Monday, December 01, 2008

More Home Theatre Debate

In some ways, I'm a commissioned salesperson's dream customer, and in others, I'm their nightmare.

Most purchases I make are done with hours of research behind them. I look for what features I need, who delivers them best, and which product offers the best value. I don't see the point in spending $300 more for a small uptick in features. I really don't see the point in spending $300 more for NO improvement. Rare are the impulse buys when real money is being used. So I walk in and whoever "helps" me has minimal work, but won't be able to upsell me on extended warranties and overpriced cables.

So I've spent the last week or so agonizing over a Blu-Ray purchase. I keep changing my mind between a PS3 and a Panasonic DMP-BD55. The base cost for both is equivalent.

Then I look at pros/cons:

PS3

Pros:

- Not just a Blu-Ray player. Games, media centre, online components
- WiFi - no need for a cable to be strung to my router in another room, or copying firmware upgrades onto SD cards
- USB ports
- One-cable connectivity (HDMI 1.3a) for PCM 7.1 audio and HD video
- Fastest load times available
- Xvid, Mpeg4, DivX, etc. compatible
- Firmware upgradeable
- Gigabytes of space
- SACD support

Cons:

- My current receiver doesn't have an HDMI port, so would need to be replaced with a new model (more than doubling the cost)
- Big, bulky
- Excessive power consumption
- Bluetooth remote not compatible with my Harmony universal remote. An adapter would be required to keep # of remotes to 1.
- No bitstream audio processing
- Lacks a couple audio output formats
- No DVD-Audio support

BD55

Pros:

- Analog 7.1 sound output is compatible with my receiver
- Best Blu-Ray player out there according to multiple sources and reviews
- Supports every sound option available
- Bitstream
- Firmware upgradeable
- SD slot
- Smaller than a PS3
- Lower power consumption
- IR remote, so I can set up my Harmony to control it

Cons:

- Slower than PS3, but faster than most Blu-Ray players
- No WiFi - I'd either need to run cable across the room room or buy a wireless bridge
- No internal storage space - a 1 GB SD card is required to be BD-Live compatible
- Limited video format compatibility
- No DVD-Audio or SACD compatibility that I can see

Then comes more concerns. Regardless of which one I get, I'll be hooking up to a 3-year old TV with an older HDMI input (not the 1.3a that is used now). Will this affect video quality? Doubtful, since the TV is 720p, so it's not like it could get 1080p anyway. But what about lag between the receiver and TV? If I get the Panasonic player, the audio will be fed into the receiver, but the video will be directly pumped to the TV. This is how I currently run things with my DVD player and I don't notice a problem, but will the increased amount of data from a Blu-Ray create a noticeable delay? Can I adjust this? If not, then will I end up buying a new receiver anyway? This would make the key points moot, and the BD55 would, in fact, be overkill (the BD35 is the same except for the analog 7.1 output and cheaper).

I'm not losing too much by dropping the media centre and video formats. I have my DVR dock for the Archos, which streams from my PC just fine, and an external hard drive that can be hooked up to my router. I don't lose much by dropping games, since the PS3's best offerings don't really appeal to me, and I don't play games nearly enough to justify this as criteria.

The WiFi issue is conquered with a wireless bridge, which is certainly cheaper than a new receiver.

As for SACD or DVD-Audio support, it's minor as I own but one DVD-Audio disc, and should probably buy a dedicated CD-player anyway (which could open a new can of worms in terms of receiver inputs).

So, where do I stand? I'm leaning towards to the Panasonic DMP-BD55, but still need to research the question of lag. If it turns out that a noticeable video/audio discrepency would occur, then the main reason for not buying a PS3 (new receiver required) becomes moot, as I'd need a new one anyway.

Sometimes I hate technology.

4 comments:

Mike Maloney said...

I'd probably lean towards the Panasonic, too. I think one of the biggest reasons would be the monstrosity that is the PS3. And I guess part of me is still wary about the idea of using a video game system as my primary source of media playing (PS3 with Blu-Ray, or the PS2 with DVDs), which might be a bit irrational on my part.

Either way, I'm jealous, as I would like to be buying a Blu-Ray player right now, but they're not at the price point yet where it's a viable sell to the wife. Hopefully next year.

Instant Tragedy said...

I agree with Mike...

I had problems with a PS3 when we used it for a competition.

Lot of power consumption...
Lots of heat.

I prefer the Panasonic. I got an 42" LG Tv recently and its the only non Panasonic entertainment in the house.

Continued luck and prosperity!

lj said...

having done no research and only skimmed the pros and cons, i say go w/ the ps3 b/c then you can play buzz.

The Seventh Taylor said...

IF SACD is of importance to you, do make sure you buy the right PS3, since not all models are compatible. Refer to the PS3 SACD FAQ.