August 28, 2009
| by Arlen Schweiger
The ever-growing Netflix “Watch Instantly” feature was my target, however. LG was the first to present this option on a Blu-ray player, with last year’s well-received release of the BD300. But that was then, and this is now, and now means that Netflix has added high-def options in the interim that make the option even more appealing.
The service is extraordinarily easy to use – add movies on your PC, and they virtually immediately show up as selections on your TV screen via the BD390. The one knock may be that you can’t add directly from the Blu-ray player, but that’s no bother if you’ve already plucked dozens into your queue. Boot-up time is quick, too. Netflix says it takes about 30 seconds for a movie to load, but I found that standard-def choices were closer to a zippy 12-13 seconds, and high-def only a few seconds longer.
Overall I was impressed by the Netflix video quality on the BD390. Standard-def was about on par with DVD, with slight pixilation mostly noticeable in dark areas, as I tested with films such as Wall-E, Ghostbusters and From Here to Eternity. I was more pleasantly surprised by the HD; having already watched the first two seasons of Lost on Blu-ray, I was ready for a letdown upon streaming season 3 from Netflix “HD” but found it nearly as stunning – not quite identical, but much more sharp and detailed than I’d expected. I also checked out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and it looked virtually flawless as well.
Did I mention that the BD390 does in fact play Blu-ray discs, too? Quite well, in fact. And unlike older-generation players, Blu-ray discs load and boot-up much closer to traditional DVD player speed, a major improvement from my HD DVD player.
I viewed a range of Blu-ray material that included the nearly 30-year-old original Friday the 13th, The Sprit, Lost, and concerts by The Police, Rush and Chris Botti – video quality did not disappoint, even though I wasn’t viewing at full 1080p. I was surprised at how detailed and lush the daytime scenes of Friday the 13th appeared, really breathing life into that classic horror film. Lost looked extremely crisp and vivid, especially the sharpness and definition on the male characters’ unshaven, sweaty faces or the colors of the female characters eyes, and of course the brilliant-looking jungle and island vistas.
Audio quality proved rock solid, as the concert Blu-rays I tested using uncompressed audio formats were really enveloping through my satellite-subwoofer 5.1 system. Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio seemed to deliver greater dynamic range and power to things like cymbal crashes and bass grooves.
I’ve never been drawn to disc extras, and BD-Live really isn’t going to change that, but I did check out the extras on The Spirit for kicks. The demo of the disc’s MoLog feature looked like adding photos, captions and more during film scenes could be entertaining. Though not my cup of tea, I can see how others may enjoy interactive BD-Live features, and it’s a must-have Blu-ray feature that the BD390 takes care of.
The player also upscales standard DVDs crisply, which I noted on content viewed ranging early-1970s movies to my daughter’s Dora the Explorer and Thomas and Friends videos. The BD390 can keep your current DVD collection freshly in rotation.
… And There’s More
You’ll also find Photos, Music and My Media buttons on the Home menu, and a USB input on the front panel to make for convenient portable media pickings. The My Media button accesses the player’s DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) capability, which lets you stream files from your home network.
For me, this is a nifty feature but proved to be hit or miss. The player manual says that not all the WMA and AAC audio formats are compatible, and I found that I couldn’t access some music in my iTunes folder that had been ripped AAC. Fortunately, though, it was only my early days of ripping CDs to iTunes that I used that format – since then I’ve gone mainly with higher-bitrate MP3, and the BD390 played those just fine, quite a convenience. Plenty of audio and video file formats are supported, but unfortunately WAV and FLAC files are not, which do comprise a lot of my PC-stored tunes.
Overall the DLNA aspect just enhances what is already an extremely full-featured player. It’s easy to forget that the BD390’s primary function is Blu-ray playback. So whether you want to hold on to your large DVD collection, start buying or renting Blu-rays, stream all sorts of movies and TV, the BD390 can answer all of your viewing dreams.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.