LG’s BD370 can stream Internet video from CinemaNow, Netflix On Demand, and YouTube to your HDTV. Even by the high standards of Blu-ray Disc players, the BD370 transfers Blu-ray disc images with terrific clarity.
The BD370’s performance was dead-even with that of its sibling, the BD390 (), on all but one component of our tests (brightness, where the BD370 was ever so slightly better).
Images looked clear and detailed, with a dimensionality that popped out at us, making the visuals extraordinarily compelling. Matched against those of our reference Sony PlayStation 3, the BD370’s images were obviously superior.
Alas, we can’t offer the same praise for the BD370’s handling of the more difficult task of upconverting DVDs. Though the BD370 displayed better color than the PS3 on our Phantom of the Opera DVD, it showed less detail. It fared better, though not spectacularly so, in the darker Return of the King DVD test, where it moderately outperformed the PS3.
You don’t need discs to enjoy the BD370, however. If you plug it into your network via the player’s ethernet port, you can view movies and TV shows via CinemaNow, Netflix On Demand, and YouTube. LG’s YouTube user interface is reasonably easy to work with despite some annoying quirks. For instance, the onscreen keyboard (needed for searches) is laid out alphabetically rather than in QWERTY format.
The BD370 defaults to displaying YouTube videos in a smallish frame, which compensates for their low resolution. There is a full-screen option, too.
The BD370 uses the same Netflix interface that most other Netflix-capable Blu-ray Disc players do; it requires you to select your streaming movies on a computer before watching them on your TV. The image quality was acceptable. The standard-definition version of Gandhi looked softer than a DVD, but was passable. Supposedly high-def segments from the movie Humboldt County and the TV show The Office didn’t look like HD (or even 720p HD) to me, but they were at least DVD quality or better.
You need your computer to sign up for CinemaNow, but you can browse the selection and select rentals through the BD370. The opening of Casino looked like DVD quality, but a large explosion showed some very heavy compression.
You won’t need an ethernet connection to enjoy your music or photo collection on the BD370; it can play MP3 and WMA audio files, and displays JPEG and PNG photos off of USB-based storage. The photo slideshow option lets you pick background music off the USB drive, as well.
Physically, the BD370 is a mixed bag. A spring-loaded flap over the disc tray opens and closes with the tray, preventing it from being a serious nuisance. The Power, Eject, and Play/Pause buttons are poorly marked and confusing, but once you figure them out, they’re easy to press. Another problem: The front panel has an excessively bright light, which you can’t dim or turn off.
The BD370 is easily the fastest Blu-ray Disc player we’ve looked at. It loaded the Independence Day Blu-ray disc in 34 seconds; most competing players took at least a minute.
The BD370 can convert all of the audio going out through a SPDIF (optical or coaxial) digital connection to DTS, probably the best audio that a pre-HDMI digital amplifier supports. This would be particularly useful with PCM 5.1 tracks, which otherwise are downmixed to 2.0 to pass through SPDIF connections.
The on-screen menus are fairly easy to use, and have some useful illustrations (for TV Aspect Ratio, for instance). But they lack explanations, so you must turn to the manual to figure out obscure settings (and how many new Blu-ray owners know the difference between YCbCr and RGB?).
The remote control leaves much to be desired, too. Some commonly used buttons, such as Pop-Up Menu, are small and poorly positioned, and LG concealed the number buttons beneath a slide-away panel that stubbornly resisted sliding open. The remote is programmable, but not backlit.
Press the remote’s Display button while watching a movie, and you get a menu rather than a display. From there you can select a program or chapter, change the audio, or set your subtitle options. But you can’t change the time display to show time remaining instead of time elapsed.
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The annoying quirks aside, a great picture and a truckload of multimedia goodies make the BD370 one of the best Blu-ray players available at its price.
[Lincoln Spector is a contributing editor for PC World.]