LG BD390 Wi-Fi Blu-ray Player Review: So Packed You’ll Forget About Blu

LG BD390 Wi-Fi Blu-ray Player Review: So Packed You’ll Forget About Blu
Samsung currently ships two Blu-ray players with Wi-Fi dongles, but LG’s $US400 BD390 is first with real integrated Wi-Fi. It’s probably the best all-around Blu-ray player there is at the moment, and it’s getting better.

Nowadays, a test of a so-called Blu-ray player involves so much beyond just playing a damn Blu-ray movie that the name “Blu-ray player” is a bit ridiculous. Nowhere is that more true than in the BD390, which tonight got an upgrade so that in addition to the Netflix and YouTube it already serves up, it also distributes CinemaNow video, and sniffs out music and video on your network to play, too. The BD390 is a great disc-playing supplement to a frill-less cable-co DVR, though many of its streaming-video perks overlap with those from TiVo or Media Centre PCs.

The key to the current hefty premium for the BD390 is Wi-Fi, and I can tell you, it’s a nice thing to have. You just plug in the thing, stick an HDMI cable in to connect to your receiver or TV, and you’re done as far as the wiring goes. Two wires, including power. Nice.

Pop up the network settings, find your wireless network, punch in your password, and voila, you have an IP address and full connectivity. Hit “My Media” and you see any connected servers you have on your network—it immediately found a NAS I have, and immediately arranged all the jumbled media in terms of music, photos and videos. Its music player is lame—one track at a time—and the photo viewer is nominal, but the video playback was fast and pretty broad.

What I mean by that is that it instantly played most of the videos in the popular torrent codec flavors. To my dismay, however, nothing I ripped from DVDs I own to play on an Apple TV or iPhone would play. In other words, Xvid, DivX and many other AVI flavors are cool, but don’t come at it with H.264 or any M4V type files, cuz they’re not supported. Neither, I noticed sadly, were videos I’ve shot with still cameras lately, most of which are also H.264. The thing does play AVCHD, though, for those remaining few who shoot with real HD camcorders, or any HD-video product from Panasonic.

There are four major contenders in the standalone Blu-ray player field right now: Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and LG. As of now, in the feature department, LG appears to be in the lead. Matt Moskovciak at CNet recently rated five Blu-ray players (not including this one), and picked Panasonic as best in picture quality, and the Samsungs for most featured. I won’t argue with his choice of Pana for best picture—this is not a videophile review, and trust me, all of these play Blu-ray discs well enough for me and my eyes. Besides, speaking of home theatres, the BD390 has 7.1 analogue output, which makes it an affordable way to keep your old receiver and still get really good surround sound.

But throwing in CinemaNow for new-release movies on demand, and adding integrated Wi-Fi for ease of playback, makes the LG BD390 the new Blu-ray player to beat, and meanwhile, the step-down BD370—which also got the CinemaNow update but doesn’t have Wi-Fi or the 7.1 audio output—is selling for a low $240 on Amazon.com, making it perhaps the best value of the bunch, though Samsung’s BD-P1500 may give that a run for its money. If you can’t wait for a Blu-ray player any longer, buy one of those two low-end models, whatever’s cheapest. But if you can wait, keep an eye on the price of the LG BD390, because when it dips below $350, it will be an excellent buy, especially compared to the sleek crazy looking but ultimately less featured Samsung BD-P4600. [Product Page]