Pioneer's new BDP-160 combines value and class
IntroductionPioneer have been producing excellent Blu-ray players for a number of years, with the emphasis firmly on performance and value rather than excessive styling or extensive smart features. Their latest player, the BDP-160, continues that trend by sporting a classic black chassis and including SACD playback. However it also includes built-in WiFi, something that was missing from last year's models, along with Pioneer's remote app. At a mere £129 it's clearly aimed a the budget end of the market but can it deliver a level of performance that defies its price tag? Let's find out...
Styling/Build/ConnectivityThe BDP-160 uses the same basic styling as Pioneer's previous models, with a brushed black metal chassis and a minimalist front. There's a central disc tray with an informative display beneath, a power button on the far left, a play button on the far right, along with a stop button, an eject button and a USB port. The chassis is a decent size, measuring 435 x 90 x 252mm and weighing in at just under 3kg, which makes a nice change. With some players these days looking more like high-end coffee makers, it's good to see a player that actually looks like a piece of AV kit. The build quality is very good for a budget player, and whilst the disc tray and laser mechanism are a little noisy when loading and navigating a disc, they're suitably quiet during playback.
At the rear, the BDP-160 has a single HDMI output, along with a digital coaxial output, stereo analogue outputs, an Ethernet port and a second USB input. Pioneer hasdropped the composite video output from last year's models, which is no great loss, but they have added built-in WiFi. This is good news as its absence was one of our only complaints about the previous line-up.
The remote control is a plain black plastic affair that's comfortable to hold and sensibly laid out. All the main controls are available, with the navigation keys centrally located and the play/pause/stop/skip buttons just above. There are also all the usual buttons you would expect to find on a Blu-ray remote control, along with a button for selecting the layers on a SACD and even a dedicated button for YouTube. There also a button for dimming the front display, although it can't be turned off completely.
Setup and MenusThe BDP-160 uses the same menu design that we have seen on Pioneer's previous Blu-ray players, with a faux brushed metal effect. The menus are clear and simple, with sensibly designed pages and whilst not as flashy as some of the competition, they get the job done. The menu system is centralised around the Home Menu page, which gives you access to the Home Media Gallery, the Web Contents and the Initial Setup. We'll cover the first two in the Features section, so here we'll concentrate on setup.
Within Initial Setup there are the Display Settings, which include TV Screen, Video Adjust and Noise Reduction. Then there's the Audio Output settings and here you can select the Digital Output, Downmix, Downsampling and DRC (Dynamic Range Control).
Next up we have the HDMI page, which contains all the video and audio settings for the HDMI outputs, here you can choose the Colour Space, the Resolution, HDMI Audio Out, the Control option for HDMI CEC compatible devices, HDMI Deep Colour, HDMI 1080p 24Hz, the HDMI 3D settings and finally, whether or not you want to see the 3D health warning.
The next page relates to Network, where you can check the settings, run a connection test, enable the internet connection, permit BD-Live and enable DLNA. Then there is the page for Languages, where you set all the correct languages, Playback where you can set things like angle, secondary audio, disc auto playback, last memory etc. and Security where you set the disc age limits. Finally there is a page called Options, where you set things like the screen saver, quick start and updates.
FeaturesAs far as smart features go the BDP-160 is fairly limited, especially when compared to much of the competition. In terms of its internet platform, all you have is YouTube and Picasa, which are accessed via the Web Contents page in the Home Menu. The BDP-160 is also DLNA certified and worked well in our testing, supporting the majority of media and file formats including MP3, WMA, LPCM, FLAC, JPEG, DivX, MPEG, WMV, AVI and AVCHD files. All these audio, video and picture files can be accessed via your home network, discs or USB drives.
The BDP-160 is compatible with Pioneer's iControlAV2013 remote app and as well as controlling their Blu-ray players, it also doubles as a controller for their receivers. We tried both the iOS and Android versions and found them both to be attractive and well-designed apps that worked very well.
1080p & 3D PlaybackThe BDP-160 should be able to output the digital content on a Blu-ray exactly as it's encoded on the disc and that's what it did, delivering a flawless performance. When it came to 3D Blu-rays the images were free of any artefacts or other issues with excellent rendering of the 3D encoded on all the discs we tried. They all played first time, with no hand shaking problems or other unexpected issues. The same was true of 2D 1080p/24 discs, with the BDP-160 outputting the digital content from the disc perfectly. Of course, although any correctly setup Blu-ray player should be identical to any other player over HDMI, that's assuming it isn't doing anything it shouldn't. To ensure that the BDP-160 isn't interfering with the digital signal, we found it best to use the User video adjust mode and leave the picture controls at zero.
