First look: LG BP650 portable Blu-ray player

Forget top-notch high-def home entertainment or any thoughts of 3D; LG’s first foray into the portable Blu-ray player market is more about creating an affordable universal disc spinner.

Measuring just nine inches across, the BP650 ought to end discussions of exactly which discs can and cannot be played in the car, or on the move, though it goes further than Blu-ray by adding digital media compatibility and access to LG’s connected TV platform.

A USB port on the side allows playback of a plethora of files from a memory stick or hard disc drive, including those in the MKV/DivX HD and DivX formats, as well as JPEG and MP3. 

NetCast is present on the BP650 in its most basic form, with an Ethernet LAN port on the slim unit’s rear giving wired access to a trio of apps - AccuWeather, YouTube and Picasa - the icons of which are against regular LG "street view" graphics. The icons on the home screen, meanwhile, are set against a backdrop of a desktop scattered with headphones, a notebook and pencil, and a coffee cup.

That Ethernet LAN also gives you access to extra content via the BD Live platform if your Blu-ray disc includes such features, though that’s hardly a must-have feature.

Compatible with Dolby True HD, the BP650 is dressed in metallic black with a silver trim and features two click wheel-style controls to the right of a pop-up disc tray. Those wheels can call-up its home screen and disc menu as well as scan and skip through discs, though a remote control is also included. Smaller than most Blu-ray player types, it’s curved at the bottom and made of lightweight plastic. It‘s not a patch on LG’s Magic Motion remotes for its Smart TVs, also unveiled at the CES.

Connectivity is reasonably good. Perhaps most usefully there’s a HDMI output, meaning the BP650 could easily act as your main Blu-ray player - something that makes its lack of Wi-Fi more troubling. Alongside that HDMI port is a more basic AV output that presumably comes with some kind of adaptor. At its heart, though, the BD650 is all about portability; the side of the unit contains two headphones jacks.

Picture quality isn’t the BD650’s strongpoint. Black levels are deep enough and colour is vivid, though there’s little shadow detail and colour gradations aren’t as subtle as we’d hoped. Detail is reasonably good for such a small screen, though even at this size it’s obvious that we’re not watching Full HD; the panel actually boasts a HD-Ready resolution of 1366 x 768. Still, the viewing angle is decent and there’s no blurring; picture quality is quite sufficient for casual use in a car, on a rain or around the home. Output to a TV via HDMI we’d expect a top notch picture, though we’ll have to wait for a longer review to test that.

Verdict

It may not feature a no-glasses 3D screen, as Sony has announced a prototype of at the CES, but LG’s BD650 will find a niche among those increasingly frustrated by the lack of Blu-ray support in portable devices, but not willing to pay big bucks.

Confirmed to be available to UK consumers during 2011, the BP650 is scheduled to go in sale in March for US$349, which is around £225. That should make it competitive against Panasonic’s DMPB100, though it’s not in the same league as that same brand’s step-up Wi-Fi-enabled DMPB500.