Pioneer Elite BDP-52FD Blu-ray 3D Player Page 2
Upconversion of DVDs is becoming less and less important as our favorite movies are being released on Blu-ray, but if you have a vast library of DVDs, you’ll be impressed by the Elite’s scaling capabilities. While nothing beats true 1080p material, the BDP52FD can make your legacy collection look pretty darn good. The picture ranks up there with the best upconverting players on the market.
Network capability is now a stock feature on virtually every Blu-ray player, and the Pioneer’s streaming suite includes Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, and Picasa. Sadly, it doesn’t support videophile favorite Vudu and its stellar HDX streams.
Unfortunately, I had some network connection issues with this player that couldn’t be resolved prior to our press date, even with Pioneer’s help. While it would hook up to my home network and accept an IP address, any attempt to access the Internet caused the player to lock up and require a reboot. I tried three different routers (Linksys, Netgear, and Belkin models) in two different homes in my area served by Comcast, and none worked. Disabling the DLNA function prevented the lock-up, but the unit still failed to connect to the Internet. I’m apparently not alone on this—as we went to press, at least one BDP-52FD user from another part of the country had posted an online forum comment complaining of the same issue, and with a different ISP, CenturyLink.
Nonetheless, I was finally able to uneventfully connect the player to a neighbor’s ISP (AT&T U-verse) and briefly accessed all of the network features at his home to view the Pioneer’s online functions. As of our early November press date, Pioneer was investigating what for the moment looked like a quirky, fairly isolated problem, though buyers should be aware that there’s at least a small chance they’ll encounter this issue. Check our online version of this review at HomeTheater.com for any updates.
In addition to the network problems, I should note that hitting the power button on the remote on a couple of occassions oddly caused the player to eject the disc tray instead of shutting down. Again, unplugging and restarting the unit cleared things up, but there appeared to be no other reported incidence of this on the Web. Damn them gremlins!
If you’re one of the millions of iCapable consumers, Pioneer’s free iControlAV2 app (available for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) lets you use your iDevice to control the BDP-52FD. It’s a huge upgrade over the less-than-stellar remote. The interface is very intuitive and provides the most common controls (play, fast-forward, menu, etc.).
If watching Blu-ray and DVDs is the primary function you’re looking for in a Blu-ray player, then the BDP-52FD will certainly meet your needs. Every disc I threw at it loaded in less than 30 seconds—even the most Java-intensive titles—and 3D playback was flawless.
Beauty and the Beast has the distinction of being the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, so when I heard Disney was going to convert it to 3D, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, any trepidation I had was soon quashed after I popped the disc into the Pioneer. The classic scene where Belle and the Beast meet on the staircase shows how good a 3D conversion can look. Colors leap off the screen, and the staircase protrudes out into the room without looking too gimmicky.
Other Blu-ray 3D titles delivered similar results, depending on how well the 3D was done in the first place. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was natively shot in 3D, and it really shows in the depth of the image and the pop-out effects throughout the movie. Unfortunately, other 3D titles don’t fare so well when they’re converted in post-production. The Green Lantern is one such film that was originally shot in 2D and would have been better suited to stay in its native form. The 3D effect is poorly rendered—at no fault to the Pioneer—and subpar conversions such as this may end up souring consumers’ appetite for Hollywood’s latest money-making scheme.
When Lucasfilm announced that all six Star Wars films were headed to Blu-ray, geeks around the world rejoiced. Unfortunately, when the films hit store shelves, there were reports of playback issues that ranged from the dreaded DTS bomb that causes a loud, unexpected pop on some receivers, to the discs causing player lock-ups (at least until player manufacturers responded with firmware upgrades). The Pioneer played back each of the movies flawlessly right out of the box with no skips or pauses to speak of, and thankfully, the DTS issue never reared its ugly head. The one thing the BDP-52FD couldn’t do was restore the original cuts of the films.
I rarely listen to SACDs anymore because it’s more convenient to stream my music in lossless form from my Squeezebox Touch, but if you desire high-resolution music, the Pioneer will fit your needs. One thing I really like about the BDP-52FD is it will output a native DSD signal for decoding in my surround processor, although playing the correct layer on the SACD disc didn’t work as advertised. The CD/SACD button on the remote is supposed to switch among the CD, SACD two-channel, and SACD multichannel layers on a hybrid disc. But no matter which disc I tried, it only played either of the two SACD layers. BDP-52FD users on the online forums have reported similar odd behavior. Most people will want to listen to the SACD layer in their systems, so this shouldn’t be a deal killer.
My network connection issues notwithstanding, I was impressed by the BDP-52FD’s speed, Blu-ray video performance, and aesthetics. The connection problems and quirky operation were likey related to the newness of Pioneer’s Blu-ray platform, and it’s fair to expect a few bugs to be resolved in the first firmware updates. Still, our good-to-excellent 3.5-star rating for performance would have been a four-star excellent without these concerns. Again, check our online version of this review to see if firmware updates issued after we went to press have resulted in a ratings adjustment.
My bigger hesitation here is the price. Unless you plan to pair the PQLS feature with a Pioneer AVR to enjoy higher-quality audio, you can find similar performance and more streaming options on players for considerably less money in our Top Picks section. Do your own research, then you make the call.