As with quite a few Pioneer remotes, the one that comes with the BDP-51FD has a layout that comes over a little fussy and busy, but after a while it proves itself to be easy to use, with useful little touches like a ‘Home’ button to get you out of trouble.
Navigation around a disc's menu structure and reviewing scenes is all reasonably rapid and as fast as you could want, but the BDP-51FD won't win any disc loading races - some of its rivals have it well beaten here.
But when it comes to picture quality, the Pioneer begins to leave the competition behind. We decided to be kind and give the BDP-51FD Casino Royale to get its teeth into. Detail is very good. In the opening scenes, you spot the scars that Bond has on his face from the fight that has already happened, but plays out in a gents' lav after the opening scenes.
But it’s in movement that the BDP-51FD's most significant enhancement can be seen. The free-running scene through the building site has a renewed intensity and urgency. The player has an 8- to 12-bit colour depth converter which allows it to really squeeze all the potential out of the disc. Most Blu-ray master discs use 10- or even 12-bit colour, but this is then squashed to 8-bit on mass-market discs. During that process picture data is lost.
Pioneer's up-convertor sniffs out the areas where data is most likely to have been lost and attempts to put it back. The machine certainly knows its onions - its colour reproduction has to be one of the very best at this price.
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.