LG's new BP730 Blu-ray Player is smart in more ways than one
IntroductionThe value that modern electronics provides never ceases to amaze us. Regardless of manufacturer, you can gets some seriously good audio and video performance for a relatively small outlay. A case in point is LG's new BP730 Blu-ray player, which packs in the kind of features that could only be dreamt of a few years ago. It plays Blu-rays, of course, both the 2D and 3D variety, as well as DVD and CD but that's just the start. The BP730 also comes with built-in WiFi, DLNA certified networking, extensive media file support, Near Field Communication (NFC) and Miracast. If that wasn't enough, you also get LG's Smart TV platform included, along with a remote app, a Private Sound feature and Ultra HD upscaling. All that is wrapped up in an attractively slim-line player that can be picked up for less than £150, which seems like great value for money. Let's see if the BP730 delivers on its early promise.
Styling/Build/ConnectivityThe BP730 is a great example of modern design, combining a sleek slim-line chassis with a clean and uncluttered facia. There is a two-tier, two-tone effect evident in the design, with the top half composed of a brushed metal section and the lower part using a gloss black finish. Between the two is a recessed section that hides the disc loading slot, although there is a handy little pointer on the left hand side to show you where to actually insert the disc. We aren't huge fans of slot loaders, always concerned it might scratch our discs, but the BP730 had no issues with inserting and ejecting discs.
The top lip of the lower section has some basic touch sensitive controls - on/off, play/pause, stop, skip and eject - on the right hand side, along with a hidden USB port. Also to the right of the bottom section is a well designed and informative display that can be dimmed. That's it for the design - a classic example of elegance and simplicity. Whilst the player is slim in terms of height and depth, it's nice to see a full width BD player in our equipment rack for a change. The build quality is also very good, especially for a player at this price point, but the disc mechanism could have been quieter, with loading and navigation being a bit noisy.
As is becoming increasingly common with new Blu-ray players there are the bare minimum of connections at the rear, with a single HDMI output, an optical digital output and an Ethernet port.
LG has been making great strides with their magic motion remotes and this year seem to have cracked it; the version included with their TVs is proving to be a particular game changer. The BP730 includes a similar pointer style remote, fashioned in gloss black plastic that is extremely comfortable to hold. The main navigation buttons are on the remote but the others are all on a bar that appears at the bottom of screen when you press the Menu button. Whilst using the remote wasn't quite the revelatory experience it was with LG's new TVs, we did find that after a period of adjustment we could use this remote just as quickly as more traditional ones and the pointer itself was quite accurate and responsive. It also makes navigating the smart features an easy and pleasurable experience, so we found ourselves really warming to the provided magic remote.
Setup and MenusAs with previous years, the LG user interface remains a perfect example of a well designed and informative menu system. As such it's a pleasure to navigate, with everything centred around the Home screen. Here you'll find options for SmartShare, Premium, LG Smart World, My Apps and Settings. We cover the majority of these options in the features section, so here we'll concentrate on the Settings menu.
The Language submenu obviously allows you to choose the languages for the Display Menu and the Disc's Menu, Audio and Subtitles. The Audio submenu includes Digital Output, which can be sent as PCM Stereo, PCM Multi-Channel, Bitstream or you can allow the player to re-encode to DTS from HD audio for those without capable receivers. There are three other options, the Sampling Frequency with choices of 48, 96 and 192Khz, the option to engage DRC (Dynamic Range Control) for more restrained listening and the option to turn DTS Neo:6 on and off.
The Lock submenu allows you to set a Password, DVD Rating, Blu-ray Disc Rating and Area Code. Finally the Others submenu allows you to setup the Pointer, DivX VoD service, turn Quick Start and Auto Power on or off, Initialise the setup and update the software.
There is also a button called Option, which shows you disc information such as chapters, titles, running time and time elapsed, audio chosen and any subtitles or angles chosen. There is the option to change the aspect ratio, select the user settings and access information about the movie from the Gracenote database.
FeaturesAs is is the case with all manufacturers, LG Blu-ray players aren’t endowed with quite the same level of Smart features as found on their current TV lineup but what is there remains quite impressive. As mentioned previously, the BP730 has a Home screen where you can access an number of different options - SmartShare, Premium, LG Smart World and My Apps.
If you select Premium you can access LG's excellent Smart TV internet portal, where you'll find an interesting selection of apps which are all very nicely presented in LG’s card style format. Among the pre-loaded apps available are BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Acetrax, Netflix, Dailymotion, Picasa, Cinetrailer, Viewster and LOVEFiLM. However you can also download more apps from the LG Smart World section, which you can then save and access in the My Apps section.
The LG Smart World section includes all of the apps available for LG's platform and they are grouped according to genre (Game, Entertainment, Life, Education and News/Info) or by certain categories (Hot, Top Paid, Top Free and New). It's good to see that LG's Blu-ray players now offer their 3D video streaming service, which increases the amount of 3D content available to the user. The BP730 includes an Ethernet port, built-in WiFi, WiFi Direct, a USB port and also compatibility with external HDD playback. The BP730 is also DLNA certified, so it has extensive networking, connection and sharing capabilities - all of which can be accessed from SmartShare. The BP730 supports an extensive list of files including MKV, DIVX, WMV HD, AVI, MPEG, AVCHD, XVID, MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC and FLAC, which seemed to hold true whether streamed or via USB. We tried out our new DivX Media Test Kit and the BP730 passed with flying colours.
