I hadn't added back the picture links after updating the style with MT4. I have now fixed that. If you look down a bit in the second column to the right you will see both my flickr badge for final pictures and all the galleries that show construction.
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.
I will start with a couple of quick notes on my environment to give context to my comments. I have a dedicated theater that is 100% light controlled, as a result brightness is not as big a concern. I have a 106' Severtson fixed frame screen. My primary seating location is about 10.5' away from screen. I am using a HR10-250 (HDMI), Oppo DV-971H (DVI to HDMI) and Xbox 360 with HD-DVD (VGA). I also added an Onkyo TX-SR705 this weekend that is handling the HDMI switching. Once the Samsung UP-5000 comes out I will be adding it to system.
I have been using the Z4 almost exclusively for TV (both SD and HD), movies and gaming since Jan 2006. I calibrated it using a Spyder2 and HFCR to be as close to 6500K as possible. I used it in ceiling mode with low lamp setting for noise reasons.
I got the Z2000 on Friday night. It was super simple to swap it for Z4 as the ceiling mount points are identical. I pulled down the Z4 and had the Z2000 up and in its place in about 10-15 minutes. After tweaking the focus, zoom and lens shift I went to calibrating.
One initial note this projector is QUIET. I literally was worried the fan wasn’t working when I first turned it on. I had to look to see that the fans were actually spinning. This is in full lamp and ceiling mode. Even sitting below the Z2000 I still can’t hear it; this was not true of the Z4.
The one oddity I have found is that for both the HR10-250 and Oppo I have to set the HDMI to enhanced. Otherwise all my blacks are crushed; it was really obvious once calibrated as a character with a black suit on lost all detail. I am going to test without the Onkyo in the middle to see if it is causing the signal to be converted from RGB (16-235) to PC (0-255). I have read of the 875 and 905 doing this but not 705.
All of my calibrations were done with a starting point of Pure Cinema. I will start of by saying that Pure Cinema is excellent out the box as far as grayscale goes; I dialed it in even more but most will be happy with it as is. I started with Brightness down to -8 and Contrast up to +11. The color was almost perfect I bumped it to +1 but it was close, for tint I went to +4. With these initial ones done I did a check of 6500K tracking and it was very good. I first used the standard RGB controls to dial it in a bit more. Then I went into the Custom Gamma under the advanced menu. Using this I was able to get the 6500K+-50 across the line. My Spyder2 can't measure below 30-40 IRE well so I can't vouch for that. The Custom Gamma is a really nice feature for getting grayscale right.
I repeated the same using the 360 playing the Get Gray DVD again. I had some weirdness in the 40-50 IRE range with my Spyder2 but again I was able to dial it in quite well. 100 IRE was about 6650 but that was the worst. One other strangeness I had is regarding the VGA connection and screen placement. As with the Z4 before it I had to change total dots to almost minimum to reduce overscan and then shift the image to left almost to the max. One warning if you make too much adjustment on the VGA the screen will begin to fade and then disappear; something in the Z2000 processing breaks down, the manual even mentions this. It took me a couple of tries of switching the 360 from 720p to 1080p to get it to sync right so I could get 0% overscan. I would highly recommend checking your overscan if using 360 with VGA.
Now I will give some general comments on Z4 vs. Z2000. The first thing I watched was two episodes of CSI (original) and the tie in episode of Without a Trace. CSI has a special place in my HD heart as it was also the first HD show I watched on my Toshiba 65” RPTV 6.5 years ago. However I have spent the most time watching football in HD since I finished calibrating so my comments will not be as broad yet. Once I get to watch a HD-DVD in full 1080p I will add some further notes. The Z2000 is much better with 1080 content, this seems a given but I have seen some question this. I can see a noticeable difference in detail. Color reproduction is also better on this projector; I feel there is more pop without a loss of accuracy. I think the biggest difference I see is in contrast. Everything just seems to have more depth now (I am using fixed iris). I never noticed SDE with the Z4 and surely don’t on the Z2000, even at my close seating position. While watching CSI it was obviously better in all regards than it had been on the Z4, it was almost like watching it for first time again. I can’t wait to try out some more good content.
The one downside I will mention is bad content looks even worse. Poorly encoded HD and SD content looks worse on the Z2000, this is simply because you can see the imperfections even better. As the display gets better the source is all the more important.
If you want to know if the upgrade from the Z4 was worth it I would definitely say yes. I essentially paid the same price now for Z2000 as I did 2 years ago for Z4, boy am I glad I didn’t spring for 10K Ruby 2 years ago a nice 6K savings.
I got the receiver on Thursday and hooked it up that night. Luckily the new receiver is physically identical other than depth and weight as the old one and as a result it fit perfectly into the custom rack shelf. I was able to swap it out rather quickly. Since I was switching to HDMI for both audio and video I was able to remove a few wires. Also the 705 has a HDMI switch built in so I was able to also remove my standalone switch and further simplify my system. The AC outlet on the receiver now switches off when it is put into standby allowing me to properly shut off the rack exhaust fan.
