Blu-ray Player LG BD390

Blu-ray Player LG BD390 , LG Electronic has been manufacturing home appliances and electronics for over 50 years. In 1995,it acquired Zenith (the company that invented the remote control) and started to gain market share in North America with  technology, digital set top boxes, and satellite television. When the format war was in full swing in 2007, LG became the Switzerland of electronics companies by releasing the BH100 dual-format Bluray HD DVD player. It received tepid reviews due primarily to playback glitches on HD DVDs, but you have to admire the company for attempting to appeal to a wider range of consumers.

Blu-ray Player LG BD390

Blu-ray Player LG BD390

Thankfully, with the format war behind us, manufacturers can concentrate on making great Bluray players, and LG hasn’t stopped its innovation. It was the first to release a BD player with Netflix streaming (BD300) and has upped the ante with its latest player by adding YouTube, Cinema Now, and 802.11n WiFi.

While it’s not as sleek as the Samsung BD-P4600 featured in this roundup, the LG BD390 at least fits into my equipment rack with its more traditional form factor. Aesthetically, it resembles the previous-generation BD300, with a sparsely populated front panel that includes six basic functions (Power, Eject, Play/Pause, etc.) and a covered USB port on the far right-hand side of the unit. Once powered on, the front LCD display is bright and clearly readable from across the room. Unfortunately, it isn’t dimmable.

Rear-panel connections include HDMI 1.3a with x.v.Color support, component, and composite video outputs. Audio outputs include TosLink and digital coaxial, stereo analog, and 7.1-channel analog for consumers with legacy equipment that lacks HDMI inputs. Not to be left out is an Ethernet port for hook-up to a  network  hardware. Users who have Wi-Fi networks can choose to go wireless with the built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi. My only beef with the rear panel is the lack of a second USB input to attach an external drive.

The LG BD390 is BD-Live compliant with 1 gigabyte of internal memory, which can be expanded by using the USB port on the front panel. It satellite tv offers internal decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio and sends it via HDMI as PCM or analog from the 7.1-channel output to a receiver or surround processor. For newer AVRs that offer onboard decoding of the advanced codecs, the LG can also send loss less bitstreams, but the secondary audio with PiP and the clicks and beeps in the menu will be lost in the translation.

User Interface
One area that all three players in this roundup have in common is their remotes all are useless in a dark room. The remote doesn’t have backlighting, but the most common buttons are in the middle of the remote, so they’re easy to access with your thumb. The lower third of the device includes a difficult-to-open sliding section with a number pad, volume and channel controls, and an important Pic Mode button, which lets you access custom picture controls (more on this later).

The LG BD390’s menu is my favorite in this roundup due to its simplistic design and ease of use. If there isn’t a disc in the player, it greets you with eight icons (Movie, Photo, Music, My Media, Netflix, CinemaNow, YouTube, and Setup). Access to each of these areas is nearly instantaneous, and it’s extremely intuitive to navigate. If you start the player with a disc in the tray, the player will bypass this menu and start the disc.

Player setup is very straightforward, with the usual assortment of opt-ions for Display, Language, Audio, Network, Lock, and Others. Under the Display heading, you can configure your TV aspect ratio and the HDMI color setting (Y/Cb/Cr or RGB). This is also where you configure the resolution, with choices of Auto (using the EDID information from your display), 1080p (24 or 60), 1080i, 720p, 480p, or 480i (component output only).

The Audio menu has a variety of options depending on how the player is connected to your system. For HDMI, things are pretty clear cut either PCM multi-channel for internal decoding or Primary Pass-Thru to bitstream the data to your AVR or surround processor. If you use the TosLink or coaxial output, the BD390 satellite tv provider a DTS re-encode feature that decodes the lossless formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio) and re-encodes them as 1.5 Mbps DTS output to your AVR.

LG BD390 Blu-ray Player

LG BD390 Blu-ray Player
Configuring the player to connect to my wireless network was a snap. Unlike the Samsung BD-P4600, the LG found my satellite tv network on its first try. Wireless performance is spotty in my home theater because of its distance to my wireless router. Once I tested the connection, I decided to hook up an Ethernet cable for the remainder of my time with the BD390 to ensure the fastest possible hookup.

Once I had the player configured to my home and completed the user adjustments, I checked to see if there was a new firmware update a common practice with all Blu-ray players and there was (version BD.9.08.33.B). The update took about five minutes to complete, which was similar to my OPPO BDP-83.

As with all Netflix-enabled devices, in order to access this feature, you need a Netflix-generated setup code. You’ll need to enter the code on the Netflix Website in order to pair the player with your account. As with the Samsung BD-P4600, this took very little time, but it required the use of a computer. The BD390 also streams media from any networked PCs using the included software (Nero server). Since I don’t have any DivX or MPEG video files on my computer, I couldn’t test this function.