Along with built-in WiFi and WiFi Direct (WiDi), the BP730 also includes Near Field Communication and Miracast, which allows easy connection with your mobile device and screen mirroring, allowing you to share videos, music and photos from your mobile device on your TV screen. Whether you are listening to music from a CD, USB drive or over your network, the BP730 can identify your tracks using the Gracenote database. There's also LG's Sound Gallery where you can choose from seven different sound genres and their Private Sound feature, which allows you to send sound from your TV to your mobile devices via WiFi, allowing you to listen to the TV through the headphones of your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Speaking of smartphones and tablets, there is also the latest version of LG's remote app, which is freely available for both iOS and Android. The app is well designed, attractive and easy to use, with a navigation controller, a touch pad, a QWERTY keyboard, content info and various settings. We found that the app worked very well and whilst not quite as interactive as some of competition, it does provide a viable alternative to the provided remote.
3D and 1080p PlaybackAs is always the case, every player should be able to output the content on the a Blu-ray disc equally as well over HDMI because it is a digital signal. The same is equally true with digital audio and since the BP730 is essentially a digital transport with no analogue options, we would expect a flawless performance with both audio and video. As a result the overall 3D performance of the BP730 was excellent with the all the content we tried playing flawlessly. With recent purchases like Oz the Great and Powerful, Texas Chainsaw and Bait we encountered no firmware issues, added crosstalk or any other unwanted artefacts affecting picture quality.
As with the 3D performance, the digital nature of the content means that any Blu-ray player capable of outputting 1080p24 should essentially be identical to any other when using the HDMI output. That is of course as long as the manufacturers don't mess with the output by adding picture mode options rather than just maintaining the integrity of the output on their players. Thankfully, in the Standard Picture Mode, the BP730 showed no signs of unwanted manipulation, as did the User mode. However the Movie and Vivid modes need to be avoided – Vivid over-emphasises the colour palette and clips detail near white, whilst the Movie mode does the opposite. In the Standard mode the BP730 output the video without any issues, all the Blu-rays we watched showed plenty of fine detail and appeared free from any undue judder.
1080i PlaybackAs ever it’s with interlaced and standard definition content where the video processing on a player can begin to make a difference and here the BP730 did an excellent job. The ability of the player to detect film content inside an interlaced signal and correctly deinterlace it is important and, as we have come to expect from LG, their proprietary video processing is exceptionally good. The BP730 passed all the popular cadence tests on Blu-ray discs and also performed well with the deinterlacing tests, avoiding aliasing and keeping edges smooth. The BP730 also had no problems with the video resolution loss test, correctly processing the moving portion of the image and leaving the background free of artefacts. The LG player was also able to handle discs with film content that is encoded at 1080i/50Hz without any problems.
480i/576i PlaybackAs with the 1080i content the BP730 benefits from LG's excellent video processing when dealing with standard definition content. The player was able to fully reproduce the SMPTE 133 resolution test, correctly scaling the full 576i/50Hz images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. Video deinterlacing performance was also excellent and the BP730’s performance was equally impressive with the film detail test, correctly locking on to the image resulting in no aliasing in the speedway seats behind the race car. In the cadence tests the LG also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the most common types 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European). The BP420 also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, the text was always clearly readable without any shredding.
Of course it’s all very well a player passing a selection of test material but the proof of the pudding, as always, is in the eating - so we tried the BP730 out on some real world material. Whilst we watch less and less standard definition content these days and rarely buy DVDs, we do still have an extensive collection of old favourites. These include a number of TV shows and obscure movies, yet to take a bow on high def disc. As a result the BP730 allowed us to enjoy our box set of From the Earth to the Moon and Sam Raimi's largely forgotten For Love of the Game all over again. The images the player produced were excellent, with the video processing teasing every last detail out of the ageing DVD format.
Disc Load TimesLG seemed to have improved the boot up and especially the load times since last year and the BP730 performed well in these tests. It took 8 seconds to get to the Home screen when turned on and this could be reduced to 3 seconds in Quick Start mode. The player uses more energy in standby when it Quick Start mode, so it really depends on how important those extra 5 seconds are. In terms of disc loading speeds, it took 10 seconds to get to the menu screen on a DVD and 15 seconds to get to the copyright page on a Blu-ray disc. Of course, once you get to the copyright page on a BD, how long it takes after that will largely depend on the studio.
- Standby (Quick Start Off): 0W
- Standby (Quick Start On): 3W
- Idle: 9W
- Playing a disc: 10W
- Flawless Blu-ray playback
- Excellent video processing
- Impressive build quality
- Extensive feature set
- Well designed menu system
- Attractive styling and design
- Could be quieter in operation
LG BP730 Smart 3D Blu-ray Player Review
The BP730 certainly has the looks, thanks to a slim-line design that incorporates a two-tone construction with brushed metal on top and gloss black at the bottom. There is a central recess where the disc slot is hidden and there's also some touch sensitive controls and a useful display. At the rear is a very basic set of connections, with just a HDMI output, an optical audio output and an Ethernet port. There's also built-in WiFi, WiDi and a USB ports hidden behind a cover on the front facia. It takes a while to become familiar with the provided pointer remote but once you have it largely pays dividends, especially when navigating the smart features. The menu system is well design, informative and intuitive to navigate, whilst setup is very straightforward.
There is a Home screen from where you can access the impressive selection of smart features. These include numerous apps, video-on-demand services and other premium content, along with the NFC and Miracast features. There is extensive file support, along with DLNA certified networking capabilities and the remote app is excellent, providing a handy alternative to the provided controller. The all-digital nature of the outputs means the BP730 is effectively a digital transport and thus is flawless in its delivery of both audio and video from 2D and 3D Blu-rays. The video processing is excellent, as we have come to expect from LG, and as a result even DVDs can can look great. The BP730 is another great disc-spinner from LG, combining elegant slim-line design with superb performance and packing in a host of cutting-edge features.
Ease Of Use9
Value For Money7
Our Review Ethos
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