Our last look at a budget Blu-ray player from the Toshiba stable came in February 2012 and we were left wondering how they did it for so little money. The BDX1250 was a very capable little player although some of our Forum members encountered some stuttering issues when playing back certain discs; a problem that we didn’t encounter during the review. If the Toshiba BDX3300KB can iron out those issues and maintain the unfettered playback of Blu-ray disc as well as very competent handling of standard definition DVD then it’s going to make a compelling proposition at the prices it’s currently available for. This is even more possible because Toshiba have now included some added functionalities with internet features and media streaming and there’s even built-in Wi-Fi on board. Let’s see if the Toshiba BDX3300 is the bargain it promises to be.
There’s an undoubted feeling of economy to the build of the BDX3300 but we expected that and at least the styling is nicely unobtrusive. The front panel has a Blu-ray logo to its centre, to the left of which is a disc loading mechanism that isn’t overly noisy in seek functions but it does have a slight whine during playback. Whether you’ll hear it or not is largely dependent on how close you sit to it and how loud you crank up the sound. From around 5ft away, the noise disappeared – for us – at modest listening levels. To the right of the logo is the display panel that provides feedback on disc playback and connected status and further to the right are some buttons for, Stop, Play/Pause, Open/Close and for powering the player on and off. On the extreme right is a USB slot for hooking up storage for media file playback.
To say connectivity is limited is an understatement and if you don't have an HDMI capable display, forget it as that’s the only video connection on-board. The audio option is equally as solitary consisting of a coaxial digital audio out. The only other thing to mention is the LAN port for those that would rather run wired then rely on the built-in Wi-Fi – a sensible approach for those that intend to use the BDX3300KB as a HD Video streamer. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in this minimalist approach to connectivity but potential owners need to be aware.
If the connection options are a potential disappointment for some, the included remote is a guaranteed to disappoint everyone. The basic issue with the controller is that it’s far too small to accommodate all the buttons necessary for operation. As a result, the buttons themselves are in some cases minute and fiddly to get at owing to the lack of space between them. The actual lay-out, itself, is fine but the cramped nature of the buttons is quite frustrating and it’s next to impossible to operate it in low light conditions unless you were a comptometer operator in a former life. On the plus side, it’s easy to use one-handed.
Menus and Set Up
Following a brief wizard for initial set up, we were presented with exactly the same menus we saw in last year’s models, which is no bad thing as they’re well planned and responsive to get around. The main menu is split in to four sub menus - General Setting, Display Setting, Audio Setting and System Information.
From the General Setting menu there’s access to five further sub-headings, System, Language, Playback, Security and Network. The System items include such options as setting discs to auto-play on loading, a Screen Saver and whether to engage CEC (aka Regza Link) that enables control of compatible devices through the Toshiba remote. 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. We said it in previous reviews but we’ll say it again – all discs should be made to carry this feature.
The Display Setting Menu is home to all of the key video settings and is made up of two further sub menus, TV and Video Process. The TV item has options for Screen 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 YCbCr422 will be a safe option for most. 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. Under the Video Process heading, there’s a further collection of settings from Video Adjust as well as 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. In a perfect world, the BDX3300 will be doing nothing to the video signal to upset our calibrated display but, at least if it is, there are some controls on-board to help rectify matters.
The Audio Setting Menu allows the user control over the sound output for both the Coax and HDMI connections, with choices of PCM, Bitstream and Re-encode. The Down_samp item 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. The final sub-menu, System Information, will display the current software version as well as the mac address ascribed for those that have made use of the LAN connection.
We’ve recently ran a dedicated review on the Toshiba Smart plaform but the BDX3300KB only really runs a slimmed down version of all the items covered therein. In actual fact, in terms of media streaming, the Blu-ray spinner makes a better fist of things than some of the TVs we’ve looked at and we were comfortably able to get our selection of test mkv’x running over our network by using PS3 Media Server from our Windows 7 PC. There’s no list of supported file types available from Toshiba but, besides the mkv’s, we had no issues with a range of mp4, avi and mov files but you’re limited to jpeg and mp3 for photo and music, respectively. The media player did have issue with larger folders containing a lot of files so anyone wishing to take advantage may need to consider some restructuring of their collections on the PC.
The BDX3300’s internet features are limited to four services but with YouTube and BBC iPlayer making up 50% of those, that’s two important bases covered. Both apps work very well with the Toshiba iPlayer currently outclassing that of the TiVo by quite a distance – we speak from bitter experience. The other two widgets are Picassa and Acetrax with the latter a paid for Video on Demand (VoD) service offering a selection of Movies and TV shows whilst Picassa, is a photo organising and sharing application. It may not seem a lot but will suit the causal VoD user.
