Philips BDP7500S2 review

Fancy a Blu-ray deck that does it all? Able to spin 3D Blu-ray discs, this classy deck proves technically just as good as models from the likes of Sony, but it does lack one or two features rivals include. Its provision of 1GB of local storage is a nice bonus that few competitors offer at this low price, though it’s a shame there isn't built-in Wi-Fi.

Spend around £200 and you can score this deck with a £50 WUB1110/00 wireless USB dongle for inserting into a rear USB slot, though we’re not convinced it’s worth your while; the online BD Live service is increasingly useless while Philips’ own Net TV service - which is fully loaded onto the BDP7500S2 - isn’t (yet) much cop.

That could change, and the fact remains that Net TV does contain the only open web browser in the business. That Opera browser is slow, while the way it works - using the remote’s directional buttons to jump from live link to live link on a page - can be painful. In theory that would be no problem for video-based websites, but the software behind Net TV doesn’t include licences for Flash video etc, so sites such as BBC iPlayer simply don't work.

We wouldn’t be surprised if iPlayer arrived on the Net TV platform soon, though for now it revolves around YouTube, Picasa, Twitter, eBay, Box Office 365 and the live music gigs of iConcerts. Whether a Blu-ray player should be judged on the content it can access is a moot pint, though with optical media increasingly sidelined as broadband speeds jump, we’d argue that the BDP7500S2’s abilities as a “home hub” are increasingly important.

As such it scores a pass, but nothing more. Aside from its so-so Net TV service, the BDP7500S2 - a 3D update of this model - doesn't indulge in any kind of home networking, something that does put it slightly behind the curve. Shove a USB stick loaded with digital media into the deck’s hidden front slot and things improve. In our tests we managed to get MP3, WMA and AAC music files to play, while supported video includes DivX, MPEG-2, XviD, WMV, MKV (DivX HD), H.264, VC-1 and AVC HD files.

All this is handled through an attractive user interface; its grid-style approach is similar to LG’s, and that’s no bad thing. Especially brilliant is its simple approach to varying video sources. A shame, then, that the remote control is rather cheap ‘n’ cheerful, and, frankly, just too small to operate comfortably. If you do pair this with a Philips TV (something that could see you doubling-up on the Net TV service), engage the CEC option immediately to tie this deck to your TV’s remote.

The 3D effect created by the BDP7500S2 is a tad cleaner and easier to watch than from other decks we’ve seen, though the actual depth it creates isn't quite as profound. Personally, that suits us, though others will disagree.

Always packed with detail and as sharp as any Blu-ray deck we’ve seen, there are few issues with the BDP7500S2’s 2D performance. We did notice a trace of motion blur across our Donnie Darko Blu-ray test disc, but were bowled over by its lack of judder and contrast-heavy images. It’s a similarly impressive story with DVD playback, where Sean Locke’s 15 Storeys High sitcom looks lively and proved easily watchable as an 80-inch image through an Epson Full HD projector.

As a Blu-ray disc player, the BDP7500S2 can or course decode the latest and greatest sound codec’s such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and is unusually comprehensive in its audio prowess; 7.1 analogue outputs, rare on a Blu-ray deck this price, sit next to both coaxial and optical digital outputs. Soundtracks delivered to our home cinema appeared clean and powerful, and though it’s perhaps a tad clinical in places, the reward is a consistent amount of fine detail.

Design-wise the BDP7500S2 is quite something, and if you already have a Philips Ambilight TV its mirrored finish and excellent build quality - as well as some nifty touch-sensitive controls - are not to be sniffed at.

Verdict

With a build quality superior to most rival decks, this 2D and 3D disc spinner’s 7.1 analogue outputs, built-in storage and comprehensive USB playback make-up for its sparse networking dimensions and lack of native Wi-Fi. Its Net TV online platform lacks must-have streamed content, but does include an open web browser.