LG BP540 Blu-ray 3D Player Review

PRICE $130

Multiple streaming options
Remote app with unique Private Sound mode
Makes your dumb TV somewhat smarter
Glacially slow user interface
Lightweight build quality

One heck of a bargain for a Blu-ray player with virtually every major streaming option.

When Blu-ray and HD DVD launched in 2006, electronics manufacturers and movie studios alike were looking to strike gold again, with consumers rushing out to replace their hardware and software to enjoy the new formats’ better video and audio. At the time, DVD players had become commodity items with little or no profit margin, and the bargain bin at Walmart offered discs for under $10. Unfortunately, the format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD left many consumers on the sidelines, and the online enthusiast community became a virtual showdown at the O.K. Corral, with insults being tossed back and forth if somebody said the slightest negative thing about one side versus the other—kind of like Congress?

As we all know, Blu-ray eventually won the format battle, but did it win the war? Sony recently announced that having Blu-ray succeed at all costs has put “a bag full of hurt” on their bottom line, as two things have happened much faster than expected: Disc sales have dropped (especially in Europe), and consumers have flocked to downloading or streaming their entertainment from the likes of Apple, Netflix, and Vudu. As someone who writes for an audience that wants the absolute best quality (and who wants nothing less than that in his own home), I consider this to be disappointing news for all of us enthusiasts.


While Blu-ray isn’t dead by any means, we’re back at the same place we were in 2006 before the format was launched. Many Blu-ray movies can be had from discount stores—both online and brick-and-mortar—for under $10, and the price of a player has dropped to as low as $60 online. The curse of the commodity market has struck again.

But, at the same time that the price of a Blu-ray player has dropped, features have actually gotten more plentiful. Take the BP540 from LG Electronics. Amazon.com sells the $130-listed player for $90, and in addition to including Blu-ray 3D playback, it upscales your old DVDs, connects to your home network via Wi-Fi (or wired), and allows you to stream to your heart’s content with virtually every major service on the market. What a bargain!

What to Expect
For as little as $90, you can’t expect to get best-in-class build quality with any piece of electronics, and that’s certainly the case here with this 3-pound black box. It has a traditional form factor, with LG placing the assortment of user controls on the front panel. This is in contrast to its fellow Korean competitor, Samsung, which has been putting the controls on top of the unit, making rack placement a possible issue. There are none of those worries here. There’s also a USB port on the front for easy connection of a flash drive full of media files.

The sparse rear panel has exactly three connections: an Ethernet port, a coaxial digital output, and an HDMI output. This is common these days since the movie studios closed the analog hole—we’re all pirates, in their minds. So if your receiver needs analog audio outputs for secondzone playback of disc or streaming sources, you’re out of luck.

The BP540 will turn your dumb TV into a somewhat smarter one with a host of apps at your disposal. Among the best of these are Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video (with included Amazon Prime selections that come with your membership), and Hulu Plus, along with a bevy of proprietary LG apps (28) that seem to be as useful as air brakes on a turtle—but at least they give you more options.

1214lgblu.rem.jpgThe supplied remote is a simple affair with all of the necessary controls, but only the main buttons (play, stop, fast forward/reverse, etc.) are backlit with glow keys. Alternatively, you can download an LG remote app that can control the player from your smartphone or tablet, and I found this to be much more user-friendly than the handset for use in a dark room.

The player responded instantaneously to commands issued from the app, and the app has a handy new feature I hadn’t seen before called Private Sound Mode. Simply click a button, and voilà: All of the audio is cut off from your sound system (either TV or AVR) and rerouted to your smartphone. This allows you to let the kids (or wife) sleep undisturbed while you enjoy the latest blockbuster through your headphones. Unfortunately, I experienced occasional audio dropouts, but hopefully this can be fixed or improved in a future firmware update. Also, be sure that your phone is plugged into its charger or its battery is at 100 percent, or it won’t make it through a standard-length movie; this function drains the battery in a hurry.

Of course, the BP540 can internally decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio and send it via HDMI as multichannel PCM to your receiver or pre/pro, or you can send the raw bitstream to a compatible component if you want to see the appropriate logo light up on your rig. Either way showed no difference in the audio quality of Blu-ray Discs, although, as always, if you have the player do the decoding to PCM, you get the benefit of secondary audio with PiP commentaries as well as the customary click-and-beep button effects while navigating Blu-ray menus.