The last generation of Toshiba Blu-ray players offered a number of Picture Modes with some affecting the video signal more than others. We’re glad to note that Toshiba has done away with this idea, ensuring viewers aren’t subjected to any unnecessary processing making the content on screen as transparent as possible to the information on the disc. A well mastered and transferred Blu-ray will look excellent without any help from backdoor processing and it’s perhaps ironic we can almost best rely on a budget player to deliver the information unfettered. More expensive players tend to have more options for image manipulation and the processing grunt required to do so.
During our time with the Toshiba we sat through (and immensely enjoyed) the grainy Withnail and I blu and it’s obvious that no unwanted noise reduction or grain removal is taking place with the aged look of the Handmade Films’ original gloriously intact. We’ve had cause to watch the recently released Titanic more times than we’d really like since its release, on a number of beautifully calibrated displays, and we’re pleased to report the BDX3300KB representations of sea, sky and skin tones looked identical played through the Toshiba. Taking matters a bit further, we whipped out the measuring equipment to compare the output to 3 players we have about the place (Panasonic BDT-300, Playstation 3 & Samsung BD8500) and the charts confirmed what the eyes could see - the Toshiba BDX3300 wasn’t detrimentally affecting either the luma or chroma signals and thus staying faithful to the original information on the disc.
If your display is 1080i capable, only, you’re not going to be getting the most out of Blu-rays with any player and that’s perhaps more so the case with the BDX33300 than most other players we’ve tested. Video deinterlacing is not its strong suit and using the jaggies test from the Spears and Munsil evaluation disc, we could see a lot of shredding on the rotating bar. Turning to some real world footage, we popped in Stevie Wonder: Live at Last, which was shot and mastered at 1080i – as many concerts are - it was possible to see the problems manifest with the strings of instruments breaking up under strumming. In short, if your display is HD Ready only, you’ll be best seeking out a spinner that handles interlaced signals better.
As we’ve alluded to above, the BDX3300 is a much better player when receiving and/or sending progressive signals and the quality of the standard definition performance is directly governed by the specs of your display. Those able to push 1080p will benefit from some really excellent scaling, although that applies to both interlaced and progressive 1080 signals, but it’s only when sending 1080p that the player is able to perform cadence detection picking up on almost every one we threw at it, including the most common 2:2 (PAL) and 2:3 (NTSC) cadences. We’ll admit that almost all the optical media we buy is on Blu-ray now but it was nice for the kids that the DVD’s they were made to ‘endure’ for the purposes of the review were shown with excellent processing. We understand there’s a simple multi-region mod knocking around for the Toshiba players which makes the breadth of cadence support that bit more useful.
Disc Load Times
The Toshiba BDX3300KB is a remarkably speedy little loader and with BD Live features disabled in the Network Setup menu, Blu-ray discs typically reached their main menus in under 20 seconds, with some ready to hit play in less than 15 seconds. If you’re one of the minority that does use BD Live 2.0, load times increase by around 10 seconds but that depends on the amount of content on the disc. Any way you look at it, the 3300 is pretty nippy.
- Standby: 0.0W
- Full screen 50% white pattern: 9.6W
- Untampered 1080p24 output
- Excellent scaling of DVD
- Speedy disc loading
- Media streaming player is very solid
- Some VoD services
- Poor 1080i deinterlacing
- Terrible remote control
- Lack of connections
- Build quality isn't the best
Toshiba BDX3300KB Blu-ray Player Review
The obvious cost cutting measures that Toshiba must have implemented to produce a competent Blu-ray player at this price-point come in the build quality of the unit, lack of outputs and nasty little remote. The unit is lightweight and plasticky; connections are limited to solitary digital video and audio outputs and the controller is far too small to be easily usable. The menu system is also quite simplistic but that’s not necessarily a minus point and items are readily accessible thanks to sensible design.
The Toshiba BDX3300KB is a Smart box, however, and despite the limited nature of the online content – there are just 4 choices – the solidity of the streaming media player leaves the version found in Toshiba TVs in the dust. At least the staple BBC iPlayer and YouTube widgets form part of the internet content – both of which work well.
There’s a fairly large disparity in how the BDX3300 performs dependent on what signal you are able to output to your display. The Toshiba is better at dealing with both standard and high definition content when outputting 1080p and the lack of effective video deinterlacing at 1080i is its only real major drawback. Both Blu-ray 1080p24 and standard definition DVD were treated with due care and attention by the 3300, when in its preferred video mode with the latter treated to some excellent scaling processing.
If you’re after a very solid Blu-ray player with a few nice Smart features but not looking to pay the earth, the Toshiba BDX3300KB makes an excellent choice. Just make sure your TV is Full HD 1080p and that you won’t miss the lack of connectivity. Oh, and you may want to consider replacing that remote control!
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