The machine also performs well with 1080p 24f/s playback bringing a genuine ‘cinema feel’ to the picture, if that's your bag.
Up-scaling standard-definition content is a key ingredient in any Blu-ray box that hopes to replace your DVD player. The Pioneer does this very well too. Up-scaled to 1080p, the flight scenes from Iron Man pop out of the screen, with Stark’s wonderfully recreated suit looking great against the blues and whites of the Sky. Should you be extra picky about video quality, the BDP-51FD lets you send the picture to a standalone up-scaler should you wish.
Looks good in your stack
One area that sometimes gets forgotten about when talking about Blu-ray is the improved audio performance. It's actually one of the best things about the format. ‘Not available elsewhere’ downloaded BD Live scenes from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story - we kid you not - is never going to drive the format. But crystal clear 5.1 or even 7.1 sound just might.
Pioneer has gifted the BDP-51FD with high-end Wolfson DACs as well as jitter reduction circuits. Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, DTS-HD High Resolution and DTS-HD Master Audio can all be catered for. We tried a bit of AC/DC Live at Donnington - a regular favorite at Reg Hardware. This is a great Blu-ray Disc visually: the 25 cameras - one of them on a helicopter - that captured the event, really bring out the show's scale and complexity. Angus Young's trademark huge chunky riffs and manic guitar solos are given full flight here in a 5.1 mix.
Incidentally, it'll also play discs containing MP3 and WMA audio files, and HD content encoded in the camcorder-oriented AVCHD format. It'll play DivX content too.
This machine does pretty much everything well. The GUI is easy to follow and gives quick and intuitive access to the unit’s considerable power and surefooted delivery. The £350 price tag is about right for the machine’s spec and performance level.
If you are going to buy into Blu-ray, the sound and video has to be different enough from DVD for it to feel worth the effort and cost of upgrading. That's not the case with some cheap machines, but the Pioneer delivers an experience which is a big enough step up from DVD to make the transition a worthwhile one. ®
Blu-ray Disc players
Pioneer BDP-51FD Blu-ray Disc player
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