1080i PlaybackWhilst there is no real opportunity for the player to add value when it comes to playing back 1080p/24, that is not the case with 1080i content and here the video processing can make a difference. The ability of the player to detect film content inside the interlaced signal and correctly deinterlace it without introducing artefacts is dependent on the quality of the processing in the player itself. The BDP-160 passed every single cadence and deinterlacing test on both the Spear & Munsil and HQV Blu-rays. It also had no problems with the video resolution loss test and was able to handle discs with film content that's encoded at 1080i/50Hz without any problems. Whilst there isn’t a great deal of 1080i content on Blu-ray it's good to know that the BDP-160 was capable of such an excellent performance and if you do have any 1080i content the player will be able to output it perfectly.
480i/576i PlaybackThanks to some excellent video processing, the BDP-160's performance with both NTSC and PAL content was excellent, being able to fully reproduce the SMPTE colour bar tests and correctly scaling the images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. With the video deinterlacing tests the results were also excellent and the BDP-160 had no problems with the film detail test, correctly locking onto the image and in the cadence tests it also performed extremely well, correctly detecting the most common types 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European). The BDP-160 also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, the text was always clearly readable without any shredding. Overall this was a great performance from the BDP-160, meaning regardless of whether the content high definition or standard definition, the results will be excellent.
Subjective Audio TestsThe BDP-160 primarily designed to be used as a digital transport and over HDMI the digital audio signals should be the same regardless of the player. Therefore the audio quality will be dictated by the digital to analogue conversion, which will be performed by your receiver or audio processor rather than the player itself. We tried a number of different audio formats on the BDP-160, including multichannel PCM, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA soundtracks from Blu-rays and Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks from DVDs. We also listened to the multichannel audio from SACDs and two channel audio from SACDs and CDs. The BDP-160 proved to be a very capable digital transport and whether it was DTS-HD Master Audio or a stereo CD the audio it delivered sounded excellent. The BDP-160 was also able to detect all the different discs and audio formats without any problems and played each one back flawlessly. The player also includes stereo analogue outputs and a 192kHz/12-bit digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) and whilst the performance was perfectly good, we suggest the BDP-160 is more effective as a digital transport.
Disc Load TimesThe BDP-160 was a little slow to power up, taking 14 seconds to get to the 'No Disc' message but thanks to the Quick Start feature, you could get this down to 6 seconds. However this mode does use more power in standby. The time taken to load Blu-rays depends largely on the studio but the BDP-160 was certainly consistent with much of the competition at around 25 seconds. When it came to CDs, DVDs and SACDs the BDP-160 was much quicker, taking less than 15 seconds. Once a disc was loaded, we found navigation and playback to be a little slow and unresponsive at times but at least the player was reasonably quiet in operation.
- Standby (Normal): 0W
- Standby (Quick Start): 7W
- On but idle: 8W
- Playing a disc: 9W
- Impressive audio and video
- Excellent video processing
- Stylish and elegant design
- Decent build quality
- Quiet during operation
- Well designed menu system
- Navigation could be more responsive
- Limited smart features
Pioneer BDP-160 3D Blu-ray Player Review
The Pioneer BDP-160 uses the classic black finish and brushed metal styling found on their other Blu-ray players and we definitely prefer it to somer of the more inventive designs we've seen lately. The layout is minimalist but effective, with a central disc tray, an informative display, some basic buttons and a USB port. There's a second USB port at the rear, along with an HDMI output, a digital coaxial out, stereo analogue outputs and an Ethernet port. The build quality is very good for a budget player, the chassis is full size which makes a nice change and there is built-in WiFi. The remote control is a simple black plastic affair but it gets the job done and the BDP-160 is compatible with Pioneer's latest remote app, which is excellent.
The menu is clear and concise, without being unnecessarily flashy, and setup was easy. The smart features are rather limited, with only YouTube and Picasa being available. However the file support is excellent and the BDP-160 should be able to handle just about anything you throw at it. The boot-up time was a bit slow but this could be improved by using the quick start mode, although this did increase the power consumption in standby. The load up times for discs were about the same as the competition and whilst the navigation response could be a little slow, player was quiet during playback and only used 9W.
The video and audio performance of the BDP-160 was excellent and with Blu-rays it delivered the digital signals over HDMI flawlessly. The video processing was also very impressive, resulting in excellent DVD playback. The BDP-160 handled all the audio formats we tried with ease and its playback of CD and SACD over digital was excellent. There is also the option to use the onboard DAC and the stereo analogue outputs but in general we'd recommend using the player as a digital transport. Overall the Pioneer BDP-160 was an excellent budget Blu-ray player that proves you don't have to sacrifice looks and performance, even as you reduce the cost.
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
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