LG BD370 Blu-ray player
Over the past year we've seen many devices that offer some form of internet connectivity, stepping beyond the still rather youthful BD-Live services, to a more comprehensive offering. The LG BD370 is such a connected player, with YouTube getting a firm slot on the Home page menu.
Leaving this new level of connectivity aside for one minute, the LG BD370 is a Profile 2.0 player, so it gives you the full Blu-ray experience. It's an attractive looking player too, with a large central silver power button and two basic controls: play/pause and eject. The right-hand side sees a drop-down flap revealing stop and skip controls and a USB slot.
Around the back you'll find the majority of connections, with the usual array of HDMI, Composite and Component available, with digital and optical audio available too to take your audio stream to your AV receiver or amp. The Ethernet port can also be found there to connect into your network.
The home menu is cleverly designed into five large icons, giving that high-def sheen that many rival players lack. A nice touch is that you can only select the relevant icon when the conditions for that function are met. For example, "Movies" won't be available when you don't have a disk or a USB stick loaded.
It's clever at recognising what you have loaded too, giving you an icon at the top of the screen as it gets going, tell you it has detected Blu-ray or DVD. Blu-ray loading is swift, from closing the drawer to playing the first run of adverts on Casino Royale took about 15 seconds, the time it takes to load the Java system.
The USB slot may be even more exciting than the YouTube option. Firstly it is needed for your BD-Live content, but secondly, plug in a USB stick and the BD370 will run off and deliver the content on the drive.
We plugged in a USB drive loaded with MPEG4 (H.264, AAC) movie files and the BD370 detected them and we were able to watch them back. The same applies to photos and music, with the BD370 happily making a slideshow from USB content and partnering it with music.
Very clever, and the sort of functions that make a "one box" digital lifestyle a little easier. Of course, you'll have to be mindful of file formats, but we got it to play our MPEG4 movie clips from a camcorder as well as DivX, and MKV with some success but we couldn't get it to play AVI files which it claims to support.
We also managed to crash the BD370 whilst testing various file formats – occasionally we found it would lose a soundtrack and just give you video. Sometimes trying to stop or return to the Home menu caused it to freeze: all things likely to be ironed out by firmware updates.
Controlling playback of all media can be handled by the remote which is comprehensive, a little cluttered, but does the job well enough. It's a shame it didn't go a bit further and offer some sort of illumination for when used in dark conditions, but at this price you can't have everything and the comprehensive range of features more than compensates for this.
The playback results are very good from Blu-ray, with nice rich colours and plenty of definition in darker scenes as you'd expect. DVD upscaling isn't so sharp, with some blocky edges and fuzzy text. It's not a deal breaker, you can get better results from rival players, but given the array of features here, you probably won't worry about it.
Audio options are relatively well supported, with support for DTS-HD, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby True HD. You sadly don't get 5.1 or 7.1 connections, so to really get the most from your sound you'll have to hook it up to an AV receiver.
Then we have that headline YouTube option. It's becoming an increasingly common option and whilst you might dismiss it, it's certainly fun to play around with, killing a little time when you don't have any other media to digest. If you are a regular watcher of "channels" on YouTube, this will at least give you access without needing your computer on, and it is relatively well managed too.
Network access can be a little fiddly, so it is worth taking the time to update the firmware on your router as well as the firmware on your BD370, which can be done via USB with a download from the LG website.
VerdictThis is much more than just a Blu-ray player, stepping into the domain of the media bridge too and that's no bad thing for your average consumer. It delivers all this goodness at an attractive price, and you can currently pick up the BD370 for around £150 online, which is something of a steal for this range of functions.
Sure, some might want something to collect media on their network and deliver it to their TV, but for those who are actually looking to play Blu-ray discs, then the BD370 achieves that capably and has a few tricks up its sleeves too.