While we don't make Blu-ray players for a living, we're reasonably confident that for those hardy souls who do, making a 3D Blu-ray player is a fairly trivial matter. We might be talking about 3D players this year, but it's more than likely next year we'll be back to talking about Blu-ray players, all of which will support 3D playback as a matter of course.
And that leads us to the price of Toshiba's BDX3100 -- at anywhere between £150 and £200 online, we think it's a little steep. We'll get into that later: for now, let's see if this player has what it takes to make us part with our three-dimensional cash.
Like the non-3D Blu-ray players from Toshiba this year, the BDX3100 has a chiselled front with some interesting angles, giving the player an unusual look. It's far from the best-looking piece of technology we've ever seen, but it's hardly the worst.
Picking the player up, you realise your money isn't being spent on weighty componentry, because the player is light and very compact. It's not flimsy, and we don't feel it was poorly built, although the relatively cheap display flickers when you've got 3D glasses on, which can be dreadfully distracting. A schoolboy error.
In terms of sockets, you get a fairly uninspiring collection, including composite out, which is worthless in these days of HD. There's no component video out either, but as copy protection and 3D render it useless, we're not bothered. We don't know why Toshiba even puts extra sockets on these players -- why not just stick to HDMI, USB, Ethernet and a digital audio output of some kind?
The network and USB sockets allow access to media on your home network, including DivX video, JPGs and MP3 files. BD Live access is also available via the Ethernet socket, for what that's worth to anyone.
Although the Toshiba's 2D Blu-ray quality is absolutely fine, we had a couple of problems when we viewed 3D movies. For one, the picture doesn't fit the screen as it would on a 2D movie. This is common to all players, and a failing -- a major one, if you ask us -- of the 3D Blu-ray format.
The BDX3100 compounds this problem by having a hard line down the right hand side of the picture. We don't quite know what the cause of this is, but it's certainly undesirable. It could be that a firmware update will improve this, but why should we have to fight to get a player to behave?
These issues aside, the picture quality from the Toshiba is fine on 3D material, and really gave us no cause for concern. The sound is decent too, and there's a wealth of support for the most recent audio codecs.
Lack of online services disappoints
Everyone does Internet content on their Blu-ray players now. Everyone who makes players worth buying, that is. Sony, Samsung, LG and to some extent Panasonic all offer some access to online video. Sony and Samsung are the best for this, offering both LoveFilm and BBC iPlayer. But Sony wins, because it also provides Demand Five, and some other services such as YouTube. Toshiba offers none of that.
At this price, we expect a little more than just 3D to sweeten the deal. Toshiba does throw in some media playback support, but nothing -- once again -- to compare with the support found on Sony, Samsung and LG players for MKV-contained MPEG-4 video files.
Bring your own memory
The BDX3100 is another Blu-ray player that doesn't provide any internal storage for extras downloaded from BD Live services. This means, if you -- for reasons unknown -- decide to watch the optional content on Blu-ray discs that is delivered over the Internet, you must first connect a USB drive with at least 1GB capacity to the player.
Once again, we're infuriated by this decision, which is nothing more than a money-saving exercise. Although we deem BD Live to be a complete and utter waste of time, we do expect players to be able to access it without us adding our own memory.
The problems here are generic
Looking at our old HD DVD player made by Toshiba -- who else, after all, made them? -- makes this machine doubly disappointing. Its menus are ugly and clumsy, and the English is patchy. The BDX3100 is clearly an off-the-shelf generic model from a third-party manufacturer that's been badged with a Toshiba logo and given a custom front panel.
Pick any no-name Blu-ray player, and we'll guarantee it has the same components as this Tosh. We really resent that, because the brand name is the only reason for the inflated price tag. And in this case, the player just doesn't justify it.
While the Toshiba BDX3100 is a decent enough Blu-ray player, we aren't impressed by the ugly menus, the side band on 3D video or the lack of Internet functionality. The price is ludicrous too -- the same as Sony's excellent BDP-S470 and ultimately much less desirable.
While owners of this player needn't throw it away, we'd urge people considering it to go for the Sony instead. You'll get more for your money, with a proper user interface and some superb Internet TV functionality.
Edited by Nick Hide