Samsung BD-P1200 and Toshiba HD-A20

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At a Glance
  • Toshiba HD-A20 HD DVD Player Single Disc High Definition DVD Player

  • Samsung BD-P1200

Toshiba's HD-A20 (top) is the least-expensive 1080p set-top player you can buy; if you prefer Blu-ray, Samsung's BD-P1200 is a good bet.
Toshiba's HD-A20 (top) is the least-expensive 1080p set-top player you can buy; if you prefer Blu-ray, Samsung's BD-P1200 is a good bet.
The Blu-ray disc and HD DVD formats are still duking it out for dominance in living rooms. I tested new movie players from Samsung and Toshiba, and found that the return on investment keeps improving.

Toshiba HD-A20

Just a year after Toshiba shipped its first, clunky 1080i HD DVD player, the company has introduced the HD-A20, a svelte 1080p player with the same price tag that the 1080i model had a year ago. The boost in resolution will help with some scenes, but our test jury saw some moiré patterns persisting in our test scene from Mission: Impossible III.

That instance was an aberration, though; across the rest of our tests, the HD-A20 performed well. It generated sharp images with better contrast and detail than other units we've tested--including Toshiba's $800 HD-XA2, a 1080p model. The audio on our test disc sounded good, too, with more detail and softer volume than the Samsung BD-P1200 could manage.

With the HD-A20, unlike with its predecessors the HD-A2 and the HD-XA2, I could seamlessly switch among inputs on our receiver and then resume playback on the HD DVD player. But I didn't like the HD-A20's lag in responsiveness: Whenever I pressed one of the buttons, movie playback jerked before the player proceeded with the action.

Samsung BD-P1200

The new entry from Samsung, the BD-P1200, is the first Blu-ray Disc player to come with an ethernet port that you can use to update the player's firmware--a valuable feature. When Disney shipped the first two Pirates of the Caribbean films on Blu-ray discs, most Blu-ray players couldn't play them properly without a firmware upgrade. If you didn't have an ethernet connection to the Internet, you had to visit Samsung's support site in order to download the firmware, and then burn it to CD so you could install it on the player.

The BD-P1200 is slimmer than Samsung's first Blu-ray model, the BD-P1000, a one-time Best Buy. The memory card slots have vanished, but the menus look identical. The player responded briskly as I tested such actions as skipping ahead a few chapters.

In the PC World Test Center's jury evaluation, viewers examined scenes from our seven test movies and found that the BD-P1200's image quality virtually matched that of its predecessor. Its audio sounded slightly better: The BD-P1200 supports the core audio streams for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio only; however, it adds full Dolby Digital Plus to its list of supported audio formats.

Samsung's BD-P1200 is a solid follow-up to the company's first player (although I wish it had better audio support). But Toshiba's HD-A20 is a tremendous value; with a street price of $450, it's the least-expensive 1080p high-def player on the market.

Melissa J. Perenson

Samsung Electronics BD-P1200

Price when reviewed: $700
Current prices (if available)

Toshiba HD-A20

Price when reviewed: $450
Current prices (if available)

This story, "Samsung BD-P1200 and Toshiba HD-A20" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
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