LG BD300 Network Blu-ray Player

LG has introduced something new with the BD300. In addition to being a full-featured Blu-ray player, it can also stream movies from Netflix, which explains the unique product designation—network Blu-ray player. The BD300 offers a number of key features we've come to expect from Blu-ray players, such as bitstream output of the advanced audio codecs, BonusView, BD-Live, and 24fps output for compatible video displays.

The BD300 definitely sets the stage for higher expectations, but does it deliver?

In addition to playing Blu-ray discs, the BD300 can also play standard DVDs and upconvert them to 720p, 1080i, or 1080p resolutions. If your display supports it, the BD300 can output 1080p at 24fps for a more film-like image. Generally, fast-motion movie sequences perform better with the 24fps option if the display can handle it properly.

However, what sets the BD300 apart from other Blu-ray players is its ability to stream movies that you queue up on Netflix. If you already use Netflix, this is an additional service you can access as part of your existing membership. This is the first Blu-ray player to offer this service, though it's no longer the only one. By the time I received the BD300, Samsung announced the BD-P2500 (review forthcoming) with the same functionality.

Thankfully, this player's firmware can be updated online by connecting its Ethernet port to a broadband Internet connection rather than having to download the update to a computer and burn a disc. The Ethernet port also allows access to online BD-Live content, though this requires a 1GB USB flash drive, which LG does not provide. Moreover, the USB port on the front panel can be used to hook up a storage device with other media, such as photos and movies, which can be accessed from the BD300's menu.

The player can pass both lossless audio formats—Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio—as native bitstreams to an A/V receiver (AVR) or pre-pro capable of decoding them. The player can also decode Dolby TrueHD into multichannel PCM for older AVRs that can't decode the newer lossless audio formats. However, it cannot do the same for DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.

It does offer an option called DTS Re-encode, which outputs audio from Blu-ray discs as DTS. For example, if a Blu-ray soundtrack features linear PCM audio, you can choose to "re-encode" that soundtrack and send it to the A/V receiver as DTS. For DVDs, the DTS Re-encode feature acts just like a "pass-through." The final option is PCM downmixing of a multichannel soundtrack for 2-channel systems.

The BD300 supports HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) technology, which LG calls Simplink. This allows two-way communication between the BD300 and LG TVs, eliminating some of your remote-control clutter since one remote can control both devices.

The player supports a number of file formats including discs with JPEG images and AVCHD/H.264 video, which is commonly used by HD camcorders.