Think back to the launch of Blu-ray and HD DVD. It wasn't unusual for players to cost as much as £1,000. It was impossible to get a stand-alone player for less than £500. Now, though, Blu-ray players are rapidly decreasing in cost with each passing week. That's proven by the Toshiba BDX2100, which costs just £80 when bought online from Tesco.
Even though this player is cheap, we wanted to take a look and decide if it's worth the money. After all, £80 is still a fair amount of cash to spend on something that doesn't work. So let's get down to assessing this machine's skills.
This might be a budget player, but Toshiba has done a pretty decent job of styling it to look unique. The front panel looks different to everything else we've seen. Instead of being flat, Toshiba has incorporated some angles into the face of this player. We like that, and while the player isn't the most beautiful thing we've ever seen, it's still something you'd be happy to sling under your TV.
At the back, you'll find the traditional HDMI socket, along with Ethernet and composite video output, for those of you who don't want to enjoy HD from this player. To be fair, at this price, it's almost as cheap as a DVD player anyway. You could buy one of these for a second, non-HD TV and use it for DVDs.
At the front, under all that funky styling is a simple display, a disc tray and USB socket. There are a couple of buttons, like power and eject, which are quite handy if you're near the player and want to access basic functions.
Hello from China
With devices like DVD and, now, Blu-ray players, the evolution goes a little something like this. The first machines are built by Toshiba, generally of a very high quality and feel like they will last. These initial machines are expensive, and sell in small numbers. Then comes the move to more generic hardware, which leads to a reduction in quality, larger sales and lower prices. The Toshiba BDX2100 is a product of this second phase, and it shows.
While the initial splash screen looks quite pleasant, when you enter the menus you'll notice that the look is more clunky and ugly. The font used is a serif type and everything looks quite low-rent and budget. It's also apparent that less effort has gone into making error messages that respect the rules of the English language.
That's not to say that this player isn't very usable, but compare the menu system on this Blu-ray player to one on a three-year-old HD DVD deck, and you'll be hugely disappointed by the new look and feel.
Picture and sound quality
For a cheap player, we certainly have no problem with how the Toshiba performs. The configuration means you get plenty of options regarding picture modes. You can change the deep colour mode, which we like to see, and there are sharpening options as well as brightness and contrast settings -- which we don't like to see. We think a Blu-ray player should convey only the original video to your TV.
Test video from both Blu-ray and memory sticks looked vivid, colourful and detailed. District 9 came across well, but we think it might have been less intense in its colour reproduction than recent players we've reviewed from the likes of LG and Panasonic. Even so, this doesn't matter, because your TV will be able to compensate for this sort of thing and give you a picture that suits your eye.
Sound is, as you'd expect, as good as the speakers you connect it to. The player will output Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Essential to your TV, but we strongly suggest you connect it to an AV system to get the original sound from Blu-ray discs.
USB media is a slight disappointment
We had hoped the Tosh would support MKVs, but we couldn't interest ours in anything of the sort. It would play MOV files in 1080p, and we got a Kung Fu Panada clip that was a direct transport stream rip to work. To compete with players from LG and Sony, however, the Tosh would have needed to provide support for MKV in the same way those players do.
No online content
By virtue of its budget moniker, the Tosh doesn't provide access to online services like Sony and Samsung players. So there's no LoveFilm access here, and you won't be able to catch up on BBC iPlayer shows. The question is whether you think it's worth spending an extra £40 or so to get a player that can access these services.
If you don't know what we're talking about, then the Tosh is likely to suit you well. If you have a yearning for online content and MKV playback, take a look at Sony's excellent BDP-S370, which does everything you could want and more.
Profile 2.0 is present, which allows you to access material to support your Blu-ray film. This does happen over the Internet, and it's every bit as painfully slow and awkward as it was when it was introduced. Never buy a player just because it promises profile 2.0 -- it's not worth the glossy sticker it's printed on.
There's no reason not to buy the Toshiba BDX2100. It's a decent machine that offers more than enough for most users. We think it's worth spending a little more to get the Sony, though, as it offers so much more for your money. But, if you're just after a simple Blu-ray player, you can't go wrong.
Edited by Emma Bayly