Toshiba's smart little player comes under scrutiny
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The Blu-ray market is so fiercely competitive that our receiving of a player that provides built-in WiFi, internet and streaming, widely available at a price-point sub £100, no longer raises much of a surprise. Still, at around £80, the Toshiba BDX3400 is definitely in the entry level category and promises a neat all-in-one solution provided it’s up to the mark. Toshiba has a fine record of producing capable players that won’t leave a significant dent in your bank account, let’s see if they can do it again.
The Toshiba BDX3400 is very compact and its 3cm x 29cm x 18cm (H/W/D) dimensions should see it fitting in even the more cramped setups out there. Being styled exclusively in black means its unobtrusive, too, but the bright green power indicator light to the front is potentially distracting and we would have liked the option to dim it in in the settings menu but unfortunately it’s not possible. Given the price-tag the relatively budget feel to the construction is hardly surprising and don’t be expecting any visual display feedback as there is none. The budget nature of the BDX3400 is also betrayed by the tray-loading disc mechanism which is a bit whiney and clicky in operation; stick it in the cabinet and you’ll never hear it but if it’s on show, it’s fairly audible from around 8 feet away.
The BDX3400 is hardly awash with connectivity options and prospective owners will need to consider what their existing kit requires. There’s no optical audio out (just coaxial), for example. As well as the coax audio output, to the rear we have a solitary HDMI port and a LAN connection although there’s Wi-Fi built-in too. A little note on that: when connecting wirelessly to our home network, the 3400 couldn’t see the SSID broadcast so we had to enter the details manually, after which it worked just fine from the next room but moving it upstairs meant a very unstable wireless connection. Finally, on the right side is a USB port for flash drives, both for BD-Live and media playback duties.
The remote control provided is perfectly serviceable and not too small, something that’s irked us with Toshiba players in the past. There’s all the transport buttons in the middle as well as strategically placed controls for ‘Home’ (there’s two of those, for some reason), ‘Exit’ and a shortcut to the Settings menu too, which is good to see. It’s a touch lightweight but more than fine for purpose.
Menus and Set Up
Following a brief wizard on initial set up, we were presented with an all new interface (GUI) which has a ‘skyscape’ look to it. The Home screen from where you can access just about everything does take a while to load but once it’s up and running, it’s mostly snappy enough but there’s a general sluggishness to most operations and you’re quite often left wondering if the box has recognised the infra-red signal of the remote. The Main menu screen features a rolling set of selections that include Portal (home screen), Setting[s], Photo, Video, Music and Miracast (see later on) although, as we said, they’re all accessible from the Home Screen in any case.
We’ll look at the smart functions later in the review and here we’ll take a whistle-stop tour of the Setting menu. Form here there’s access to eight further sub-menus - Playback, Display, Audio, System, Network, Language, Security and Information. The System items include such options as setting discs to auto-play on loading, a Screen Saver and whether to engage HDMI CEC that enables control of compatible devices through the Toshiba remote control. This, whilst sounding good, generally leads to more bother than it’s worth. The Language option is self-explanatory as are Security and Network, whilst the Playback options include settings for PIP (Picture in Picture), Angle Mark – allowing enabled discs to be viewed from alternate viewpoints – and Last Memory, which will resume play from the last played point when enabled although only some Blu-ray discs support the feature.
The Display Setting Menu is home to all of the key video settings and has options for TV Screen , i.e. aspect ratio, Resolution, Colour Space, HDMI Deep Colour and HDMI 1080p/24. We can’t tell you which Colour Space is optimum for your display without testing but YCbCr will be a safe option for the majority. Anyone that is concerned over those choices is likely to possess the knowledge to assess them, in any case. We’d certainly advise ensuring 1080p24 is set to On, if your display supports it, and a 16:9 Normal setting for screen size wont stretch 4:3 content. Below, there’s a further collection of settings from Video Adjust as well as a Sharpness setting ranging from Low to High. The Video Adjust settings comprise the usual television front panel controls of Brightness and Contrast in addition to Hue and Saturation. The Saturation control works like the Colour controls found in TVs and it’s certainly nice to have the option to fine tune these picture options where they can’t quite be done display side.
The Audio Setting Menu allows the user control over the sound output over the Coax and HDMI connections with choices of PCM, Bitstream and Re-encode. The Down_samp item is a little mislabelled and allows for sampling frequencies of 48, 96, and 192 kHz. The final item, DolbyDRC (Dynamic Range Control) will soften effects whilst keeping dialogue clear, if you’re sensitive about waking up the family and/or neighbours. We’ll leave that one for your conscience to decide. The Information sub-menu, will display current software version as well as the mac address ascribed for those that have made use of the LAN connection.
The symbolism of the Portal home page is clear – it’s all in the cloud(s). It looks as though some features are being built as we speak and there’s no doubt upgrades on the way as only the Toshiba, Settings and Your City icons are currently selectable but everything seems to be working well. The concentration is on Video-on-Demand services with BBC iPlayer, Netflix, BBC News and YouTube featuring prominently on the home page. There’s also an icon for acetrax movies but since they closed for business shortly before this review was written, it’s now superfluous. Toshiba tell us that when the Settings icon is accessible, it will be possible to move and delete unwanted apps when required and when the Toshiba icon is awakened, there will be more apps available to download from Toshiba’s marketplace.
