capsule review

Philips BDP9000

At a Glance
  • Philips BDP9000

    TechHive Rating

As in a Hollywood movie that adheres too closely to a formula, nothing really stands out about Philips's BDP9000 ($800 as of 2/20/07). It's a basic black box--reasonably, but not exceptionally, well-designed in both looks and function. The images it sends to your TV look good, but not fantastic. It does have some nice features, though, such as memory card slots for viewing pictures and listening to audio.

Based on its appearance, design, and performance, this model appears to be the twin of Samsung's BD-P1000, our top-ranked player in our "High-Def Video Superguide" roundup (neither company would confirm this). The two players have similar response times, and output images of about the same quality, and their sound quality is indistinguishable. They offer the same on-screen menu options--albeit with different menus, fonts, and colors. Though they look like different machines from the front, their back panels are identical.

The BDP9000's on-screen menus and messages have a pleasing look, with nicely legible lettering and an easy-to-navigate splash screen. Unfortunately, neither the on-screen information display nor the front panel of the player itself shows you the movie's chapter number.

The front panel looks stylish, though the thin, metallic power and eject buttons are annoying to press and don't give much tactile feedback. The other controls are hidden beneath a front panel, which also conceals the two memory card slots (for CompactFlash, Memory Stick, and Secure Digital cards) that let you listen to music and view photographs.

Like Samsung's BD-P1000, the Philips BDP9000 produced great images, trailing just a shade behind the top video-test performers, the Sony BDP-S1 and the Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1. In Mission: Impossible III, hallways felt three-dimensional; and in the black-and-white Good Night and Good Luck, shadow detail was rich.

The remote control is long and hefty. It felt comfortable and sturdy in my hand, and I found its many buttons well-arranged and convenient to use.

The Philips BDP9000's built-in audio decoding support is poor. It outputs only Linear PCM and Dolby Digital 5.1, and it doesn't support the newer lossless codecs, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio (those are reduced to their core Dolby Digital or DTS audio streams). In our tests, the unit's audio sounded muddy compared with that of our best performer, the Sony BDP-S1. You might get better results by outputting audio via bitstream to your audio/video receiver instead.

The Philips BDP9000 lets you create up to ten bookmarks by pressing a button; retrieving the bookmarks is similarly simple. Once you eject the disc, however, the bookmarks are expunged; HD DVD players, by contrast, can retain bookmarks, since the format requires the players to have built-in storage.

The Philips falters when it comes to support documentation. At first glance it looks like any other TV accessory instruction book, but it's not much help if you need detailed information. When you're setting up your audio options, for instance, the Philips (like most of these players) asks if you want the audio output to your amplifier as PCM or bitstream. What does that mean? According to the manual, the first option means that "the format of the digital audio signal is PCM," and the second option means "the format of the digital audio signal is bitstream." What the manual doesn't explain is that bitstream output requires an external device such as a compatible audio receiver to decode the output; with PCM output, the audio is decoded in the player and sent to your receiver for amplification, relieving the latter device of decoding responsibilities.

Another issue is that self-administered firmware updates can be tricky. We had to use Nero's Nero Ultra Edition disc-burning software--as recommended by the firmware's readme text file--to get the player to recognize the firmware disc. We were unable to use other burning software to accomplish this task; if you don't already have Nero's software, you may have buy it to perform a firmware update.

In spite of its quirks, the Philips model is a good all-around player, though you'll want to rely on your audio receiver and not the player to handle audio decoding.

Lincoln Spector

This story, "Philips BDP9000" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Pros

    • Terrific menu design
    • Offers media-card playback

    Cons

    • Lackluster sound
    • On-unit buttons are small
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