The setup was quite easy thanks to very good on screen display configuration pages. I went through and assigned all the inputs and made a few other changes. The last major step was running though Audyssey MultEQ XT. The receiver came with an omnidirectional microphone that once plugged in starts the testing. You place the mic at several listening positions and it listens for what sounds like submarine pings. This allows it to test the room and determine the best setup for speakers and EQ. It very accurately calculated the speaker position for all the speakers other than the subwoofer.
I can't wait to try some TrueHD and DTS-HD MA tracks to see how they sound. The only downside is it seems to have problems quickly picking up a Dolby Digital signal and playing the sound. This is really obvious when using TiVo functions like 30-sec skip. There is a 1-5 second delay once the video starts. I will be contacting Onkyo to see if there is a fix or workaround.
I like to think that my first home theater began with my first DVD player. I wanted to go over the history of me and home theater gear. I am going to list my upgrades (or initial purchases) in chronological order with a few comments along the way.
7/7/1997 - It all began with my purchase of the Sony DVP-S7000 which is either the first or second commercially available DVD player. I had this hooked up to a 27" Sony CRT initially with my hodgepodge of speakers and a refurbished Sony receiver. I still have and use this DVD player, which is more than most can say of DVD players made much more recently. This player was released without what are today very standard features such as progressive output and DTS.
10/29/1997 - My first real receiver was the Sony STR-DA80ES. It had the ability to decode Dolby Digital and output the .1 of 5.1 to a dedicated subwoofer. This receiver pre-dated DTS in the home for the most part and did not feature that.
11/22/1998 - My first wide screen TV was a Toshiba TW40F80 which was 40". This was one of Toshiba's first wide screen TV's. It had what Toshiba called ColorStream inputs which were component inputs limited to 480i. However with this TV I could watch DVD's in widescreen using the anamorphic feature and not have black bars at the top and bottom on most movies (2.35:1 still has small bars). This TV survived my move from Illinois back to Virginia in late 1998 and then even a second move in late 2000. It served me well for quite a long time.
12/28/1999 - I got DirecTV and have had it pretty much ever since. There was a gap when I moved to my current house until I got installed and just had OTA.
12/5/2000 - I got my first TiVo DVR the SAT-T60, which as far as I know is still working at Roger's house. While not directly home theater related it was a major step forward in home entertainment. The ability to record TV (even 2 channels at once) at full original quality and play it back whenever you want. It has since been upgraded at least once if not twice with larger hard drives and had numerous software releases.
3/16/2001 - I bought my first HDTV and HDTV/DirecTV receiver at this point. The TV was a Toshiba 65H80 and the receiver was a Toshiba DST-3000. The TV was a 65" monster, it was almost 3' deep and about 5' wide and 5' tall. A picture of it shortly after I got it is here. At the time when I got the HDTV receiver there was nothing on DirecTV in HDTV I was only able to get broadcasts off an antenna. It worked well most of the time with a small antenna but did need adjustments some times. The first thing I watched in HDTV was the Final Four that year, which Illinois was supposed to be in, but instead it was Maryland so I had a bunch of people over to watch them play instead. I kept both of these devices for quite a while. The TV had ColorStream Pro inputs that accepted both 480p and 1080i, the TV couldn't handle 720p so the tuner converted everything to 1080i. This TV also natively supported 480p instead of converting it to 540p to match the refresh of 1080i, which I think enabled a better DVD picture. At this point I had access to 1-4 HD channels at a given time and only during primetime.
3/22/2001 - I got my second DVD player the Toshiba SD-6200 to go along with the new TV. This was useful so I could have 480p out to my 65" wide screen. Some might say what is the big deal about DVD players, well at this point they were still adding big features to players and they weren't being given away for $15-30.
12/31/2001 - At this point I decided to upgrade my receiver and DVD player again. I got my third DVD player the Toshiba SD-4700 which also had 480p output, DTS as well as DVD-Audio. The receiver I got was an Onkyo TX-DS797. This receiver had the ability to component switching and it could decode both DD EX 6.1 and DTS ES 6.1. Over its first 2 years this receiver had several issues due to bad DSP's. However once it was finally fixed it has worked flawlessly. A picture of the setup around this time is here.
3/16/2002 - I finally got a matched set of speakers. Over the years I had been getting various bits and pieces of a 5.1 system. I wanted to a complete one so I went with a set Paradigm System 7 which included a 6 individual speakers and a very nice sub woofer. All the speakers were so big that I needed Jerry to come help me get them home. I didn't even really get them setup properly distance wise until I got to my current theater.
4/28/2004 - My next addition to my HT lifestyle was a HD DVR in the form of the DirecTV TiVo HR10-250. This was one of the first and still arguably one of the best HD DVR's on the market. It is still humming away in the theater proper with its twice upgraded 1.5 TB of storage. It may be retired sometime in the next 12 months due to lack of MPEG-4 support, I am hoping a new TiVo based DirecTV DVR will become available by then. By this time DirecTV had added some HD channels and I had access to about 10 channels, some even 24 hour a day HD.