Video Performance
The LG BD390 was an excellent performer in all of our HD video processing tests, even on difficult 1080i 2:2 content found on most concert discs. The player sailed through all of the de interlacing tests on the Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray Edition. Standard-definition performance was just as impressive, apart from a failure on our 2:2 SD cadence test. When I tested for above-black and below-white data, I discovered that the Standard picture mode wouldn’t pass the above-white information. Luckily, if you press the Pic Adjust button on the remote, you’ll access a User mode, which lets you control contrast, brightness, and other adjustments. Once I clicked over to the User controls, the above-white information was restored.

LG Blu-ray Player Remote Control

LG Blu-ray Player Remote Control
The only downside to the BD390’s video performance is its scaling ability, which is only average when going from 480i to 1080p. Star Trek: Insurrection on DVD is a decent transfer that looked very good on the Pioneer and Samsung players, but the LG showed off its stellar deinterlacing performance with clear edges on the bridges, boats, and rooftops. But the image was also softer versus the competition. Bright backgrounds revealed ample ringing in the image, and both the foregrounds and the backgrounds lacked sharpness. When I checked the player on a smaller display (50-inch plasma versus 88-inch front projection), the image didn’t look as bad, so your mileage may vary depending on your display.

Real-World Performance

The Blu-ray Player LG BD390 is the fastest Bluray player I’ve ever used. Its startup time rivals the PS3 and the OPPO BDP-83 at less than 20 seconds. Even with the most Java-intensive titles, you’ll be at the main menu in less than a minute—now that’s fast.Bluray playback at 1080p/24 is flawless, and the LG played every title I threw at it, even Dollhouse: Season One and The Soloist, two titles that wouldn’t play on either of the other players in this roundup. Navigation through the menus on Bluray Discs is also very speedy, but I had to point the remote directly at the player versus bouncing the signal off of my screen. Granted, I placed the player at the side of my room, but the other players in the roundup didn’t have this problem with similar placements.

Besides superior audio and video quality, Bluray also features some neat interactive features such as PiP (picture-in-picture) commentaries and online access. Most of these features worked flawlessly on the LG, but the one exception was Watchmen from Warner. When I watched the film with its Maximum Movie mode, the graphic time line and menus wouldn’t display properly, although the video commentary and PiP worked as advertised. There have been widespread reports of this disc causing issues in other players, and even the OPPO BDP-83 pauses at the 46-second mark (which you can fast-forward through). This may point toward an authoring issue rather than a problem with this player. Other interactive discs from Universal such as Heroes: Season 3 and State of Play worked perfectly with Universal’s U-Control interface.

For the majority of my evaluation, I used the internal audio decoding and output it as PCM to my surround processor, and I never found the sound lacking in any way. Dynamics were excellent, with crisp highs, natural bass, and well-balanced and transparent dialogue, especially on lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.

I don’t have an account with Cinema Now, and after looking over its Website, I’m not inclined to sign up. It has a decent assortment of new movies, but most of them are only in standard definition and cost $4 to rent or $20 to buy. When you compare its cost with Netflix, the latter wins hands down. Frankly, for $20, I’d rather go out and buy the DVD and have a hard copy.

Netflix has a large as sort ment of standard-def titles and a growing list of HD offerings. The standard-def feed is near DVD quality. The HD streams are nowhere as good as Blu-ray, and the audio is stereo. I never use this satellite tv services for critical viewing, but it’s handy when you want to watch an old TV show or obscure catalog title without having to wait for it in the mail. The 720p VC-1 high-def feeds have decent quality, but the image doesn’t have the same visual depth and color saturation as Bluray nor should it, considering the low bitrate.

With my movie-watching schedule, I rarely have time to watch YouTube videos on my computer, let alone in my home theater. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this added feature, although the entertainment value varies greatly depending on the creator. The interface is very fast like everything else on the player with selections for the top-rated and most viewed videos. YouTube also has a search function, but without a keyboard, it’s cumbersome. The videos start playing in a small window, and you can expand them to full screen by pressing the Display button on the remote. But don’t expect the video quality to blow you away.

Wrap Up
The Blu-ray Player LG BD390 has improved its video processing over the BD300, but its scaling of DVDs doesn’t measure up to the category leaders, Pioneer and OPPO. But if you’re looking for a player that’s lightning fast in its user interface and offers a bevy of media streaming options (now including VUDU, which was announced as we went to print), this one is worth a look. Recommended.

BD-Live: Yes (1 GB onboard expandable via USB)
BonusView: Yes
Firmware Version: BD.9.08.33.B
Audio Decoding: DOLBY: Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus; DTS: DTS-HD Master Audio
HDMI Video Resolutions: 1080p/24, 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p
Compatible Playback Formats: BD-Video, DVD, DVD-R/-RW, CD, CD-R/-RW, MP3/WMA, JPEG/Kodak PictureCD, VideoCD, AVCHD, DivX HD, MKV
Dimensions (W x H x D, inches): 16.9 x 2.3 x 10.9
Weight (pounds): 6.6

Outputs: Video: HDMI 1.3a (1), component video (1), composite video (1)
Audio: Coaxial digital (1), optical digital (1), 7.1 channel analog, stereo analog (1)
Additional: Ethernet (1), USB (1), Wi-Fi 802.11n (Draft 2.0) compatible with 802.11 b/g networks

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