Pioneer BDP-150 Blu-ray Player Review

Pioneer returns in style with a budget 3D Blu-ray Player

by hodg100
Home AV Review

26

Highly Recommended
Pioneer BDP-150 Blu-ray Player Review
SRP: £179.00

Introduction

Believe it or not, it’s been over 3 years since we last had the opportunity to put a Pioneer Blu-ray player through its paces so it’s a welcome return to an old friend. Since the BDP-LX52 was tested, 3D support has become almost the norm for a Blu-ray player and the market is hugely competitive with a fair few sub £100 machines capable of price defying performance. The suggested retail price of the BDP-150-K is north of that but it is fairly easily available online for around that mark. It’s been a long wait, was it worth it?

Styling/Build/Connectivity

It’s difficult to get excited about yet another black box but there’s something about the BDP-150 that is very appealing. Perhaps it’s the flush-centre placed disc tray that emerges rapidly and quietly at the touch of a button; it could be the textured buttons on either side of the facia for Power and Play or maybe it’s just the fact the gold Pioneer Logo is present top left. Whatever it is, it works and lends the BDP-150-K a certain desirability when viewed in the flesh. As well as the disc tray popping out very quietly, it was also near silent when spinning one and certainly amongst the 3D players available for less than £100 we’ve tested, the BDP-150 stands out for the inaudibility with which it goes about its business. The supplied remote control doesn’t look or feel quite so classy but it has been planned with care, very lightweight and features a nice groove on the rear in which to place your index finger.

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.

Pioneer BDP-150

Menus and Set Up

We really liked the menus of the Pioneer BDP-150-K, they have a nice brushed effect and are very snappy to navigate through. From the Home Menu there are three items available, Home Media Gallery, Web Contents and Initial Setup. We’ll leave the first two for later but let’s take a quick trip through some of the important settings found in the initial Setup menus. There are quite a number of sub-menus contained in the Initial Setup Screen - Display Setting, Audio Output, HDMI, Network, Language, Playback, Setup Navigator, Security and Options but we’ll concentrate our efforts on the top few as these will have the most direct impact on your audio visual experience.

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.

Pioneer BDP-150
Pioneer BDP-150

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.

Features

Pioneer certainly don’t have the largest portfolio of online widgets but those features which are present are very solid and excellently implemented. We began by installing the Pioneer Control app which works with iPod touch, iPhone and Android devices and it works very well indeed, allowing a full facsimile of the handset on your mobile device. Through our wired connection we could detect almost nothing in the way of latency and it’s a genuine alternative to the supplied remote with the added bonus of touch-screen control.

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.

Pioneer BDP-150
Pioneer BDP-150

3D & 1080p Playback

We encountered no issues with 3D playback, once we’d ensured the screen size setting in the 3D menu matched that of the display. We viewed a couple of 3D Blu-rays – Monster House and Grand Canyon Adventures – through a resident 3D panel and we came across no unpleasant artefacting. We also tried some excellent ‘reference 3D Clips’ from a couple of test discs and the material was presented with the appropriate amount of depth and pop-out, where necessary. A quick look at a 3D resolution test showed there was nothing diminished from the original source with all fine details present and we could sense no increase in crosstalk that wasn’t already part of the display’s native output.

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.

1080i Playback

If it’s usual for 1080p24 Blu-ray discs to appear, as near as damnit, identical between players it’s the processing of standard definition and interlaced signals that usually set them apart from one another. Budget player this might be but the BDP-150-K shows why Pioneer has such a great reputation for video processing with outstanding performance in deinterlacing and cadence detection tasks as well as transferring that over from test discs to actual content you might want to watch. Ours Spears and Munsil Benchmark disc jaggies test was displayed as cleanly as could have been hoped for at 1080i and likewise for the HQV version. The BDP-150 was also capable of picking up on film cadences sent in interlaced signals with no evidence of moire or break-up. The LG was also able to handle discs with film content that is encoded at 1080i/50Hz without any problems. We’ll admit to not owning that many Blu-ray discs mastered at 1080i but those we do – a Stevie Wonder concert and Gangster No. 1 – played flawlessly.

SD Playback

Should you still have any DVDs not yet replaced by their hi-def counterparts, you’ll not find the Pioneer BDP-150-K wanting when it comes to giving them a new lease of life courtesy of some highly impressive scaling. As well as being able to detect film cadences at 1080i, it was equally capable of locking on at 576i so, as well as the hugely successful scaling, there’s no unnecessary deinterlacing steps going on and a few minutes alone with Tangled and Finding Nemo paid testament to that. Well, who can resist?

Disc Load Times

The BDP-150-K is not quite as comparatively quick as it quiet when considering the competition but, equally, it’s no slouch either. With Quick Start turned on in the Options sub-menu, typically the Pioneer got to the copyright notice in 20 - 30 seconds depending on the disc but getting to the actual menu page could take a little longer, although in fairness this is as much dependent on the Java encoding on the disc as it is the player. The load up times for DVDs were about equivalent.

Energy Consumption

  • Standby: 0.0W
  • Full screen 50% white pattern: 5.1W

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Plays 3D and 2D Blu-ray beautifully
  • Scales DVD excellently
  • Very quiet during operation
  • Fantastic video processing
  • Stylish looks

Cons

  • 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

Highly Recommended

Scores

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
.
.
7

Ease Of Use

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Value For Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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