Review: LG BP620 3D Blu-ray Disc Player

Most new Blu-ray players are cheap enough and perform well enough that there isn’t an urgent need to differentiate between (read: review) them. That said, last year I made a point of checking out LG’s BD670, a $200 model that packed a few features I was interested in — specifically, Blu-ray 3D disc playback and MOG music-streaming, which I wanted to control on the BD670 using LG’s iOS/Android app.

Time marches on and companies make new stuff, which is why I now find myself looking at LG’s newest entry-level 3D BD player, the BP620. While not exactly free, at $120 (via amazon.com) LG’s player is pretty close to it. I’m sure if you whine enough when buying a 3D TV you could convince a retailer to throw a BP620 into the deal. I’ll start things out by dropping the bad news for MOG fans: that app isn’t available on the BP620. But the good news is that LG plans to add Hulu Plus to the media-streaming mix for its newer, cheaper player. (Right now, there’s just a Hulu Plus placeholder sitting in the premium apps menu.) Also, in terms of perfomance and features, it holds up well to last year’s BD670.

One thing you won’t find on the BP620 that was included on BD670 is a component-video output. That’s not a big deal, however, since the component video jacks on all players manufactured after January 2011 only output 480i-rez standard-def signals by design (the fabled closing of the “analog hole”). Other jacks on the BP620 include the basics you’d expect: HDMI, composite video, optical digital/stereo analog audio. There’s also a LAN jack for a hard-wired connection to a network (the BP620 pf course also has built-in Wi-Fi) and a front-panel USB port.

LG’s remote has a partially backlit keypad and large, well-spaced buttons that are easy to locate by feel alone in a dark room. One feature worth mentioning here is Music ID. This searches the Gracenote online music database for song info when you press the corresponding remote button while watching movies, saving you the trouble of having to pause during credits to find out info about a particular song — something I do fairly regularly.

LG Smart Remote, the company’s new iOS/Android app, easily discovered the BP620 upon launching it from my iPhone. And even though the new app’s interface has a more pleasing look than its predecessor, the functionality isn’t nearly as good. It worked fine for disc playback, but when I tried to navigate Netflix, it wouldn’t let me scroll through and select items. Useless! (I could navigate Netflix just fine with the LG Remote app used to control the BD670.) Also, even though LG indicated it would be adding this feature, the app has no keyboard screen to enter text during searches in Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, etc.

Performance

Checking out my usual round of BD player test discs, the LG sailed through every trial I subjected it to. Basically, this means that video performance is well above-average for a $120 machine. One key thing that the BP620 does lack is noise-reduction adjustments, a feature that can help to improve the look of DVDs and lesser-quality Blu-ray transfers — and one that you’ll find on more costly players like those from OPPO, etc. Some players even have NR settings specifically designed to smooth out compression noise from streamed video sources like Netflix, etc. So while the BP620 can be mostly relied upon to deliver pristine pictures from a high-quality format like Blu-ray, you shouldn’t expect it to work miracles with lower-quality ones.

My speed trials found the BP620 to actually be slower than last year’s BD670: It took 8 seconds to call up the Home screen upon power-up, and 18 seconds on average before the F.B.I. warning popped up with regular, non-BD-Live-enhanced Blu-rays. (The BD670 clocked in at 3 and 14 seconds, respectively, on those same tests.) DLNA functions worked flawlessy: I had no problem at all streaming MP3 music files to the BP620 from my laptop computer over a wireless network.

Bottom Line

LG’s entry-level 3D Blu-ray player is a pretty sweet deal. It provides high-quality playback of BDs and DVDs, and it gives you access to a fairly wide array of other apps. On the minus side, LG’s new Smart Remote iOS/Android control app turned out to be a big disappointment, and I don’t understand why Hulu Plus still isn’t available on the player at this late date. (As for MOG, well, I’ve moved on to Slacker Radio as my go-to Internet music source, mostly because of Slacker’s awesome iPad app.) So, while I have a few nits to pick with the BP620, at $120 I’m not complaining much.

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