LG BD300 Blu-ray Disc Player
At a Glance
LG Electronics BD300
The LG BD300 has all the features you'd want in a Blu-ray player, but the images it produces aren't as good as they should be.
The LG BD300 is a feature-packed Blu-ray player, with BD-Live, a USB port for viewing multimedia, and Netflix on-demand streaming (if you already have, or choose to get, a Netflix account). For $350 (as of 2/18/09), though, we expected better-looking images.
This player is one of only three Blu-ray players available so far that can handle Netflix's streaming video--the others are the Samsung BD-P2500 and the Samsung BD-P2550 (a Best Buy-exclusive version of the BD-P2500). While the Netflix functionality is a cool idea, it isn't a foolproof approach to viewing video.
The Netflix capability requires an ethernet connection--the player has no built-in Wi-Fi. To use the service on the LG BD300, you must have a Netflix account. As with the Roku Netflix Player, you use a PC to queue up video streams; those streams are then available to you via the Netflix option on the player.
The main point to consider: You buy a Blu-Ray player to get the best possible images in home video. A Netflix stream hardly qualifies. The HD stream of Pan's Labyrinth looked considerably worse than a standard-def DVD. The standard-def opening of Gandhi looked so bad, one judge joked that it made her seasick. Think of Netflix downloads as a quick convenience, not a proper home-theater experience.
Physical discs--DVDs as well as Blu-rays--looked much better. In the PC World Test Center's evaluation, our judges tended to score the BD300's image output as Good or Very Good, but we noticed some issues. For example, I thought the scenes we looked at from the 1956 western The Searchers showed too much contrast, while another judge noted artifacts in the sky.
The BD300 did its best with the black-and-white Good Night and Good Luck and the animated Cars, and its worst when converting standard DVDs to 1080p. I noted in those tests that nothing about the image really popped, while another judge complained that the colors appeared lifeless.
Blu-ray players have a reputation for responding to commands like Gallipolis turtles. So it's nice to note that the LG BD300 took less than 40 seconds to load and start playing a Blu-ray disc (most take more than a minute, and some more than two). I noticed no lag when I paused in a movie, and only a slight one when skipping chapters.
The player's native support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD lets you enjoy those high-quality sound tracks even if your amplifier doesn't natively support them.
The LG's on-screen setup menu is bright, colorful, and reasonably easy to use. It would be even easier if it explained its options. If you don't want to guess what terms like 'Primary Pass-Thru' mean, keep the manual handy when you set up the player.
The remote control is fairly well designed for your fingers, and it is programmable. But it offers no way for you to see the buttons in the dark.
Other extras include integrated BD-Live support for accessing the extra content available for some discs, as well as a USB port--conveniently placed in the front panel--for viewing your own pictures and music, plus storing your BD-Live data. But you have to bring your own drive for use with BD-Live, since the player has no memory built in.
If the price were a little lower, or the image quality more consistent, the LG BD300 would be a knockout. As it stands, it's a solid player, and for now it remains one of your few choices if you're determined to have your Blu-ray and your Netflix, too.