This entry-level Blu-ray deck has been designed to offer cash-strapped buyers the chance to get crisp high-def pictures without having to sell any vital organs. It does mean that the spec sheet is light on cutting-edge features, such as network media streaming or access to internet content, but sacrifices like this are inevitable when buying a budget Blu-ray deck.
Or are they? Taking a look at a couple of the BDP3100’s closest rivals, Sony’s BDP-S370 and Samsung’s BD-C5300, you’ll find media streaming and web content on both of these players, which cost around the same as the Philips. That means the Philips has its work cut out convincing us that it’s worth the gamble.
It gets off to a good start in the design department. Philips clearly ploughed the money it saved on the above features into the deck’s construction - the bodywork is sturdy and elegant, with curved corners and a stylish gloss-black fascia. A USB port is provided on the front for digital media playback.
On the back is a simple selection of sockets, which lacks multichannel analogue outputs for non-HDMI receivers. However, you will find a second USB port which allows you to keep a 1GB USB storage device attached for BD Live downloads, as there’s no built-in memory. It’s joined by HDMI, Component, Composite, coaxial digital and analogue stereo outputs, as well as an Ethernet port for BD Live. The use of old-fashioned Ethernet is your only way of getting online. There’s no built-in Wi-Fi, and although Philips sells a USB WLAN dongle this deck doesn’t support it.
Multimedia support is decent, if not exactly comprehensive. As well as the usual suspects - DivX Ultra, MP3, WMA, JPEG - it also tackles AVCHD and WMV. Support for the increasingly popular DivX HD and MKV formats would have been nice though.
The BDP3100’s operating system feels like Blu-ray For Dummies. The Home menu sports just three large icons – "Play Disc", "Browse USB" and "Setup" - while the menus use large text and offer helpful explanations of each option. The remote is a success too, sporting a stripped-down and tidily arranged selection of buttons.
We’re also pleased to report that Philips has sped up disc loading times since its last range. Discs that take some high-end players almost 2 minutes to load are up and running in just 40 seconds.
And while it may not pick out image subtleties as deftly as more expensive players, the BDP3100 does resolve detail with impressive clarity and backs it up with rich colours and revealing contrast. Motion at 24p is generally judder free and there’s a satisfying depth and density to the picture that will satisfy the demands of most displays. DVD upscaling fails to impress though, making SD content look a little soft and jagged around the edges. But sound quality is excellent through a decent receiver.
The BDP3100 falls into the no-frills category, lacking the fancy network functionality found on players from Sony, Panasonic, LG and Samsung. But it does the Blu-ray basics well, offering terrific picture quality and a stress-free operating system.
Great, but when you can pick up the excellent Sony BDP-S370 for a similar price, there’s very little reason to opt for the Philips - apart from its magnificent build quality perhaps.