High-Def Video Superguide

Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD are here. Who makes the best next-generation movie player?

Chart: High-Definition Players

We viewed the movies side by side on two calibrated 50-inch Pioneer Elite PRO-FHD1 1080p plasma TVs. The TVs match the 1080p resolution used by most Blu-ray and HD DVD movies, including the ones we used in our testing. They also have a Pure/Dot-by-Dot aspect-ratio setting that let us pipe the raw video feed from the player to the display without any scaling. (The term "1080p" refers to 1080 lines of progressive-scan video--double the content of 1080i, or interlaced, video.) We tested all but two of the players by outputting images at 1080p over an HDMI connection to our TV; we assessed the Toshiba HD-A2 and the Microsoft Xbox 360 combo at their maximum output of 1080i over HDMI and component video, respectively.

To determine the best players of the group, we looked at the same scenes from the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD versions of Corpse Bride, Good Night and Good Luck, Mission: Impossible III, The Phantom of the Opera (2004), and Rumor Has It. To gauge how well these players upscale standard-definition movies to 1080p, we also viewed selected scenes from the DVD versions of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Seabiscuit.

Jon L. Jacobi is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. Melissa J. Perenson is senior products editor for PC World U.S. Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about film for Bayflicks.net.

RankNameRating
1Samsung BD-P1000
  • Price when rated: US$800 (AUD$1699)
  • Blu-ray Disc player
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • HDMI 1.1
  • No secondary video decoder for picture-in-picture
First Blu-ray player ever released offers great image quality and nicely designed menus, but the audio output sounds muddy.
Very good -- 82
2Philips BDP9000
  • Price when rated: US$800
  • Blu-ray Disc player
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • HDMI 1.2
  • No secondary video decoder for picture-in-picture
This Blu-ray device offers well-rounded image performance at a good price, but it has mediocre audio capabilities and a poor manual.
Very good -- 81
3Sony Electronics BDP-S1
  • Price when rated: US$1000
  • Blu-ray Disc player
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • HDMI 1.2
  • No secondary video decoder for picture-in-picture
Sony's BDP-S1 is slow and lacks frills, but it's a great performer: It tied with the Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1 for top audio and video honors, and costs $500 less than that player.
Very good -- 80
4Sony PlayStation 3
  • Price when rated: US$600 (AUD$1000)
  • Blu-ray Disc player
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • HDMI 1.3
  • Secondary video decoder for picture-in-picture
Multifaceted game console doubles as a competitive Blu-ray player with terrific high-def video; but its lack of DVD upscaling dragged down its overall performance.
Very good -- 80
5Toshiba HD-A2
  • Price when rated: US$500
  • HD DVD player
  • Maximum resolution: 1080i
  • HDMI 1.2a
  • Secondary video decoder for picture-in-picture
The cheapest stand-alone player we tested, this HD DVD model produces good audio; but resolution maxes out at 1080i resolution, and the unit won't display some movie scenes optimally.
Good -- 79
6Toshiba HD-XA2
  • Price when rated: US$1000
  • HD DVD player
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • HDMI 1.3
  • Secondary video decoder for picture-in-picture
Expensive HD DVD player offers strong image performance and a broad range of features; it's the only model other than the PlayStation 3 we tested with HDMI 1.3.
Good -- 79
7Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1
  • Price when rated: US$1500
  • Blu-ray Disc player
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • HDMI 1.2
  • No secondary video decoder for picture-in-picture
This Blu-ray model tied for the best picture and sound, but its subpar user interface and sky-high price hold it back.
Good -- 77
8Panasonic DMP-BD10
  • Price when rated: US$1300
  • Blu-ray Disc player
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • HDMI 1.1
  • No secondary video decoder for picture-in-picture
Mediocre design and a tendency to add a reddish cast to skin tones reduce the attractiveness of this pricey Blu-ray player.
Good -- 75
9Microsoft Xbox 360 and HD DVD Player
  • Price when rated: US$600
  • HD DVD player
  • Maximum resolution: 1080i
  • No HDMI port
  • Secondary video decoder for picture-in-picture
Inexpensive option for Xbox owners is a poor choice for home theater fans analog-only video outputs make for poor image quality.
Good -- 72

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