Elite Blu

Not long ago, the Big News was Blu-ray versus HD DVD. Now, it's all about the avalanche of new Blu-ray players. Everyone loves a winner. Pioneer has jumped into the fray with not one, but two new BD players: the BDP-05FD and the BDP-51FD. Both are, in a sense, old-school products - heavy on sound and video quality, while sacrificing some of the latest bells and whistles. In particular, neither player will support the latest Hot Button Technology, BD-Live and its interactive possibilities. Still, both of these BonusView players have a lot to offer, and will push the Blu-ray envelope a bit further down the road. In particular, both players will decode multichannel audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD and DTS HD Master (note: some firmware updates needed). The other welcome news is speed. Some BD players are sooooo slow. These are promising 15 seconds from Eject to Off, and 22 seconds to load a disc. And, there's more.

The BDP-05FD ($799) is an Elite player (pictured). For that price, it throws in some stuff its cheaper brother lacks: gold connectors, tweaked video decoder, sleeker aluminum front panel, capacitance touch keys and a longer warranty. The BDP-51FD ($599) is a not a member of Pioneer's Elite club. Its price, while high, is still half that of the previous-generation BDP-95FD. This is all good stuff. But, what the world really needs is a decently-priced (maybe $500?) BD player, with BD-Live, and preferably available before next Christmas....Both of these players will be available this summer.-Ken C. Pohlmann