Pioneer BDP-51FD Blu-ray Disc player
Top-end performance at an affordable price
Review It's not been easy for Pioneer of late, what with the painful withdrawal from the high-end plasma TV market that it had dominated with the Kuro, the best plasma family on the planet. However, life goes on and this spritely little Blu-ray Disc player should go some way to putting the spring back into Pioneer’s step.
Pioneer's BDP-51FD: top-notch performance?
It'll also bring a level of performance to your living room not previously seen in a BD box at this price point.
The BDP-51FD feels well constructed and reassuringly sturdy sitting on its circular metal feet. Looks-wise, the player scores highly too, creating a dark and brooding presence in the stack with its black livery and little blue lights - just in case you forgot it was a Blu-ray player.
It presents a decent set of connectivity options, including HDMI (1.3a) output, eight-channel analogue outputs as well as a two-channel output for a CD deck. For pre-HDMI TVs, there are component-, composite- and s-video ports. Surprisingly, there's no Ethernet port, though.
That's enough to tell you it doesn't support internet-sourced BD Live content, but a look at the spec confirms this player is a Blu-ray Disc Profile 1.1 - aka BonusView - machine. So what it will do is display picture-in-picture content and some of the other HD extras. Given the price, this might seem a disappointment - other machines at or under the £350 mark, including the PS3, do BD Live, or have a network port that allows them to be upgraded to support it.
Plenty of ports - but Scart-fans are left out
That said, unless BD Live content gets much more widespread - and, indeed, much less rubbish - very soon, you're not going to miss the feature's absence, we'd say. Still, the lack of a network port means you won't be easily updating the software on board the BDP-51FD, either.
Switch on, press eject on any cd, dvd device and it opens pretty much instantaneously. 30 seconds later and you still see 'Please Wait' on the 51, before the tray opens.
Other gotchas; out of the box, the analog outputs have a 10db boost to the subwoofer compared to the rest, and it really doesn't play well with my Denon 2307. Batman Returns etc make you forget that in about 5 seconds; just wish that I could boost the centre channel on the amp (Night setting) so you can hear the voices better.
@MGJ and @Bod
MGJ - Start time from tray closing to picture on screen for the Matrix DVD, using a Pioneer DV-606D DVD player, about 24 seconds. Start time for the same film on Blu-Ray, using a Samsung BDP-1500, about 30 seconds. Start times for BD using a PS3 are about the same as the BDP. Start times alter dramatically depending on disk.
However, there's no major difference between DVD start times and BD start times. More importantly, your about to sit down for 2 hours and watch a film and your quibbling about, maybe, 10 seconds extra to load the disk. Really ?
Bod - HD downloads don't come close to a decent BD, unless it's a BD rip that's being downloaded (and who has the time to wait for 25GB to download). Most (legal) HD downloads are 720p with a stereo soundtrack (possibly matrixed surround).
BD's are great for those who want the TV and stereo to do their party-piece with audio and visuals.
Downloads may work in a metropolitan area, which has high coverage of reasonable speeds (>8Mbps), as soon as you move away from a city the speeds drop dramatically (i live in a city and am quite happy with the ~20Mbps from Be). Downloads taking over ? Not gonna happen any time soon.
Still not going to bother
I currently have a DVD (not BD) player with HDD, capable of writing to the HDD and to W/RW DVDs. I also have a WDTV device, which I've upgraded to a non-standard firmware via USB key to get network connectivity (using a USB->ethernet converter), so between the two I can play just about everything I own; whether on DVD, on the player's or my PC's HDDs.
(yes, I love my WDTV to bits. If WD could add just a couple of extra codecs for my anime collection, and perhaps fix the last few bugs in the subtitling system it'd be perfect)
So until a BD player comes along with the same capabilities - HDD, network-browsing capabilities (not just internet connection), recording capabilties, and a decent set of codecs - I am not going to bother to upgrade to a new player. Waste of money.
ahh brilliant, casino royale, the worst BR disk i have seen! wtf was the point in that? might as well stick on aliens 3 (even more grainy)
do us a favour, and review a decent looking movie. ironman etc are flawless...
@"The £350 price tag is about right for the machine’s spec and performance level." - erm, so you say a PS3 is expensive, yet this is ok. apart from maybe slightly better visual quality and slightly better audio (i dont know anyone with a TRUEHD amp anyway, im certainly holding off after buying a really nice amp last year)
@Mark - mostly
If you think that the PS3 is a good upscaler, or for that matter a top quality Blu Ray player may i suggest a visit to an optician (You get bonus Nectar points from D&A if that's of interest?)
The 51fd is a cracking player, not without it's flaws but picture quality is sublime for the money - you can buy it for around £300 from TLC Broadcast too....
It has some serious issues on the audio side at the moment though, for those interested in the analogue side or without amplifiers able to decode all HD audio - avoid - it cannot currently internally decode DTS-MA (so the PS3 does do something better here!) and also has some serious lip sync issues over analogue, without the ability to adjust them!
You can't fault the picture, but the audio is waiting for a Firmware upgrade that was due in February.....
@Rob if you want a cheaper Blu Ray player, Samsung do a great product with DTS Re-Encode over optical for those with older AV amps - very impressive kit and £130! http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0016J72SM/202-3314281-8268652?ie=UTF8&tag=spoavetstu-21&linkCode=xm2&camp=1634&creativeASIN=B0016J72SM