Despite its rather stylish looks, the BDP-150 is Pioneer’s budget 3D Player and that’s reflected in the relatively small number of connectivity options on the back plate. There’s a single HDMI port, stereo and coaxial digital audio outputs (no S/PDIF), a LAN port and USB input. There’s also a USB port on the front but we’d imagine anyone interested in getting the BDP-150 hooked up to their wireless network by purchasing the AS-WL300 add-on will probably prefer to use the rear connection.
Menus and Set Up
The Display Setting Menu allows you to set your TV Screen ratio and we’d advise 16:9 Normal to ensure any of your 4:3 content is displayed uncropped. Then we have Video Adjust that leads the user to another screen where Brightness, Contrast, Hue and Saturation sliders can be set. We’re hoping that the BDP-150-K passes the signal untouched to the display in at least one of the available Video Modes; choices are Standard, Vivid, Cinema and Custom but it would have just been better if there was a singular picture mode to avoid confusion. There is an additional video adjustment available when the Custom Video Mode is chosen – CTI (Colour Transient Improvement) that performs upsampling of the colour information on the disc but that can only be set effectively per display as interactions between them and attached players will vary. We’ll be measuring the effects of each Video Mode later in the review but as the default is Standard, it’s important that it is the purest of the lot. Other settings in this area are Sharpness and Noise Reduction that are best left at their lowest points for the reasons just alluded to.
The Audio Setting Menu allows the user control over the sound output over the coaial and HDMI connections with choices of PCM, Bitstream and Re-encode. The Downsampling item is a little mislabelled and allows for sampling frequencies of 48, 96, and 192 kHz. The final item, DRC (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 HDMI sub-menu contains options for both Audio and Video matters. One is able to select a Colour Space from choices of RGB, YCbCr, YCbCr422 and Full RGB and we’d suggest the default YCbCr422 setting as safest for anyone other than those hooking up the BDP-150-K to a PC. Again there is a degree of inter device dependency as to what will work best for you. Available from the Resolution option are Auto, 480i/576i, 480p/576p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Auto will be safe for most but otherwise set accordingly to match your displays’ native resolution. Next down is HDMI Audio Out with choices of Bitstream, PCM, Reencode or Off.
We’ll leave that down to you and your Amp or Receiver to decide but it’s always good to see the DTS reencode option for those with amps that don’t support HD Audio Codecs. Control is simply the choice of switching On or Off HDMI CEC for compatible attached devices and there’s very little application for the item below, HDMI Deep Colour so it can happily be left off. Next up (actually down) is the choice to send Blu-ray at it’s native frame rate of 24p and we’d of course advise this to be engaged in the on position, provided you have a compatible display. HDMI 3D does exactly what you’d expect, it can be left at Auto which will mean 3D is displayed when a 3D capable display is detected or it cam be switched off. Finally, there’s the choice of whether to show the health warning before 3D material is played and we switched that off, just because it becomes a nuisance after a while.
Media playback from both USB and over a network was also very strong and we threw a series of video formats at the BDP-150-K without it skipping a beat and although .mkv containers aren’t officially listed as being supported, it had no trouble with any of our test materials. Audio file support for the media player is restricted to MP3 and WMA but the BDP-150 supports all the audio formats needed from optical media - Dolby Digital +, Dolby TrueHD, DTS Digital, DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio. Online content is restricted to YouTube, Netflix and Picassa but each functioned flawlessly and subscribers to Netflix will welcome the dedicated button on the remote that takes you to the service directly.
3D & 1080p Playback
The Video Mode settings have no influence over the 3D output but they do on the 2D. As we hoped for, the Standard Mode provided a ‘clean’ signal with no tampering on colours, greyscale and picture luminance (gamma). The same can be said of the Custom mode and that may be worth using if your display tends to show up posterisation (banding) effects as the CTI control was quite effective in upping the colour resolution. We can’t tell you all the permutations but you videophiles out there will know how to check. Both the Cinema and Vivid Modes are best avoided; the Cinema mode is way too dim and Vivid is, frankly, unspeakable.
For some more ‘real world viewing’ we tried both the 2D and 3D versions of Rio which whilst perhaps not being the most inspiring of stories, does present an absolutely excellent AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1 and it looked splendid and faithful to the encode. Turning to some more adult fare, running through some of our more usual test material - The Dark Knight, Boardwalk Empire and The Bourne Trilogy and we were suitably impressed by the BDP-150’s faithful presentation of the discs’ excellent encodes. For some more 3D testing, we went back to the excellent Titanic conversion and the now almost worn out Avatar and, again, we sensed no added crosstalk or unexpected surprises.
Disc Load Times
- Standby: 0.0W
- Full screen 50% white pattern: 5.1W
- Plays 3D and 2D Blu-ray beautifully
- Scales DVD excellently
- Very quiet during operation
- Fantastic video processing
- Stylish looks
- Not as many smart features as some of the competition
Pioneer BDP-150 Blu-ray Player Review
Despite its fairly plain appearance and entry-level status, there’s something we found quite beguiling about the BDP-150-K’s design and it certainly appears more high-end than it actually is. The fact that the unit is ultra-quiet in operation is also another major plus. Connectivity options are fairly limited, however, so there’s just the one HDMI port and no S/PDIF digital audio output although there is a coaxial connection.
The menu systems are attractive and responsive to command but we wish there weren't confusing viewing mode options. The signal is left intact at the default, Standard, setting however so they should just have left it at that. There’s nothing like the number of smart features present on the BDP-150 as we see from the likes of Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic but what is there works; the media player handles a range of video files just great; the mobile app is silky smooth and the implementations of Netflix, Picassa and YouTube are all you could wish for.
As hoped and expected, at default settings, the Pioneer added none of its own influence to 1080p Blu-ray discs. We checked with both our Klein K-10 with patterns as well as real world reference material and found near identical output to a range of other reliable Blu-ray players we own. The same was equally true for 3D Blu-ray discs but where the processing gets to really shine – with interlaced and standard definition content – the BDP-150-K was also hugely impressive with excellent scaling, cadence detection and deinterlacing capabilities.
If you can pick the Pioneer BDP-150-K up for around £100, you really can’t go wrong. It’s nicely engineered, speedy and hushed in operation and fully capable of playing your Blu-rays, whether 2D or 3D, with precision. What’s more, it will give those old DVD’s a whole new lease of life thanks to its fantastic handling of standard definition content. Highly Recommended
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