LG BD530 User Review
Black Friday is one of the best days of the year for shoppers to get the best deals on those sought for items. In particular, electronics are one of the best selling items on the day after Thanksgiving. This year, the big ticket electronics on sale were LCD TVs and Blu-Ray Disc players.
Since I’ve already got two LCD TVs, I’ve been waiting for just the right price for a Blu-Ray Disc player. I actually considered quite a few brands of Blu-Ray players before I had settled down between two potential candidates. LG’s BD-530 and BD-550 players.
What actually leaned me into these two products was the fact that my televisions are both LG branded and have LG’s SimpLink technology (essentially meaning that to a certain degree the television and the BD players will talk to each other), and also that I’m so far very happy with my LG branded items (I’ve also owned a GPS from them in the past), and I go with what I know.
Many BD players carry a number of online features such as BD-Live (an online service for delivering additional content and bonus features), Picasa, Netflix, and Accu-Weather. With the implementation of Java Virtual Machine on most modern BD players, the possibilities are endless with the number of “widgets” that can be made available.
The BD-530 has Picasa, Accu-Weather, and YouTube available, while the BD-550 has the aforementioned widgets, as well as Netflix, Vudu, CinemaNow and Pandora for music streaming. This makes the BD-550 much more robust in the online entertainment department if that’s what you’re looking for. However, if you have a game system such as an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 (like I do), this is almost a non-plus for the simple fact that each system respectively has access to the same, or similar applications. For example, with the Xbox 360, I already have Last.fm, Zune Music, and Netflix available to me. Also, additional features such as CinemaNow, Picasa (or in my case Photobucket and Skydrive), are available to my Xbox through my Home Theatre PC’s Windows Media Extender. So if you take the apps off of the table, there actually isn’t too much of a difference between the two units.
I did take a little time to familiarize myself with the YouTube, Accu-Weather and Picasa widgets, and I found them to be functional, but not terribly intuitive using the remote control. I did find the YouTube widget to be suspiciously similar to the YouTube application on the Playstation 3, however.
Both units have 10/100 ethernet ports on the back to allow for network connectivity, but no wireless connectivity available in either one. This isn’t an issue for me as I already have a switch mounted inside my entertainment system, but for those of you who aren’t as fortunate to have network drops located through the house, this may be a bit of a deal killer for you.
Also missing was a S/PDIF (fiberoptic audio) port on the back of the system. This was actually surprising to me considering that most consumer A/V electronics nowadays will sport a S/PDIF port for those audiophiles out there. A digital RCA port is available though, or it’s also possible to run your audio through the HDMI ports if you have an equipped audio receiver.
The BD-530 sports LG’s SimpLink, which is their branded “Consumer Electronics Control” to essentially allow the TV and Blu-Ray player to talk to each other to a certain extent, and more importantly, allows the use of a single remote control instead of having multiple controls, or the need to purchase a universal remote.
Configuring SimpLink is easy enough. You just press the SimpLink button on your LG TV remote and then follow the on-screen prompts to configure it. My only complaint is that the use of the single remote is very limited. The Menu button on the remote does not work with the BD player menus, and neither does the return button. This means that if you want to go into the BD quick menu to enable subtitles (which I do at night to keep my volume low), you actually need to use the BD remote instead of the TV remote. Or you’ll have to enable the subtitles at the disc main menu otherwise.
Out Of The Box Experience
Set up was fairly quick and easy. Network cable in. HDMI cable in. And power on. The BD player’s auto detect feature works reasonably well. Although I did notice a quirk that’s related to my TV (the 42LG30). While my TV works at 1080p, the native resolution is 1080i. I found that if I set the BD player to play in 1080p, that the screen would “pop” intermittently in the menus as well as during playback of a movie. It was only when I set the BD player to 1080i, that the pop went away.
While I’m not terribly worried about this as the differences between 1080i and 1080p are almost imperceptible at 24-60 frames per second, I was rather annoyed as this seems to be more of a feature of the BD player detection than the TV itself. My Xbox 360 actually displays in 1080p just fine with no screen pop. This leads me to assume that the annoyance that I experienced was LG’s way of telling me to toss my television and buy a new one.
The Image Test
My wife and I have been purchasing a lot of movies lately in the “future-proof” packs that include the DVD, BR Disc, and sometimes a digital copy for the newer movies that have come out. I decided to try one in particular for an image comparison, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
I can honestly say that there is a significant difference between the DVD and Blu-Ray formats as far as quality is concerned on an HD picture. With BR, the lines are much sharper, and colors much more solid. I found that there was actually a bit of fuzz in the lines on the DVD (which was being upscaled to 1080i), and most disturbingly, I found that there was a lot of noise in the darker colors that I had either missed, or just tuned out having only watched movies on DVD. Although I do make note that my Xbox 360 upscales as well, and the image quality was a bit better, but still not as good as the Blu-Ray version.
If you’re a cheap bastard like me, the pricing on the BD-530 ($65-$80) makes it very attractive for the basic home theatre user, or the geek like me that already has a Home Theatre PC to handle streaming video, music, and photos to my Xbox 360, a laptop for surfing YouTube and getting my weather, and a game console for watching my Netflix.
However, if you’re looking for something more content rich, has a S/PDIF audio output, wireless networking and more, you may want to shell out a few bucks more and spring for the LG BD570 which has all of the bells and whistles attached to it.
Overall I give the BD-530 a score of 3.5/5.
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