It seems there are two sorts of Blu-ray players on the market these days: those that cost about £100 and those that cost about £200. Most well-adjusted people won't see the point in spending much more than £200, especially as the extra cost doesn't seem to have much of an impact on either picture quality or the number of features you get.
The profile 2.0 Philips BDP7500 costs around £220, which makes it slightly more expensive than many current Blu-ray players. Let's find out if it's worth that small premium.
Beauty's in the eye of the credit-card holder
We haven't always liked the styling of Philips' products. But you can't accuse the company of following the pack -- its products are always visually distinct. The BDP7500 is no exception. With its metal chassis and mirrored front panel, it looks fairly unique.
On the front, you'll find a centrally mounted drive, with the Philips logo displayed in raised silver letters. Beneath the tray, a stylish bridge is home to a blue light, intended to emphasise the machine's Blu-ray playback capability.
To the left of the disc tray, there's a simple dot-matrix LED display. It sounds naff on paper, but actually looks very pleasing indeed. The display doesn't give much information -- just the play time and other occasional updates. For example, when a movie starts playing, it tells you what sort of digital audio is playing, before returning to the simple counter. We love it.
On the right-hand side of the tray, you'll find three touch-sensitive controls. During normal use, these are dimmed, but touching them will cause them to glow brightly for a moment before fading again. If you're worried about that blue light under the bridge by the way, the player turns it off when a movie is playing, and switches it on again when you press the touch-sensitive controls.
Also on the front panel, you'll find a USB socket, concealed behind a small sliding cover. This lets you play back photos and certain, limited types of video. Philips claims the BDP7500 can play video in the DivX Ultra, WMV and AVCHD formats, among others, but we'll discuss its media-playback functionality later.
Although we love the BDP7500's appearance, the plastic remote control is quite cheap and nasty, although we do like its colour. But we can't get too cross about sub-standard remotes anymore, because we see them so often, and we've already got sky-high blood pressure.
When we started using the BDP7500, we noticed that it didn't prompt us to adjust the network settings. This meant that, when we tried to access the BD-Live content on our District 9 Blu-ray disc, we were left waiting around.
Even when we got the BDP7500 onto our network, however, the machine wasn't happy going online for BD-Live content. We tried again, using our Vantage Point disc, and had the same problem. The player just wasn't going online, no matter what we did. A network set-up analysis confirmed that the player was hooked up to our wired Ethernet network. We've used other machines in the same way, with no problems.
The BDP7500 doesn't appear to have an advanced network set-up option either, which makes diagnosing the problem really difficult, and quite frustrating. But we really don't care about interactive online features anyway. In the case of most discs, they're totally pointless. If you think you might want access to such features, though, you should probably avoid this player.
We always try to test the relative speed of Blu-ray players. We use the same disc, Vantage Point, each time, to ensure a fair test. The BDP7500 managed a load time of 46 seconds, which is one of the better speeds we've seen. In fact, it's only beaten by three other players -- a fantastic achievement indeed.
In addition to its fast load times, the BDP7500 also handles navigation of Blu-ray menus quickly, meaning you won't find yourself getting frustrated and throwing the remote control at your expensive TV.
Advanced media playback
The holy grail of Blu-ray players is the ability to play video downloaded from the Internet. This might take the form of whole trailers from Apple's QuickTime site or whole TV shows from slightly more dodgy places.
The great news about the BDP7500 is that it can play virtually everything. We gave it an MKV file to munch on, and there were no problems. We also watched the Tron Legacy trailer in 1080p via Apple's trailer site, and the machine gave us no trouble with that either.
Although the BDP7500 can't get these files off your home network, it does support the use of USB memory, which is likely to be sufficient for most uses.
Picture and sound quality
Even Blu-ray players of an extremely cheap and cheerful nature generally do a phenomenal job when it comes to producing awesome pictures. The BDP7500 looked very good to us, delivering crisp images and natural motion, thanks to its support of the now ubiquitous 24p format.
It's also good to see that Philips has included 7.1-channel analogue audio outputs. This means that, if you've got an older AV receiver without the ability to decode lossless audio codecs, you can still enjoy the improved sound quality that Blu-ray offers. Simply hook up the analogue audio outputs to your amp with some decent-quality cable, and you're away.
Although the Philips BDP7500's networking performance is poor, we like this machine. It looks wonderful and we love its ability to play common Internet video formats like H.264 in containers like QuickTime and MKV. We're pretty taken with the speed with which it loads discs and handles menus too.
Although the BDP7500 is slightly more expensive than many current players, its extra codec support, fast load times and fantastic styling make it a worthwhile purchase in our opinion.
Edited by Charles Kloet