User Interface and Setup
As with some other budget Blu-ray players I’ve tried, the BP540’s user interface is slow compared with the higher-priced competition. Powerup and disc boot-up times are decent, but loading any of the many streaming options is a poisonously sluggish process. In fact, the first time I went to Amazon Instant Video, it took nearly a minute for the splash screen to load, and once I chose something to watch, it took almost another minute for it to start playing. I had a similar experience with Vudu, with either a hardwired Ethernet or wireless connection, and it really made me wish the player’s processor had more juice.

Setting up the player for the first time means hooking it to your home network (either wired, always preferred, or using the built-in Wi-Fi), setting up the video and audio output, and checking for a firmware update. I was able to download the latest update and have it installed in under 3 minutes; after a quick reboot, I was up and running.

In Use
The BP540 sailed through all of our benchmark tests—even the challenging 2:2 cadence test—but its prowess as a DVD upscaler was somewhat middling. Then again, when was the last time you actually watched a DVD? Regardless, the LG played everything I threw at it without any hiccups.

Streaming from your home PC or server is a simple process, as long as it has DLNA client software. I use Twonky Media Server on my Windows Home Server and was able to stream music, video, and audio tracks through the LG to my sound system. A large quantity of my music is stored as WMA Lossless files, which aren’t compatible (nonlossless WMA is said to stream just fine), but all of my MP3s played without a hitch. Pictures loaded quite fast—even over wireless—and standard-def videos played without any issues. Unfortunately, any 1080p videos I tried to play had massive stuttering with both Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections. These same videos played without a hitch on a PS3 in the same rack over the same network, so caveat emptor.

Star Trek: The Compendium is the classic case of a studio double-dip to maximize sales for a popular movie. Call me a sucker, but I just had to have the included IMAX footage from Star Trek Into Darkness. The film opens on an alien planet with Kirk and Bones running for their lives while Spock is dropped into an erupting volcano. The majority of this action includes the open-framed IMAX shots, and it amazes me how much more inviting these scenes look versus their 2.40:1 appearance on the movie’s regular Blu-ray edition. I had no complaints with the BP540’s video and audio output. Then again, I can’t think of any Blu-ray player that hasn’t made me grin from ear to ear with its A/V output!


Streaming content from either Amazon or Vudu was a mixed bag, though your results can depend as much on the content and the size of your Internet pipeline when the show commences as it does on the streaming device. I use Amazon for some old TV shows like the great comedy Frasier. The early seasons are presented in standard definition, and they certainly showed their low quality when streamed. Cringe-inducing combing of sharp lines was rampant, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 feed definitely wasn’t demo-worthy, but the comedy still made me laugh despite the poor A/V quality.

Vudu is much better, especially its HDX feeds. Vudu’s content falls somewhere between a reference-quality DVD and a Blu-ray, which shouldn’t be an issue for romantic comedies and some dramas. I streamed Rounders, one of my favorite movies of all time. Granted, this isn’t one of those films that will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat with its whiz-bang special effects, but I love the redemption story of the law-school dropout following his dreams to become the best poker player he can be. With the BP540, I noticed some occasional macroblocking in some dark backgrounds, but again, this is somewhat normal with streaming, and you have to live with some flaws in order to enjoy the convenience of never having to get up from your couch. In any event, I saw nothing out of the ordinary with the BP540’s streaming performance once I booted up an app and got it running.

If this player was twice the cost, I’d have some issues with its slow interface and buggy playback of some video files from my server.

But for an online price of $90, I can look past these flaws. The BP540 represents one hell of a bargain because of its bevy of streaming options and its ability to play all of its disc formats—Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, and CD—without a hitch. If you’re on a budget, this is certainly a recommendable player.


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Electric Ears's picture

Unlike DVD players sold over the decades, these new Blu-ray players with their non-existent connection options make CD playback impossible without an AV receiver, forget about an analog stereo system that you may want to use in a secondary location, such as a bedroom, workshop or den. I'm so glad I kept my old CD & DVD players and purchased a few backup blu-ray players back when they still offered every kind of hook-up option for both analog & digital, you could ever need!

DevinMariah's picture

I'm glad to say all the new Blu-ray players seems pretty good in functions like 3D and menus. But look at the price tag, wow, very high. I think a Blu-ray player software might also meet my needs in money and features though not that powerful. Both DVD and CD are also available.

Bosshog7_2000's picture

Oh look, 3D....the technology that nobody but nobody wants.