Toshiba BDX1200 review

3 out of 5
£149.99

For

Low profile, Blu-ray disc playback, DivX & AVC HD support over USB

Against

Lacks sharpness, average upscaling, poor remote control

Just on sale but with a web price already hovering around £100, this effort at Blu-ray from oft-value busting brand Toshiba may deal in 2D discs, but has an overall feel that’s oh so one-dimensional.

The only supporter of the much more sensibly named, but ultimately doomed, HD-DVD format has experimented in Blu-ray before, but 2011 sees it embrace 3D Blu-ray for the first time. That’s not the case here - the BDX1200 is a thoroughly 2D effort - but we’ll get our hands on Toshiba’s third dimension-dabbler, the flagship BDX3200, very soon.

If you're simply after high definition movies for your HD-ready TV, the BDX1200 doesn't disappoint. As well as supporting purchased Blu-ray discs the BDX1200 spins all kinds of recorded and recordable CD, DVD and BD discs.

It’s also compatible with the new HD audio codecs DTS-HD and Dolby True HD, though lacks any analogue outputs or even an optical or coaxial audio stream. That’s of no concern on a model of this price, because it’s not likely to take a star turn in a home cinema setup - and for other reasons besides. However, its standard collection of connections - HDMI, Composite video and phono - are without any HD-capable Component video ports. The industry insists that Component video ports are a piracy risk - despite rife digital piracy of Blu-ray discs already - so the red, green and blue knobs have (or will very soon have) disappeared from machines like this; if you have an older HD-ready TV without a HDMI, it could cause problems.

Switch the BDX1200 on and it goes through a very short “wizard” that simply sets the resolution output via the HDMI, which quickly leads to a less than inspiring user interface. Dark blue, grey and white-themed menus sit over a pleasant wallpaper, but there’s a problem; the serif fonts used look so dated and the menus themselves aren't nearly high resolution enough. Attention to detail is important, especially on a high-def machine, so that’s a black mark against the BDX1200.

Otherwise, the menus do just enough; simple picture tweaks are possible, though we did notice an option to set the audio output for the SPDIF - aka digital optical - despite the BDX1200 lacking that particular audio output. Meanwhile the remote control looks like it’s come from a catalogue and clearly hasn't been designed for this deck; in amongst a clutter of small buttons are useless options such as “angle” and “repeat” while it appeared to be lacking a shortcut to the USB port until we stumbled across a button named “MC” in the top left-hand corner. Silly us.

What also sets the alarm bells ringing is the trumping-up of BD-Live as one of the BDX1200’s main features. Is that the same BD-Live that time forgot? Yup; it’s equipped with an Ethernet LAN on its rear for just that purpose, but it does lack any built-in storage for downloads. Fast becoming a standard feature on rival decks, it’s necessary here to plug-in a USB stick of at least 2GB (to the deck’s front-loading slot, no less) to store downloaded content and data.

From that USB we managed to play MP3 music, JPEG photos, and DivX, MOV and MPEG video files, though high-def was only possible via AVC HD files - there was no support for DivX HD MKV fare. That’s pretty poor show on a high-def spinner however low the price. Nor is there much sense of upscaling, so digital video files often look ropey, while it takes around 8 or 9 seconds to both load and quit a video and return to the USB contents menu.

As sturdily built as any competitor (the BDX1200 measures 430 x 200 x 42.5mm) and remarkably slim, this deck doesn’t keep a low profile when it comes to its high-def pictures. Our Blu-ray test disc Avatar looked fabulous, with all the detail you'd expect. The picture is on the harsh side of sharp if anything, and while colour can also be a touch cold, the overall picture remains stunning and plenty enough for living room duties if paired with a below 50-inch TV. DVD doesn’t receive much love and the drop in quality is immediately obvious not just in terms of sharpness, but also in the appearance of jagged edges and picture noise.

Disc loading times are slow and during our tests the BDX1200 lost communication with the TV multiple times before eventually displaying a Blu-ray disc’s menus some 50+ seconds after the initial fire-up.

Verdict

Here’s a thoroughly decent Blu-ray player for those on a budget, but does it do enough? Spinning regular Blu-ray discs is not the novelty act it was, and without a notable online dimension, cloud-based content or networking, Toshiba’s BDX1200 is left looking like a spec’ed-up DVD player. Picture quality from Blu-ray is fine, but DVDs lacks sharpness and its back-to-basics USB slot lacks crucial file support in this uninspiring package. Put simply, there are better decks out there for the same spend.