March 12, 2010
| by Stephen Hopkins
Budget Blu-ray Disc players often seem to offer capable BD playback and a multitude of ancillary features, yet skimp on playback of the bulk of most enthusiasts’ media library: the standard-definition DVD. JVC’s first foray into the Blu-ray Disc player market, on the other hand, takes the road less traveled. Instead of playing the buzz-word feature set game, JVC’s XV-BP1 player is all about performance of core features like disc load speed, audio decoding, and scaling DVD playback.
The XV-BP1 does maintain a functional set of basic features. All applicable audio codecs, including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-Master, and all sub formats are fully decoded and passed as LPCM over HDMI. Bitstreaming of all codecs to HDMI 1.3 capable AVRs is also fully supported. Missing are 7.1 channel analog outputs for connecting to older AVRs.
It also has one nice surprise feature: playback of AVI and MKV files, both burned to disc and via USB. As someone who backs up my physical media for playback on various devices, this feature intrigued me at first, but I quickly found the lack of NTFS support for USB hard drives to be limiting in regards to files over 4GB. Large files can, however, be played back from DVD+/-R/RW, both single and dual layer. While this may eliminate the XV-BP1 as a full-fledged HD digital media player, it does open it up for use on occasion or in a pinch. This same deficiency is present in all but one player I’ve seen with AVI/MKV file support: the LG BD390. Hopefully a future firmware upgrade will open up support for NTFS, or some other file system supporting files larger than 4GB.
Unboxing and Setup
When removing the XV-BP1 from its packaging you’ll notice all of the trappings of a budget Blu-ray player. It maintains a lightweight feel at just over 6 pounds. Its cover is somewhat flimsy folded steel and its front face is a mix of gloss black and faux-brushed aluminum, both fashioned from plastic, as are the graphite colored buttons. My review sample also had a mild but unassuring warp to the chassis, causing the feet to sit somewhat off-level. A quick, light torque to two corners popped it back to level, but this kind of thing doesn’t inspire confidence. The remote is basic and somewhat logically laid out, but initial setup is about as far as I took my testing before I programmed my Harmony to control it instead.
But as soon as you plug in and power on the XV-BP1, you’ll notice it is different. The non-dimmable blue LEDs might be what you first notice (and a firmware upgrade for dimming these would be nice), but more important is that this thing is fast. Really fast. Slow operation has often been a bane of Blu-ray players, but it’s just not an issue with the XV-BP1. The disc tray eject time (from powered off, by pressing the eject button) is roughly 2 seconds. Other mainstream players, namely current models from LG, come close to this, but the only other player to hit 2 seconds in my testing is the highly praised (and more expensive) Oppo BDP-83. You’re not going to be waiting disc-in-hand for upwards of 30 seconds, as you would with many other budget players.
Disc loading times are similarly snappy. My current disc-load torture test is Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End. Its Java-heavy menu structure has long been a bottleneck for players. My first Blu-ray player, the Samsung BD-P1000, would take nearly 2 minutes to load to the initial skull logo, and another minute to churn past to the actual intro video. The JVC handles these tasks in roughly 17 seconds and 29 seconds, respectively. This again bests the speedy Oppo player by 4 to 5 seconds in each category and is the fastest I’ve seen to date. Less complex Java-free menus, as well as DVD discs, load almost instantly.
Fast load times are great for one main reason. It gets me to the performance tests faster. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I’m not going to expound in great detail on Blu-ray disc image quality. The main reason is that any competently designed Blu-ray player is going to output a nearly identical 1080p24 image, with only subtle differences in color decoding and noise reduction.
Many players push toward red for a perception of more natural skin tones on poorly calibrated displays. The JVC maintains a neutral color cast with no push either toward red or green. This is clearly evident in source material such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, where both the red Nevada desert and grassy campus of Marshall College show natural color rendition. There is also no over-exaggeration of contrast or sharpness in an attempt to push a more “3D” feel. (This is often done at the expense of detail loss and excessive noise, but both are well controlled.)
Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.