Blu-ray players are expensive. Prices may now be around the £200 mark, but that's still more than most people are prepared to spend for what many consider a small boost in performance over DVD players. It appears, however, that LG has realised people aren't keen on spending the extra money, and the company is trying non-standard techniques to entice people to buy one of its Blu-ray players.
To that end, the LG BD370 is one of the best-specified Blu-ray players on the market, and it's also still around the magic £230 price point. The key for LG seems to be selling players that do more than meets the eye.
We think this is one of the most appealing Blu-ray players available. It's smaller than some of last year's models, and looks different enough to be interesting.
On the front is a delightful power button, which is red when the machine is off, and blue when it's on. On either side of that are buttons for playback and ejecting the disc tray. Both the aforementioned tray and controls are hidden beneath little drawbridge covers, which keeps everything neat and tidy.
The BD370 also has a basic display. It doesn't impart much information, but what it does show is presented clearly -- in English -- which is more than we can say for some Blu-ray players we've reviewed.
At the rear of the machine, you'll find component video, HDMI and even composite connections. There are also digital audio connectors -- both optical and coaxial -- and stereo audio RCA connectors. There's a USB socket at the front of the player too, which we'll talk about more later. For interactive content and firmware updates, there's also an Ethernet socket.
The remote control lets the package down slightly. Made of cheap plastic, it's small, light and ugly. That said, it does the job, and that's the main thing.
The BD370's headline feature is support for YouTube. Content is accessed via a simple menu interface on the player's main screen. It's a good idea, despite the relative low quality of YouTube videos, and we don't think it's going to be all that long before YouTube is serving even higher quality video than it currently does. Indeed, one day its likely to go for real high definition, albeit at 720p.
Out favourite features are the media-playback ones. We like the MP3 support, which is handy if you have music on a USB drive or external hard drive. The image-playback function is also pleasant, although we can't see this being used as often, especially in the case of people who have Apple TV or another media streamer hooked up to their TV.
Video playback is nothing short of excellent. We were astounded to discover that this machine is happy playing both 720p and 1080p video from our 16GB USB flash drive. What's more, MKV support is included, which means you can play files with menus, subtitles and, generally, video up to 1080p. This is fantastic and, ignoring the moral and legal arguments, ideal if you download TV or movies from the Internet.
All things considered, for just £230 you get a player capable of nearly as much as a dedicated media streamer. This has impressed us greatly, and the player scores more highly as a result.
When testing Blu-ray players' load times, we use the same test disc (Vantage Point) and time how long it takes for the player to ingest the disc and play the opening Sony ident. This means it's loaded all the interactive Java and done all the boring administration that these machines do when you hit the play button.
The BD370 manages a respectable start time of 47 seconds. That's not the fastest time we've seen, but it's much quicker than most players manage. The only faster machines are Samsung's latest players, the BD-P4600 and BD-P3600, and, of course, the PlayStation 3. We think this is a step in the right direction, but we're still longing for the days of DVD load speeds.
Music, photo-viewing and the extra media playback are all very impressive. MKV files looked good, although a fair amount of MPEG compression was visible. It's possible that the player isn't optimised to handle these slightly lower bit-rate files, causing this problem. That said, it's a very watchable picture, and incredibly good news for people who need media streamers.