LG BP530 Blu-ray Player Review

Blu-ray and DVD rentals are still more popular than streaming, but not for long. The quality gap between the two continues to shrink and the convenience of streaming is hard to beat. For many people now they might pick up a film at RedBox or an alternative if it’s convenient, but otherwise rely on streaming for their content. Netflix and others are helping to accelerate this with original online content like House of Cards and Arrested Development. For most people, they want their Blu-ray player to handle streaming and online content well. The LG BP530 Blu-ray player is designed to do that, but does it do it well?

Specs
Manufacturer: LG
Model: BP530
Outputs: HDMI, Coaxial
Inputs: USB (Front)
Streaming Services: Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Vudu, Pandora, Picasa, Rhapsody, Spotify, vTuner, CinemaNow
WiFi Support: Yes
3D Support: Yes
Colorspace Support: YCbCr 422, YCbCr 444, RGB
Review Date: June 26, 2013
Price: $129.00
Company Website

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Blu-ray playback is now only a part of what you’re looking for in a Blu-ray player. The importance has shrunk drastically over the past few years. No longer do you see big differences in image quality where a high-end company springs for a beefier power supply and higher end parts. That day is past. The only connection we see on a modern Blu-ray player is HDMI for video, and perhaps an optical or coaxial output for digital audio. All of this leads to a dirty little secret:

Blu-ray players all look identical.

Well,  they might be a little different with DVD content, or foreign films and Anime. Put on a standard movie on Blu-ray, hit play, and almost every Blu-ray player now puts out a totally identical signal. I’ve seen some that don’t, but it’s uncommon and usually a bug that is fixed quickly. People that go on-and-on about “blacker-blacks” or “natural, rich colors” are just fooling themselves. They want to see a difference, or it’s easier to write about a subjective difference than to say “Hey, it looks the same as anything else!” That’s really boring to write, trust me.

Blu-ray players all look identical.

That’s the case now, so the rise of streaming provides something to differentiate players. This review I’m taking a look at the LG BP530, which falls in the middle of LGs Blu-ray lineup. It has the essentials, Wi-Fi and online content, but skips features that are dubious in value like 4K scaling. It uses the LG Smart TV suite of online content. This divides your streaming content into Premium content, like Netflix and Hulu Plus, and their app-based content, which is cheaper or free.

Blu-ray Performance

As a Blu-ray player, the BP530 is solid in testing, but has quirks in real life. It passes all the essential tests that I throw at it: 3:2 and 2:2 cadence detection, pixel cropping, luma and chroma resolution, and jaggie reduction. It does OK with scaling, and might have a tiny bit of high detail edge enhancement, but very little. Because it does well on these, Blu-ray discs will play back correctly on it. DVDs will vary a little as the LG scaler isn’t up the level of Oppo or Sony, but it looks very good. Throw in a Blu-ray disc and you’ll be just fine, unless the disc locks up on you.

Lock ups happen on a regular basis. From Nine Inch Nails to Drive, the LG BP530 has stability issues. I put a disc in the tray, make a menu selection, and watch as nothing happens. The disc sits and spins, then does nothing, and the screen is frozen. Holding power or eject does nothing. Eventually I need to unplug the player to kill the power. I turn it back on and it seems fine, but random freezes were a problem I can’t get around. Maybe they’ll be fixed in the next firmware update, but who knows.

I really like the LG menu design.

Streaming Performance

With streaming content, I think LG does a wonderful job with the interface. The main screen has all the selections you need: Blu-ray disc, DLNA server, Premium online content, and settings. It is organized very cleanly, and works well for getting to the main features fast. Other players could learn from this and put the most common features on the initial screen, where you want them. I really like the LG menu design.

I also like most of their online content, except the lack of Amazon Instant Video. I’ve heard that it is coming shortly, but that has been the word for a while. Playback from all the online services is good, with Netflix and Vudu both looking great overall. It even covers the audio bases well with Spotify, Rhapsody, Pandora and vTuner all available. If LG adds support for Amazon On Demand, and possibly Amazon Cloud Player, then the LG BP530 will be a full featured streaming player.

The issue with the online content is speed. The LG BP530 is not fast in general use. Entering passwords for online services is slow and laborious. You can see the keyboard be redrawn on-screen as it loads. A faster processor may fix this, so the step-up BP730 might not have this issue, but players from Samsung and Sony in this price-range are faster.

The remote with the LG BP530 is nice, though not backlit. The buttons are well laid-out, with the largest keys being the most commonly used ones. I don’t hit the wrong button on accident and it feels pretty nice in my hand. The front panel of the BP 530 looks a little cheaper, with a green segmented LED instead of a dot matrix LED display. The buttons are nicely located on the front, but there is no rear USB port for BD-Live storage. Using BD-Live means a flash drive hanging off the front of your Blu-ray player with the BP530.

Local network streaming works well with the LG BP530. The few films I had available on MKV played back fine, and the playback controls work well. Even over Wi-Fi the streaming performs well with higher bitrate content.

In the end, the LG BP530 sets itself apart from the pack of Blu-ray players with a nice, clean interface. It makes it easy to access the content I want, and is a model other companies should follow. It comes up short with the responsiveness and the Blu-ray lock-ups that I experience. The lack of Amazon Instant Video hurts it as well when its main competitors have it.

The $120 Blu-ray player market is very competitive, and the LG BP530 comes up just a bit short to me. The Sony BDP-S5100 offers the same online content but includes Amazon, and also has better DVD playback quality and is faster. The remote isn’t as nice, or the on-screen display, but in actual performance it has it beat and remains my current recommendation. If LG can fix the lock-ups and get Amazon Instant Video on there or you can find a good deal on the LG, then I’ll have to come back to evaluate this again. Right now those small differences just leave it just a bit behind.

Review Summary
Product: LG BP530
Reviewer:
Pros: Nice clean interface, good Blu-ray and DVD quality
Cons: Poor responsiveness, Blu-ray playback freezes
Summary: LG does a nice job with the interface and playback quality on the BP530, but slow overall performance and firmware issues hold it back
Value: 4/5
Performance: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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  • Joven James

    Great article . For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix and similar media stations on your LG Smart TV by using UnoTelly or similar tools.