Crispness viewing for Christmas?
Group Test With the nights drawing in, and a shiny flat-screen TV set in the living room, what better way to relieve the tedium of the TV schedules than with a high definition movie? With time off over Christmas, and a looming VAT increase, is now the best time to invest? We’ve rounded up a selection of Blu-ray players that all feature BD-Live.
BD-Live is supposed to enhance disc extras by providing live content, so there can be film trailers, Internet lookups and so on. We had two BD-Live titles to hand – X Men Origins: Wolverine and My Bloody Valentine. The former provides the ability to look up IMDb info, letting you pick from photos of the actors in the current chapter, while the latter has movie news and downloadable trailers that need a faster net connection than what we used during testing.
Many players, despite offering BD-Live, don’t actually have storage for the downloads, so you need to connect a USB memory key, or SD card. And frankly, we’re not yet convinced it’s really a must-have. There are better uses for the Ethernet port that BD-Live requires, as some of the players we tested show. Picture quality is pretty much identical between the players, in our view, and for many, it’s ease of use and additional features that are going to be the deciding factors.
If you have a lot of big chunky AV equipment, the Denon DBP-2010 will be right at home. It’s the most expensive of the players on test, and has connections to integrate control with other Denon equipment. There’s also a built-in decoder, providing 7.1 channel analogue audio outputs to feed into your amplifier, along with a standard stereo output.
Curiously, there’s no optical audio out, just coax digital. There’s support for a decent range of formats, including DivX, DivXHD, WMA, AVC HD and Kodak Picture CD, but at this price we’d have liked to see SACD too. And also built-in memory for BD-Live, instead of having to use the front-mounted SD card slot.
Specs may be good, but this was the slowest of all the players in our test, taking over two minutes to load some discs. And the remote is a bit too large, with the ‘colour’ buttons simply labelled, rather than being coloured.
On screen menus leave much to be desired too – a bright colour scheme doesn’t always overcome the omnipresent Denon logo in the background, rendering some text hard to read. It also had an annoying habit of going right back to the top level when you’ve changed an option.
Audiophiles may welcome the analogue outputs, and ‘pure direct’ mode, which shuts down video and front display circuits for the best audio performance. But for most of us, it’s outclassed by many of the cheaper players.