capsule review

Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1

At a Glance
  • Pioneer Electronics Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1

    TechHive Rating

Until you've watched a well-transferred Blu-ray Disc movie on a player such as the Pioneer BDP-HD1 ($1500 as of 2/2007), you don't know how good your home theater's video can look. On a 50-inch Pioneer Elite PRO-FHD1 plasma TV, every detail was pleasingly sharp, and colors were spot-on.

Pioneer's Elite BDP-HD1 tied with Sony's BDP-S1 for first place in overall image quality: Each scored in the top two for image detail, color quality, and brightness and contrast in high-definition and standard-definition tests. The edge held by these players was particularly evident in the movie Rumor Has It; there, in one of our test chapters, Kevin Costner's facial detail was distinct. In the The Phantom of the Opera, we saw fine details in the background of the stage, and nice depth in a crowd scene.

Other standout examples: In Mission: Impossible III, when the camera pulled back in the Vatican, hallways and staircases felt three-dimensional, and the cobblestones out front rendered clearly. Shadow detail in the black-and-white Good Night and Good Luck was so sharp we could see costume details on the characters who were situated in the shadows.

The BDP-HD1's sound quality also amazed us, at least with The Last Waltz's uncompressed Linear PCM track. It caught every nuance of every instrument played. I doubt that those who attended the actual concert heard it any better.

You won't find such pleasure listening to the Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio track offered on some Blu-ray discs, however. The BDP-HD1 doesn't support these formats; instead it downsamples the audio to their core streams. To be fair, so do the Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, and Sony Blu-ray players we reviewed in the "High-Def Video Superguide"; but on a premium player like the Pioneer, this omission is surprising nonetheless.

You'll need some patience to enjoy the BDP-HD1: The unit responds to commands the way a five-year-old PC running Windows Vista would. Hit the eject button while the power is off, and you'll have to wait more than a minute before the player is sufficiently awake to open the tray. Hit pause while watching a movie, and you'll experience a noticeable lag before the Pioneer responds. During one annoying incident, I wasn't sure if I'd ever get the tray open so that I could remove a disc.

This is the only Blu-ray player we tested (other than the multifunctional PlayStation 3 game console) that has an ethernet port. The player also has a built-in digital media adapter, so you can share media over a home network (we did not test this feature). If you were to add a media adapter separately--say, D-Link's DSM-510 High-Definition Media Player--it could cost about $225. To use the player over a home network, you'll need the right equipment: a Windows XP or Vista computer with Windows Media Connect, and a DLNA-compatible digital media server.

Pioneer's remote felt comfortable in my hand, thanks to well-placed grooves along its back, and most of the buttons are easy to reach. Furthermore, the unit has a plethora of controls on its front panel--convenient in the event that you misplace the remote.

Pioneer, unfortunately, does not allow the unit to communicate over the Internet for firmware updates; you'll have to request a disc from the company or create your own installation disc by downloading the update via the company's Web site. The player does come with clearly written documentation--including a decent trouble-shooting section. Plus, it offers one benefit that none of the other players has--a two-year warranty (for parts as well). That's double the typical warranty period, and some players only offer 90 days on parts.

Because the Pioneer's video quality was on a par with that of the cheaper Sony BDP-S1, if you buy this unit, you're choosing it for its extras: its pleasing industrial design, long warranty, and integrated digital media adapter.

Lincoln Spector

This story, "Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Pros

    • Produces great images
    • Has built-in home network media adapter

    Cons

    • Slow response time
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