Review Round Up: $250 3D Blu-ray Players Page 4

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LG BX580

Key Features
$250 Lg.com
• Built-in Wi-Fi
• Streaming options include Vudu, Netfl ix, CinemaNow, YouTube, Pandora, Napster, MLB.TV, Picasa Web photo albums, and AccuWeather
• DLNA certifi ed (Nero MediaHome 4 Essentials PC installation CD included)
• USB movie, music, and photo playback
• Can rip tracks from audio CDs to connected USB storage device in MP3 and lossless formats
• Gracenote media database retrieval
• DTS Neo:6 encoding option for 2-channel audio
• DivX VOD
• 3 picture presets plus adjustable User setting
• Connections: HDMI, component-,and composite video; coaxial and optical digital audio; stereo analog audio; LAN; USB

LG’s recent NetCast Blu-ray players have garnered a good rep for both their performance and their features — last year’s BD390 won a Sound+Vision Editors’ Choice Award, the only singledisc player to do so in 2009. In addition to being 3D-capable, the company’s BX580 offers many of the features found in the BD390, such as built-in Wi-Fi, DLNA certification, and NetCast media streaming. And it offers all that for $100 less than its award-winning predecessor.

The BX580’s exterior is nothing much to look at. A flip-down front panel hides stop, play, and skip/fastforward/ reverse control buttons along with a USB port. LG’s remote control lacks a backlit keypad, but most buttons are big and clearly labeled. Important controls like the ones to access Home, Disc, and Title/Pop-up menus and the onscreen information display are also clustered around the navigation pad in the remote’s center, where they are easy to locate.

While the player’s exterior may be plain-Jane, the view quickly changes when you power up and LG’s cool floating- ice-cube GUI bubbles across your TV’s screen. From here you can cursor over to a specific cube to access Movie, Photo, Music, HomeLink (DLNA), NetCast media streaming, and Setup options. Switching over to 3D playback is automatic on the LG: You simply flip in a disc and select the 3D version of the movie from the disc’s menu, and a BX580-generated “3D” icon pops up fleetingly onscreen. Hitting the remote’s Info/Display button also lets you access Standard, Vivid, and Movie picture presets, as well as a User setting with a menu of picture adjustments. Its search menu, which is accessible via a dedicated remote control button, lets you skip forward and back in 15-second increments — handy for backtracking to catch movie dialogue you may have missed.

Along with Netflix and Pandora (two popular goto sources for online movies and music), LG’s mediastreaming highlights include Vudu and Napster. Vudu has an extensive menu of movies available for purchase or rental, with many newer releases available in the 1080p-rez HDX format. And Napster is yet another cool option for streaming online music to your A/V system, especially if you’re already accustomed to using the service on your computer.

PERFORMANCE
Of the three players tested, the LG had the pokiest start-up: A full 21 seconds elapsed after hitting the power button before those ice cubes popped up on my screen, although I could insert discs into the tray after 8 seconds. But it also took only 10 seconds for regular (non-BD-Live) Blu-ray Discs to load up and display an image onscreen — a slightly shorter span than with the other two players.

The BX580 passed the full range of Blu-ray test-disc trials I subjected it to, including the chroma multiburst pattern from the Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark — a test that has tripped up a number of other players I’ve reviewed. Its noise-reduction adjustment, which can be accessed in the User picture mode from the player’s onscreen information display, also proved capable of removing noise from high-def pictures without eliminating picture detail.

LG’s player fared less well on DVD tests, including those used to test deinterlacing of video-sourced images and proper 2:3 pulldown processing of film-based ones. Tripping up on a test disc doesn’t always translate to realworld problems. In this case, however, the DVD movies that I watched using LG’s player all looked fairly noisy and soft: Its performance here was a definite step below the Panasonic and Sony models.

All of the Blu-ray 3D movies I checked out (my library has swelled to a staggering five titles plus a few 3D demo discs) played without problems on the LG. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a movie that could have comfortably remained in the 2D realm, although it does have a few scenes where 3D works to its advantage, including one of the squirrel Scrat watching a female squirrel propel leaves into the air with a swish of her comely tail. Viewed in 3D, those leaves looked like they were actually hovering in space — an effect that created a striking sense of depth.

BOTTOM LINE
LG’s BX580 is a capable player that delivers pristine Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D pictures, useful features, and engaging media-streaming options. The one area where it fails to impress is regular DVD playback. Depending on what you tend to watch, this may or may not end up being a deal-breaker.

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