LG broke new ground in 2008 when it introduced the BD300, the first Blu-ray Disc player to offer Netflix streaming. Although other companies have since added that feature, LG upped the media-streaming ante with its new BD370 ($299) by adding YouTube and CinemaNow. Most folks are familiar with Netflix and YouTube, but that other one might need some explaining. CinemaNow is an online service that lets you rent or buy movies, TV shows, and music videos. (Titles that you rent must be viewed within a 24-hour window, while the ones you buy can be streamed repeatedly at your convenience.) While CinemaNow's movie library doesn't come close to matching Netflix, it's an okay option for people who don't want to make the monthly payment on a Netflix account.
The BD370's Home menu screen, a sort of welcome portal, helps to differentiate it from the other two players. When you first power up, you're greeted by a group of icons that you can select with the remote control to play discs, stream video from an LG content partner, or view photos or listen to MP3 and WMA music files on a connected USB drive.
Along with its appealing Home screen, the BD370 sports a more solid look and feel than the other players in this test. A silver disc that you press to power up the player and play/pause discs dominates the front panel. Additional controls are located beneath a flip-down door alongside the player's lone USB port. Unfortunately, sticking a USB flash drive in there to enable BD-Live features on Blu-ray Disc means burdening the front panel with an odd-looking protuberance. A second USB port on the BD370's rear panel would have been a welcome addition.
The player's remote control is less bulky than previous LG BD player handsets, and it has a more stripped-down keypad - good news on both fronts. The buttons that you'll use most often are easy to locate. A sliding panel, meanwhile, conceals additional controls, including those to enable Bonus View audio and video tracks on Blu-ray Discs, switch video-output resolution, and enable picture-zoom and chapter-repeat modes. My only complaint about the "hidden" keypad is that the minuscule buttons are difficult to push. And forget about finding them with the room lights dimmed.
The BD370 is without a doubt the quickest, most responsive Blu-ray player I've yet tested. The disc tray was ready to load movies a mere 5 seconds after I pressed the silver circle on the player's front panel. Once loaded, basic (non-BD-Live) Blu-ray Discs and DVDs took a mere 10 seconds to start playing. Compared with the other two players, the LG's 2x fast-scan mode delivered somewhat choppy image quality - not a deal-breaker, but still worth mentioning.
To test the LG's video performance, I pulled out my trusty set of HQV Blu-ray and DVD test discs. When viewing the film- and video-resolution patterns on the BD version, the BD370 displayed noticeable flicker, while Jaggies tests revealed a slightly higher level of "stairstep" artifacts than on the other two players - something I also observed with the DVD version of the same disc. But I should add that the LG's somewhat deficient handling of test patterns didn't necessarily translate into problems when watching movies. For example, when I screened Revolutionary Road on Blu-ray Disc, the picture delivered by the LG looked pristine, and so did most movie DVDs that I watched. But those same DVDs looked somewhat soft as compared with the Samsung model when I viewed them using the players' component-video output - something to keep in mind if you plan to use that connection.
Picture quality on the high-def Netflix movies that I streamed varied. David Lynch's Eraserhead looked mottled and soft, although the Spanish horror film The Orphanage was notably crisper than when I first watched it on the BD300. CinemaNow movies, which are only offered in standard definition at present, looked about the same as Netflix's standard-def offerings: lower-rez than DVD and consistently flecked with macroblock noise patterns. And YouTube - well, we all know how lousy YouTube clips look on computer screens, let alone big-screen HDTVs.
The video performance of LG's BD370 lags a bit behind the competition, and your USB flash drive will look funny sticking out of its front panel - unfortunately, the only option if you want to take advantage of BD-Live features on discs. But otherwise solid looks, and speedy power-up and disc-loading, not to mention a broad range of content-streaming options, make it a good choice for someone looking to get the most mileage out of their Blu-ray Disc player.
• NetCast Entertainment Access with Netflix, CinemaNow, and YouTube video streaming
• WMA and MP3 audio playback
• Front-panel USB port
• LAN Port
• Outputs: HDMI, component- and composite-video; optical/coaxial digital and analog stereo audio
• 17 x 91/2 x 2 in, 6 lb Price $299
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