One of the headlining features of the BDX3400 is Miracast which is basically Android’s answer to Apple’s airplay and is getting increasing support from tablet and smartphone manufacturers. Miracast allows for device to device streaming of music, photos and video files without need to direct through a router and you’ll need a tablet or smartphone running Android 4.2 or later for it to work. We do have such a device but unfortunately it doesn’t have dual wirleless capability which is needed for a decent user experience so we were unable to check out well it works.
We also struggled to get the BDX3400 streaming via DLNA from our Windows 7 PC for any of Photos, Music or Video working, despite the fact it could see and access it and seemed to be connecting to Windows Media Player playlists but there were no files showing up. Support over USB was much better and the BDX3400 had very good all-round support for MKV video files, playing back 6 out of 8 of the test files from the matroska.org suite although, ironically, it wouldn’t playback the video stream for Number 1 which is the most basic type. As expected ‘simple’ video files like MP4 were flawless and the BDX3400 supports MP3 and JPEG variants for music and photos, respectively.
How pleased we were to note that Toshiba has done away with providing unnecessary picture modes in the BDX3400. It really shouldn’t be necessary to mess with the signal from the disc and adjustments like that are best made display side. There are some adjustments possible for Brightness, Contrast, Hue and Saturation available in the Menus, however, but that’s no bad thing as they can sometimes help if you can’t quite get things perfect with the TVs controls. At default settings, the BDX3400 put no taint nor added backdoor processing to 1080p24 encoded material which is what the vast majority of Blu-ray discs carry, and pictures looked suitably pristine on our calibrated display.
Checking with the excellent Spears and Munsil disc we were pleased to see the BDX3400 was producing full luma and chroma resolution, meaning the output won’t be losing any fine details. Your display might not be so capable, however, but at least you’ll know not to blame the player.
Bearing in mind the results we got from last year’s Toshiba Blu-ray player line-up we were also delighted that processing with interlaced signals has been greatly improved with no noticeable jaggies on the Spears and Munsil interpolation tests. Other areas of HD interlaced playback showed no major problems, either, including cadence detection of both the most common 2:2 (PAL) and 2:3 (NTSC) cadences but there was just a bit of moire with the 2:2 test when viewing the very demanding wedge test pattern. In actual real world testing, we couldn’t really spot any problems in all honesty.
There’s not much DVD action around these parts any more but there’s good news for those that still have a large collection with the BDX3400. As with 1080i signals, there was a little bit of moire when displaying film based material in a 576i source but it was extremely rare. Scaling of standard definition sources was excellent, however, with all details resolved without any signs of ringing or other video nasties
Disc Load Times
The BDX3400KB is by no means the quickest loading player we’ve tested in 2013 – the likes of Samsung’s BD-F7500 have been exceptionally fast but the Toshiba typically reached copyright warnings at around the 30 second mark but only where there were large amounts of BD Live content did we find load times frustrating. Users can select to disable BD Live in the menus for a small speed boost, which we would recommend.
- Standby: 0W
- Idle: 5.6W
- Playing a disc: 6.4W
- Excellent Blu-ray playback
- Built-in WiFi
- Competitive price
- Some good VoD services
- Nice scaling of SD
- Build quality feels low
- Can be whiny in operation
- Smart features are sparse
- Feels unresponsive at times
Toshiba BDX3400 (BDX3400KB) Smart Blu-ray Player Review
The Toshiba BDX3400 is a compact little unit and, to keep the costs down, comes in a lightweight shell that does nothing to dampen the sometimes noisy operation of the disc mechanism. As we’re seeing increasingly, connectivity options are stripped right back with just an HDMI out for video and a coaxial digital audio output to sit alongside the LAN, Wi-Fi and USB options. The remote is well set out but, again, fairly insubstantial in terms of weight. Toshiba has given their user interface a ‘cloud’ makeover which is quite attractive and extends to the Menu system which is thankfully bereft of confusing and unnecessary picture modes.
The aforementioned Wi-Fi connectivity opens up Toshiba’s online portal to a wider audience although it’s still clearly under construction, at this time, with some of the options currently unavailable. As it is, the focus at present is on video-on-demand services with BBC iPlayer, Netflix, BBC News and YouTube featuring prominently on the home page. Media streaming via DLNA proved to be very problematic, however, although it was much better over USB. There’s still some way to go before Toshiba is really competing with the likes of Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Sony, in particular, in the battle to be the smartest but many of the key things are there and the addition of Miracast will stand the BDX3400 in good stead going forwards.
In terms of fulfilling its primary purpose of replaying Blu-ray discs, we couldn’t fault the 3400 and its ancillary duties as a DVD player were also carried out with some aplomb, although there were one or two instances where the lack of totally robust cadenced detection would see it falter. We’ve seen speedier and snappier Blu-ray players both in terms of load times and menu navigation but since the current going price seems to have settled at around £80 we’ll not be too critical of that. You wouldn’t expect the latest processor on board for that kind of money. Not just yet, anyhow.
It might not be the smartest, fastest, prettiest or best built but the Toshiba BDX3400 fulfils its core duties with competence at a very competitive price-point. Definitely worth checking out for those on a budget but if Smart features are a concern you’re probably best looking elsewhere.
Ease Of Use5
Value For Money6
Our Review Ethos
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