Blu-ray players have come a long way in a few years. It used to be that $300 would get you a "high-end" Blu-ray player that could load a disc in a minute and maybe access Netflix. Now nearly every Blu-ray player is connected, solid models are available for just over $100 (like our budget Editors' Choice, the Panasonic DMP-BDT230), and midrange models offer remarkably fast speeds. The LG BP730 is a $199.99 (list) Blu-ray player that doesn't just pack a ton of features into its attractive design, but loads discs consistently in less than 20 seconds.
The BP730 is very full-featured, with nearly every bell or whistle you could want for a Blu-ray player?save high-end home theater connections like the second HDMI port, analog surround audio outputs, or RS232C port found on the high-end Editors' Choice Oppo BDP-103. The BP730 supports Blu-ray, has built-in Wi-Fi a/b/g/n for accessing LG's Smart TV apps, and perhaps most interestingly, supports extensive smartphone integration: The player comes with an NFC sticker so you can connect your NCF-enabled smartphone to the player with a tap. LG's remote app can not only control the player and stream content to and from the player, but can turn your smartphone into a wireless headphone device for watching movies quietly.
The Blu-ray player's design is black and angular, measuring 1.6 by 16.9 by 7.8 inches (HWD) and weighing a solid three pounds. It consists of a brushed metallic black top half and a glossy black lower half that holds the controls and display. Instead of a disc tray, the player uses a slot-loading optical drive located on the left half of the player, on the seam between the brushed and glossy black halves. The right half holds on the glossy black part facing up a row of touch-sensitive LED-backlit controls, and on the glossy black part facing forward a blue LED display and a USB port covered by a small door. The back of the player holds a minimum of ports: an HDMI port, an Ethernet port, and an optical audio output.
Remote and Features
Instead of a conventional remote, the BP730 comes with a curved Magic Remote similar to the remotes that come with LG's connected HDTVs. It's dominated by a large navigation pad with a scroll wheel that doubles as a main button, and features only a few other buttons including playback controls and four color buttons. The remote works as a motion controller, moving an on-screen cursor in addition to the standard navigation pad menu item selection. I've complained about LG's Magic Remote in the past because of the scroll wheel doubling as a button, but the scroll wheel on this remote is much stiffer than previous remotes, so I found myself almost never accidentally pinning the wheel with my thumb when pressing the button.
LG's Smart TV system gives the BP730 loads of online content. Not only does it have a wide selection of online services in its Premium menu including Netflix and Hulu Plus, but it has a library of smaller and more specialized apps on top of them. It also features a Web browser that is made easier to use with the on-screen cursor and the Magic Remote, even if typing remains clunky. With DLNA support and app-based remote control and media streaming support for mobile devices, the BP730 can display your media regardless of how you want to access it. The only thing it seems to miss on this front is an SD card slot, though the USB port can be used to access your media that isn't networked.
The BP730 is blazingly fast. I tested its speed by taking the average load times of three Blu-ray discs (in this case, Piranha, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Black Swan) six times each from inserting the disc to first showing information on the screen. Between the three discs, the BP730 took an average of 15 seconds to start playing, and even the slower-than-usual?Black Swan clocked in at 18.7 seconds, with a particularly sluggish 22.5 load time the first time I put the disc in. For comparison, the Panasonic DMP-BDT230 took an average of 17.3 seconds to load a disc.
We test Blu-ray player video processing with the HQV 2.0 benchmark Blu-ray disc, and the BP730 passed all video tests with flying colors. It handled both 30fps video and 24fps film footage easily, and showed little to no judder or tearing from horizontal motion.
The LG BP730 is a shining example of how far Blu-ray players have come in the last few years. It's loaded with features, takes about 15 seconds to load most discs, and handles any video format you throw at it without processing issues. Since it's missing certain ports and connections, it doesn't quite have the flexibility to integrate into a complicated, high-end home theater system. But at $200 it's easily our new midrange Editors' Choice for Blu-ray players. You can save some money with the Editors' Choice budget Panasonic DMP-BDT230, but the BP730's extra features and slightly quicker performance are worth the extra cash.