February 04, 2009
| by Rebecca Day
With Blu-ray players selling for under $200, manufacturers are scrambling for ways to build value into higher end sets. LG’s route—like those taken by a growing number of value-adding manufacturers—goes through Netflix.
It’s a great idea in theory. Why wait days for a DVD to ship when you can download it almost instantly? So we tested the theory out.
LG issued the BD300 for review on the condition that it would be connected directly to a router. So I strung a 50-foot Ethernet cable from the router behind the bed, over the drapes, behind the lamp and up to the TV. For those of us with wireless home networks, it’s not a pretty picture. But if you have an Ethernet jack in the room, you’re good to go.
I always get itchy when it comes to marrying the PC world with the TV space. I was pleasantly surprised at the smooth setup process, which includes a couple of software updates at the outset. Immediately I had a message on the TV saying there were seven titles in my instant queue ready for viewing. I added another seven, the most available for instant viewing out of the titles in my queue. You add the titles to your instant queue on the Netflix web site, and they simultaneously show up on the TV, which is pretty cool. Remember to delete them from your regular queue, though, or they’ll also arrive in the mail.
At press time, roughly 12,000 of Netflix’s 100,000-title catalog were available for instant viewing. A Netflix customer support tech said the discrepancy was due to licensing agreements with studios and other issues but that the company was working to add more. He noted that the entire Starz library is available for instant viewing.
You can stream both standard-def and high-def content, and streaming quality varies according to the speed of your Internet connection.
In my case, the documentary My Kid Could Paint That in standard-def came through fine, but the more action-packed National Treasure 2 suffered some frame rate stuttering and A/V sync problems. The time trade-off was worth it. Selecting and watching a movie in less than 30 seconds is awesome. If I want the highest quality possible, I can wait for a movie to arrive in the mail, head to Blockbuster or buy it, and the BD300 is happy to show it in 1080p, in 24- or 60-Hz mode.
The BD300 also plays music and photo CDs and has a USB input. I was able to view photos from a thumb drive but not those from a USB/SD card reader.
Bottom line: The BD300 is a terrific Blu-ray player that’s easy to operate and has an appealing feature set to boot. LG was one of the first to partner with Netflix, but it has competition from Roku, TiVo, Samsung and others. Amazon and Best Buy have knocked $50 off the list price, making the BD300 a strong value at $349.