review Blog).
If you want a great experience buy “Batman: The Dark Knight” in Blu Ray. OMG….it is unbelievable. And remember, this on a lower resolution HDTV than a new one. The times when the IMAX camera is used the video becomes full-screen and crystal clear (even more than it was before…which is amazing). You can see every shard of glass….every facial nuance (Heath Ledger was amazing!)….every little bullet hole or fire ball.
Unbelievable….did I say that already?
UPDATE: Jan 5 2009. We finally watched an old, standard definition, DVD (Ratatouille). The up-conversion capability of the Sony Blu Ray surpasses that same ability on our old Sony DVD player. The video quality was excellent. No need to trash your old DVD’s !! 🙂
I have been waiting for HD since the mid 1980’s. Back then we would go to a conference and see demos and dream of the day we could have it at home. 20 some odd years later, I have it at home and I am sooo glad I made it this far.
This is incredible.