LG BX580: Stunning Images from Blu-ray Discs and DVDs
At a Glance
The LG BX580 does an excellent job turning the bits on a DVD or Blu-ray disc into stunning images. Its Internet content and multimedia capabilities are among the best. And for a 3D Blu-ray player, the $200 estimated street price (as of November 22, 2010) is remarkably reasonable.
PCWorld doesn't test or grade 3D image quality, but the BX580 produced particularly impressive results in our regular 2D tests. It received grades of Superb on most of our tests, and never scored less than Very Good.
It received its worst scores--straight Very Goods--on our Phantom of the Opera DVD test (chapter 3). Even there, the sense of depth it produced in one long shot was simply amazing--for a DVD, of course. In other shots, however, it showed only slightly more detail than our reference player, a Sony PlayStation 3.
No such qualifications are necessary when praising its Blu-ray image quality. Everything looked dark in a night scene from The Searchers (chapter 20), yet no details were lost, and John Wayne's suspenders seemed to jump out of the screen. In the black-and-white Good Night and Good Luck test (chapter 1), extras who looked out of focus on the PS3 were near razor-sharp here. And on the Phantom of the Opera Blu-ray test (chapter 3), we saw makeup details on an opera singer that we'd never noticed before.
A great picture demands great sound. If you have an older home theater receiver--especially one with optical inputs but no HDMI--the BX580 can give you the best sound that receiver and connector can probably handle. It does so through an option to convert your audio to DTS (as well as the usual Blu-ray player options of PCM conversion and passing it on unchanged as a bit stream). DTS provides the best surround sound that an optical connection--and most older home-theater receivers--can manage.
Unfortunately, if you want 3D, you may have to settle for the optical audio output, even if your amplifier takes HDMI. That's because the BX580 has only one HDMI port--a serious shortcoming for a 3D Blu-ray player.
Here's why: You can't send a 3D signal from your 3D Blu-ray player to your 3D HDTV if you have daisy-chained between them a receiver that doesn't support 3D. If you don't want to upgrade your receiver, your only option is to connect the Blu-ray player straight to the HDTV, and directly via another cable to the receiver. If the player has only one HDMI port, as the BX580 does, you'll have to use an optical connection and sacrifice sound quality.
On the plus side, the BX580 offers two ways to connect to your home network and, through that, the Internet. By way of the built-in ethernet or Wi-Fi connections, you can use LG's connected services; they're small in number but represent a good selection, including Netflix, YouTube, and two different pay-per-view services, CinemaNow and Vudu.
The BX580 can also use your network connection to play and display videos, music, and photos off local computers. Each computer will have to be running DLNA server software, but any Windows XP, Vista, or 7 PC already has that with Windows Media Player. And as with virtually all current Blu-ray players, you can plug a flash drive or external hard drive into the player's USB port and enjoy your media that way. The BX580 supports a wide selection of audio, image, and video formats, and allows you to play slideshows with transitions and your choice of music.
The power and eject buttons sit on the top of the player by the front, making them easy to see and access. Unfortunately, a reflective 3D sticker on the front of the player can be annoying if light is hitting it, and the sticker won't come off without a fight.
When you turn on the BX580, the whimsical home menu shows icons floating in what appears to be the ocean. Clicking the Setup option brings you to a more conventional menu. The menu offers descriptions of its options, but they're not always helpful: The Initialize option, for instance, is explained as 'Initialize BD-Player'. (The manual is more informative, explaining that the option will return the player to its factory settings.)
Press the Info/Display button while watching a movie, and you get a whole new menu. Here you can go to a different title, chapter, or time; select another soundtrack; and change the TV aspect ratio (although I'm not sure how often you would need to do that). You can even pull information about the currently playing movie or music off the Internet. But although it tells you how long you've been watching the program and the total running time, you'll have to figure out the remaining time on your own.
The thin, light remote control fits well in the hand, with raised play-control buttons (Play, Pause, and so on) that are especially easy to press with the thumb. The one annoying aspect of the remote--aside from the lack of backlighting--is that the TV controls are difficult to reach, including the tiny volume control. That's particularly unfortunate, because programming this remote to control your television is exceptionally easy.
Above all else, the BX580's excellent image quality makes this player a contender. The price is a little high if you don't care about 3D, and the lack of a second HDMI port is a problem if you do. But if you want an excellent Blu-ray player that will be ready for 3D in the future--and if your future will include a new receiver--this is the one.