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Additionally, none of the potentially cool features of Blu-ray, such as being able to access features while the movie was still playing was present on this disk. I've seen this working with HD DVD and it is a very good differentiator when comparing to bog standard DVD. Secondly, all the extras were only in standard definition. The fact is that with single layer Blu-ray discs and movies encoded in the space eating MPEG-2 codec, most of the capacity is taken up. The disc has 20GB of its 25GB used up. Overall then, the S.W.A.T disc just felt like a rather poor DVD release but featuring a high resolution picture - more of a Superbit DVD Plus than a truly special next generation experience.
This begs the question - is it worth paying that £800 right now for the privilege of owning a Media Center with a Blu-ray drive? Blu-ray, and HD DVD are at a similar stage to how DVD was when it launched. The early releases were poorly executed and it was very expensive, but the potential could be seen.
If you’re an early adopter of new technology that has to have it now and to hell with the cost, then this is the system for you. It oozes style, it’s well put together and aside from the Blu-ray it all works straight out of the box. You might take this as a given but it’s actually more than can be said for some of the systems I’ve looked at.
Certainly if you were thinking of buying a Media Center and the Samsung BD-1000 Blu-ray player, getting this is a better bet. First, it will cost you less. Secondly, it’s a burner too, so once dual-layer discs appear you also get the ability to burn up to 50GB of data to a single disc, and of course you can burn dual-layer DVDs as well. Third, it’s faster. As a Viiv system you can keep it in standby, and I timed it as being able to launch the InterVideo software and begin to play the disc in less than 15 seconds. This compares to the Samsung player which takes 50 seconds just to turn on, even before you’ve spun the disc up. The compromise is that you won’t be able to use the Media Center remote to control playback. Instead you’ll have to use the keyboard and touchpad, which just isn’t as civilised.
Despite an inauspicious first impression for a Blu-ray movie, as it stands this is virtually a reference Media Center system, with the only major nitpick being the lack of a second digital tuner. If I could afford one, I would buy it, but unless money is no object, playing the waiting game is the only sensible option.
This is an impressively specified and well put together Media Center system, even aside from the presence of a Blu-ray recorder drive. On the downside, this feature pushes the price sky high. A fine example of Sony style and technology in action but at this price its only audience will be hardcore enthusiasts.
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