In some regards this review of the Samsung BD-UP5000 is really late since the product is no longer in production but there is a little bit of a strange history. The player was first announced on April 13, 2007 and then later introduced on August 30, 2007. The player actually went into production in November 2007 based on production labels on devices. It actually showed up in stores in mid-December. It was then leaked in late January 2008 that the player was to be discontinued in May 2008.
I pre-ordered mine on 11/24/2007 and actually received it on 12/17/2007. I hooked it up and was immediately impressed by the visual quality after I calibrated my projector to the new player. However sound was a totally different issue.
This player when announced was going to be able to handle all the advanced codecs like Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital+ and DTS-HD MA. It was supposed to be able to bitstream them to a capable HDMI 1.3 receiver, convert them to 8-channel PCM for a HDMI 1.0-1.2 or output over 8-channel analog. When it shipped it didn't support any of the advanced codecs fully. It could extract the core Dolby Digital from Dolby Digital+, extract the core DTS from DTS-HD MA and play back two channel Dolby TrueHD. Needless to say that was not even close to what people were expecting or hoping for.
This left everyone waiting for the promised features in a firmware upgrade. These are when those upgrades started to trickle out:
1.0 - 1/17/08 - This fixed compatibility with certain discs (This is a common thing with all HD players unfortunately and most firmware updates are for this)
1.1 - 3/3/08 - Compatibility issues again
1.2 - 3/10/08 - This was a rush fix to restore Ethernet functionality that was broken by the 1.1 update
1.3 - 5/30/08 - This is the big update to add most if not all the missing audio functions
Now onto the real review since the player more or less is working the way it was supposed to six months ago.
The player does 1080p and can output at 24 fps. It also has a Silicon Optix Reon for DVD upconversion. The Reon is arguably the best DVD upconversion chip available in products under $1500. Video quality on this player is top of the line. Watching a HD-DVD or Blu-Ray at 1080p24 is as good as it gets with consumer level equipment. There isn't much in the way of video controls with this player but they aren't really needed when sending out a digital signal. DVD's look the best I have ever seen with this player. Which saying a lot since I previously had an Oppo Digital player that was also really good. I really can't imagine any player handling video better than this player.
Now with the 1.3 firmware update the player can do almost all that was promised when it was originally announced. The player is best paired with a receiver that is HDMI 1.3 and can internally decode the new sound encodings. This way you can get the absolute best quality sound at all times. In this case the player does all it needs to now. The next step down the quality ladder is a HDMI 1.0-1.2 receiver. In this case everything is supported other than DTS-HD MA since the player can still not internally decode this format. For DTS-HD MA the core DTS is decoded and passed as PCM. The next step is a receiver with 7.1 analog inputs. It is basically the same as PCM just converted to analog. Same restrictions apply. The lowest quality sound is a receiver that only supports optical or coax digital input. It seems to be assumed now that any receiver with those inputs also supports DTS which isn't really true. Setting that aside the BD-UP5000 has a setting called re-encode. In this setting the player takes TrueHD or PCM and re-encodes them to the highest data rate DTS, for DTS-HD it passes the core soundtrack and for DVD with Dolby Digital it sends the original signal. I won't even discuss stereo sound, it hurts to even think about it.
This player plays all DVD's but does have one problem with them. 4:3 DVDs such as TV shows are always stretched to 16:9 and there is no control of it. This will distort DVDs unless your TV can unstretch the picture. The player plays all HD-DVDs to some degree. There are a few still with compatibility problems but it is hopeful that they will be ironed out. The player is now a fully functional Blu-Ray 1.1 player. It supports all the features of 1.1 discs. As with HD-DVD and almost all other Blu-Ray players it has a few discs with problems but again it is hopeful they will be ironed with time. This player actually has all that is needed for Blu-Ray 2.0 (Live) support except for enough internal memory. It is possible 2.0 could be supported to some degree in the future but it is unknown.
Good news was found out recently in that Samsung's latest Blu-Ray only player the BD-P1500 uses the same main processor / decoder chip as the 5000. This means that it should be easy to port future fixes and upgrades from the currently selling 1500 to the now discontinued 5000. Also Samsung has continued to release updates for its much older players the BD-P1000, BD-P1200 and BD-P1400. Hopefully this will continue with the 5000 and it will continue to get better over time.
Am I happy with this purchase? Finally I can say yes. It was worked well but not great since I got it. Now it pretty much does what it was intended to. If you want a player that does DVD / HD-DVD / Blu-Ray well in all respects it is a good one to have. The downside is it is basically sold out everywhere now. The other option is the LG BH200 which is very similar internally to the BD-UP5000. If you want just a Blu-Ray player then check out the BD-P1500.