capsule review

Insignia NS-2BRDVD Blu-ray Disc Player

At a Glance
  • Insignia NS-2BRDVD

    TechHive Rating

    The inexpensive Insignia NS-2BRDVD offers terrific high-def visuals and an excellent design--but it handles DVD upconversion poorly.

The Insignia NS-2BRDVD, Best Buy’s house-brand Blu-ray Disc player, is a bargain in almost all respects. Priced at $230 (as of 2/18/09), this model serves up a winning combination of sharp, well-balanced high-definition images and solid industrial design. The Insignia’s sole failing lies in its inadequate upconversion of standard-definition DVDs.

The NS-2BRDVD doesn't look like much on the outside: It’s your typical glossy black-box Blu-ray player, with a glowing blue Blu-ray Disc logo, playback buttons on the front for easy access, and a large, easily readable display.

The long and thin remote is anything but typical--and more important, it's intelligently designed. The commonly used buttons are all easy to reach, and the ones for controlling playback (Play/Pause, Forward, and Reverse, all in a circle) glow in the dark. Unfortunately, the Fast Forward, Rewind, and Skip buttons aren't logically arranged, and I frequently found myself mistakenly pressing the wrong button. The layout is something you might get used to, but that could take a while.

Similarly, the unit’s menus are atypically well presented. The remote's Setup button takes you to an easy-to-read, well-organized, and reasonably attractive menu. The menu sometimes explains what a choice means on screen, eliminating the need for you to refer to the manual. It's a convenient touch, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should: For instance, it doesn't explain any of the audio options, which can be confusing on any Blu-ray Disc player. The manual, although not particularly well designed, describes what the on-screen menus do not.

Press the Display button while watching a disc, and the NS-2BRDVD will tell you the chapter number and the time, and you can toggle between the time elapsed and the time remaining. It doesn't, however, display technical information such as the resolution and soundtrack, as other players sometimes show.

Our image-quality tests start with standard DVDs, and that's where the NS-2BRDVD outright bombed. When we evaluated it for our latest Blu-ray players roundup, the NS-2BRDVD had issues upconverting standard-defintion video to 1080p: Scenes from both The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Phantom of the Opera looked dull and muddy, with, as one judge noted, a distinct lack of detail. You might get a better picture from a DVD on this machine by using the remote's Resolution button (a rare feature I've seen on only two other BD remotes) to take the resolution down to 480p and let your TV do the upconverting.

In contrast, when we moved on to viewing Blu-ray discs, at their native 1080p resolution, the NS-2BRDVD performed superbly. Our judges awarded it grades of Very Good and Superior. One judge complained of images being a tad soft, but she also praised the terrific contrast and skin tone. In the black-and-white opening scene of Good Night and Good Luck, I noted the really good grayscale and the image’s nice dimensionality.

This player can decode Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD High Resolution audio (but it lacks multichannel Dolby TrueHD decoding). It ships with support for Blu-ray Bonus View, too, and it has ethernet and USB ports in the back (a pleasant surprise). Insignia's Web site promises a future firmware upgrade that will add BD-Live and USB-based multimedia playback. The USB port is in an awkward location at the back, but its presence on such a low-cost machine is a positive.

Another surprise: This model was reasonably responsive, as well. In our tests it loaded a Blu-ray disc in 71 seconds.

If you're looking for a bargain in a Blu-ray player, the Insignia NS-2BRDVD is the best you can buy--but only if you’re willing to rely on another source for upscaling your standard-definition DVDs.

This story, "Insignia NS-2BRDVD Blu-ray Disc Player" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    The inexpensive Insignia NS-2BRDVD offers terrific high-def visuals and an excellent design--but it handles DVD upconversion poorly.

    Pros

    • Excellent images from Blu-ray Disc
    • Well-designed remote

    Cons

    • Poor at upconverting standard DVDs
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