Philips BDP7500 Blu-ray player
Look at the Blu-ray market and you'd think it had gone the way of DVD players already, with £70 machines not uncommon in the January sales. Most of those players are the very definition of basic. Philips' latest tries to up the ante slightly by tidying-up a few of Blu-ray's loose ends, specifically by including 1GB of built-in storage.
That makes it possible to visit BD Live portals and download extra disc features without having to insert a USB stick, a messy (and all too common) state of affairs on cheap decks that threatens to undermine the whole idea of Blu-ray's online interactivity. However, there is one glaring omission on the BDP7500 that does lessen its appeal - a wired internet connection. With no Wi-Fi module behind the stylish mirrored fascia, using the Ethernet port on the machine's rear is a must.
Nor does the BDP7500 offer Philips' Net TV, a broadband widget service found on some of its flatpanel TVs, or any kind of home networking or streaming.
But the BDP7500 is not a basic machine. Ins and outs impress, with the key ports being a set of 7.1 analogue audio outputs. If you've a swanky new home cinema amplifier with HDMI switching, they're not important, but for those of us with "legacy" gear they're absolutely essential (and rarely found on budget Blu-ray decks) because the BDP7500 can decode Blu-ray's lossless audio formats Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio Essential. The BDP7500 also builds-in component and composite video ports, and optical and digital audio jacks.
The front USB slot, which is nicely hidden behind a sliding flap, is unusually skilled. Choose USB from the deck's home menu and it presents a comprehensive file system. For not only does the BDP7500 show the native folder structure on the USB stick, but it also intelligently inspects all content and places it under its own music, video and picture headings. MP3 and WMA music files are playable, and video is particularly skilfully dealt with. AVI and DivX files are handled well, with MP4, MPEG, WMV and DivX HD .mkv files all supported. The latter is useful for high-def movie trailers, though most of these can also be found on the various BD Live online portal sites.
A super-easy user system extends to the BDP7500 finding, and using, your broadband home network in seconds, but this deck is best judged on its stunning picture quality - and unusual versatility.
Blu-ray discs swim in detail, and boast a clean production and enviable judder-free pictures (thanks to the BDP7500's 24 frames per second output - essential if your TV can display them). Better still, throw in a DVD and the results are almost as good. Able to deliver a very high level of detail, the BDP7500 manages to deliver the same clarity consistently, making this a superb catch-all deck.
The BDP7500 is a step-up from mass-market Blu-ray spinners, but only just. The main example of this status is how the Profile 2.0 BDP7500 deals with BD Live, though its built-in storage is only one step in the right direction – Wi-Fi connectivity would make things a whole lot easier. Being straddled with an Ethernet port only doesn't exactly lessen the appeal of the BDP7500, but it does push BD Live further into the margins. Lucky, then, that the BDP7500 issues such strong picture quality from both Blu-ray and DVD discs.