9/6/2005 - While working on the main theater I decided I needed a HDTV to tide me over. Also it was a birthday present for myself. I got a 27" 720p Westinghouse LCD Monitor. It was attached to HR10-250 once I got DirecTV at the new house.
11/22/2005 - On launch day I got my pre-order of an Xbox 360. I include it here since it was the first HD game console and I also used to use it as my first HD-DVD player.
Late Jan 2006 - I actually ordered these components in mid-December in anticipation of the completion of my basement but they didn't get installed until the theater was essentially complete. I got an Oppo DV-971H to do DVD upconverting to feed the 720p projector I got. The 720p projector mentioned earlier that I got was a Sanyo PLV-Z4. These two components along with the ones above have been powering my home theater for almost two years at this point.
10/20/2007 - I finally broke down and got one of DirecTV's non-TiVo HD DVR+ boxes. With the new dish and the new DVR I now have access to 70+ HDTV channels. It only took 6 years but HD is almost fully here for me.
11/4/2007 - My first upgrade to the current home theater will be the Onkyo TX-SR705. Once I get it I will do another post talking about it in more detail.
11/7/2007 - My second upgrade is a Sanyo PLV-Z2000 1080p projector.
12/17/2007 - My third and final upgrade is a Samsung BD-UP5000.
5/30/2007 - I finally get to hear my first Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA soundtracks in my home theater thanks to the long awaited firmware update to the BD-UP5000.
Yesterday I finally did some final tweaking to my remote setup. Now everything seems to work and more reliably. I ran an emitter over to the projector so I could control it. I also fixed the control on HDMI switcher. Since I now have a working HDMI out of tivo again I need the switcher working. Lastly I tweaked the RF receiver since I apparently had it in test mode.
I also tweaked a bunch of the macros on the remote. That way I can better control things without having to worry about accidentally turning stuff off. I never realized how much of a problem this was since I would cover the IR on the remote to deal with it. Can't block the signal with the RF.
I still have the occasional hiccup but it is much better than it was.
This is a crosspost from my other blog, so if you read it there pass it by here.
My first real party with the basement done was the Fantasy Football banquet which was Saturday January 28th. This party was more general get together than an event to use the basement. We ate and hung out upstairs just as much as downstairs. We only played some Xbox and watched some HD boxing, didn't really watch any movies or anything. Everyone seemed to really like the basement though which was cool. It was a lot of fun having everyone over. Quite a few people made it, Roger, Travis, Kevin, Matt, Jim, Greg and Karri.
The next weekend I had a party for the superbowl. It was a very different event and mostly centered around the basement this time to watch superbowl. This time there were more kids than adults. My friend Karen came over as well as a friend from work, her sister and her sister's boyfriend. Between the three adults other than Karen they brought a total of 8 kids. The ages of the kids ranged from less than 1 to 11 or so. The kid’s reaction to the basement couldn't have been better. They ran downstairs and from upstairs you could hear the "whoa". Then they ran back upstairs to try to get their mom's to come down and see it. The liked the size of screen, the chairs and the popcorn. This event was very different thanks to the kids, lots of energy. I also had to assist them upstairs to play GameCube, Xbox and watch TV. They also really liked the arcade. The one problem with the arcade was that they didn't know what arcade games were essentially. I would say what to you want to play and they would say what types of games are there. Took me a while to adjust to that. Eventually they started playing the Simpsons arcade and they liked that. Although they kept wanting to pause it and couldn't understand why they couldn't. It was a fun time and I even got to watch a bit of the superbowl.
This weekend I just chilled and relaxed by myself. The weather pretty much decided that for me. I wasn't really up for leaving to somewhere else with 12" of snow falling.
Next weekend will be a real theater test. Several friends are coming up for a Star Wars marathon. We are planning on watching all 6 movies back to back in one day. Then the next day some people will hang out and watch the Daytona 500. Should be fun.
I wanted to put up some pictures that are more representative of the colors in my basement. I tried to grab shots from the manufacturers to make them as accurate as possible. However in many cases they are quite small. Also the color totally depends on lighting. It should give people an idea though.
Chairs - Berkline Group 3 Fabric Pattern 3133-97
Wall Fabric - Robert Allen Fabric - Show Off Midnight
Baseboard and Chair Rail Stain - Olympic Interior Stain Ebony
Theater Ceiling - Glidden Evermore Flat Dark Secret
Basement Ceiling - Glidden Evermore Flat Island View
Basement Walls = Glidden Evermore Eggshell Smoke Grey
I can't find any pictures from the manufacturer of the carpet. It is a light grey / light blue that seems to blend well with the other colors.
Today I watched a Sci-Fi Channel mini-series that I had TiVoed. It is of course SD since it is Sci-Fi and they also letterboxed it. I stretched it laterally on the TiVo which was already upconverting to 720p as well. Then I had the projector stretch it vertically to make it look right. At first especially during the credits you could tell how stretched it was. As the show continued the quality really wasn't too bad or as noticeable. There were scenes that looked worse than others. It definitely makes you appreciate HD content even more.
I wanted to add some photos to flickr tonight to add them to a group. In the process I found the nifty thing I added on the right. I think it works cool.