Philips BDP7600 review

4.5 out of 5
£200

For

3D, built-in Wi-Fi, BBC iPlayer, CinemaPerfect HD, analogue 7.1 outputs, smartphone app

Against

No 2D-3D “upscaling”, no HDMI ARC

Already discounted online, this do-it-all deck from Philips is thrice a home cinema hero. Its trio of key features are 3D Blu-ray disc playback, built-in Wi-Fi and analogue 7.1 surround sound outputs, the absence of which we’ve moaned about for yonks on other players, though the BDP7600 isn’t quite the finished article.

What is does lack is completely convincing build quality; there’s a distinctly flimsy feel to this unit’s shell. And though it’s easily the equal of rival decks from Sony and Samsung, we’re used to a more high-end finish from Philips. Still, mirrored is better than gloss black to these eyes, and it's a clean front-on design that’s interfered with only by a USB slot on the far right-hand side.

Some touch-sensitive controls on a lip below the front panel comprise just standby, play, pause and eject, with the latter beckoning a disc tray, which folds-out quickly and quietly.

Spun through 180 degrees and the BDP7600 makes a lot more noise. The stars of the rear panels are those analogue outputs, but they're joined by a scant collection of video outputs - just HDMI and Composite video (Component video is being phased out on Blu-ray by the copy restriction gang). Given its audio niceties elsewhere, a second Audio Return Channel (ARC)-compatible HDMI output would have been handy for folk after 3D, but with amps older than a year or so.

Talking of audio, you’ll also find stereo audio outputs for two-channel sound, both coaxial and optical digital outputs for surround duties, and an Ethernet LAN port for a wired connection to a broadband router, should you not have a Wi-Fi network. Normally we’d ask for a second USB slot, but the BDP7600 hides an SD card slot that will do nicely for storing BD-Live content.

The latter also proves useful for taking video on demand content via a refreshed Net TV platform that’s new for Philips in 2011. Or is it? A slightly branded version of the same third-party platform used by Loewe and Sharp, Net TV’s highlights include BBC iPlayer, BoxOffice 365 movies, YouTube, HiT Entertainment, eBay, Cartoon Network, TuneIn web radio and Twitter.

There’s also an open web browser, but actually using it for any length of time is infuriating unless you’ve a USB keyboard, though even then it’s too slow to ever challenge a smartphone - and won't play Flash videos used, for example, on the BBC’s news and sports pages. Most web pages are presented with the top part obscured, while scrolling through page elements using the remote is a pain.

More impressive is the BDP7600’s home networking. We managed to get it to fetch AVI, AVC HD, MP4, MPEG, MKV and WMV video files from a USB stick inserted into the front’s slot, though MKV and MPEG weren’t recognised on a networked iMac. Music is also well supported (MP3, WMA, even lossless FLAC and WAV); the “usual” annoying root file structure found on all DLNA-compatible devices is present, but it’s well disguised in an overall user interface that’s joined-up and is all about clarity and ease.

Away from all of these extra bit ‘n’ bobs, CinemaPerfectHD quickly installs itself as our favourite feature on the BDP7600. Designed to bring detail and smoothness to HD, it succeeds on all counts with our 2D test disc The Tourist, with Depp and Jolie’s skin tones spot-on and little sign of blur or stepped edges. The action dulls slightly when we don some 3D specs to examine its 3D Full HD performance with Avatar, but there’s little wrong with what the BDP7600 supplies the screen. An effort at upscaling DVD also impressed, with a spin of Inception revealing little in the way of artefacts or picture noise, though it’s obviously a far softer image.

Lastly, let’s hear it for the BDP7600’s remote control. Oval shaped and comfy to hold, its streamlined design goes a tad too far - some of the buttons are tiny - but overall it’s a design we love. That said, we also downloaded MyRemote from iTunes to control the BDP7600 via an iPhone; there’s no gesture control, but as well as a digital representation of the physical remote there’s a shortcut to all files stored on the USB stick, which speeds up the process tenfold. It also displays what’s currently playing on the main remote page.

Verdict

Superb handling of discs of all types along with a media-savvy approach to entertainment - particularly its MyRemote smartphone app - make this a great all-rounder that pushes the boundaries for a Blu-ray player. The appearance of BBC iPlayer helps save its otherwise rather bare bones Net TV platform, but the mirrored BDP7600 oozes enough quality elsewhere while remaining good value.