Toshiba BDX2700 Review
Blu-ray Player, $249
The BDX2700 is Toshiba's current top of the line Blu-ray player. It deserves the title with high-end features like built-in WiFi, an impressive list of Internet content partners, and just for good measure, 7.1 channel analog audio outputs (for the non-digital audiophiles in the audience).
About the only hot button item that this top-notch Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player lacks is the ability to playback 3D Blu-ray DVDs. And unlike some models from other manufacturers, it is not upgradeable.
Of course, if you are not ready to jump into the 3D pool but you do want to swim in the online content stream, the BDX2700 has lined up an appealing assortment of providers including Netflix, BLOCKBUSTER On Demand, Pandora, and through Vudu apps, over 100 others.
And with its integrated WiFi capability, connecting to the Internet doesn't require running unsightly network cables all over your abode.
Blu-ray Player Primer
Blu-ray disc players were introduced in 2006. Since then, their specifications have evolved through three classifications, (Profile 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0).
Profile 1.0 provided playback and basic interactive features. Profile 1.1, (also called BonusView), players added the capability for displaying Picture-in-Picture (PIP) and playing secondary audio tracks available on BonusView discs.
After October 31, 2007, all new Blu-ray players had to offer all the features in Profile 1.1.
BD-Live (Profile 2.0) players must have an Ethernet port for connecting to the Internet, where it can download online content associated with BD-Live Blu-ray titles.
Out of the Box
The Toshiba designers didn't really push the envelope with this compact BDX2700. It's basically a black box with silver trim on the glossy black face.
The only operational buttons on the front are Power, Play, Stop and Open/Close.
Below the Power button is an SD Card slot, a convenient feature for many photographers, though one that is not provided on most Blu-ray players. It serves a dual purpose. You can insert an SD or SDHC (or miniSD with adapter) storage card full of JPEG photos or music (MP3 or WMA) and play them back through your TV.
In addition, if you want to access BD-Live content, the Blu-ray player needs additional storage capacity. Some players have storage integrated into the machine. With others like this BDX2700, you will need to supply an external memory drive.
You have two options, either attach an SD card to the front of the machine or insert a USB flash drive in the slot on the back. You can also playback music and photos from a USB flash drive.
The BDX2700 also can play AVCHD video files, but only from a DVD-RW/R disc and not from an SD card. While we are on the topic, for those of you looking for a universal player that is compatible with all sorts of formats, like Video CDs and SACDs, look elsewhere.
With that said, to be clear, the BDX2700 does a sterling job of playing all the conventional formats of commercial DVDs and Blu-rays.
Continuing our tour of the machine, on the back, along with the USB port, the connection panel supplies one HDMI out, one set of Component Video (YPbPr) outs (with a matching pair of stereo audio outs) and a Composite out.
(If you are running video through the Composite out, you are wasting a perfectly good Blu-ray player and your HDTV. Please, you should only use the Composite as an option of last resort or for troubleshooting.)
As I mentioned, one of the added features on the BDX2700 is the inclusion of 7.1 channel analog audio outputs, which are desirable for enthusiasts whose prized audio system is compatible with this format.
For other audiophiles more digitally inclined, the player provides a Bitstream/PCM optical digital audio out or it can deliver audio through the HDMI cable.
Either way, the BDX2700 supports internal decoding of up to 7.1 channels of bitstream output of enhanced audio codecs like Dolby TrueHD and dts-HD Master Audio | Essential.
Even though Toshiba has integrated a wireless LAN adapter into the BDX2700, they also provide a LAN port on the back for those who prefer a wired network solution.
I'm not a fan of snaking an Ethernet cable from my router to my Blu-ray player, especially if they are rooms apart. But I'm even less enamored with waiting for my streaming videos to buffer because I have a slow wireless router.
If you opt for the uncluttered convenience of wireless, buy the fastest router that you can afford. At this time, that means 802.11n. Your streaming experience will be so much more enjoyable.
The BDX2700 supports all the 802.11 wireless formats, 802.11n/g/b/a. I'll discuss setting up the wireless procedure later.
I know for some of you, just trying to sort through n/g/b/a tuckers you out. But I suggest that you gather up your gumption - or coax your favorite geek - to connect this Blu-ray player to the Internet. (Actually the process is pretty easy.)
To entice you, Toshiba has partnered with some of the top Internet content providers like movie streaming heavyweights, Netflix and BLOCKBUSTER On Demand.
I am a fan of Netflix and am pleasantly overwhelmed by the thousands of movies and television shows that you can stream from their website. After you subscribe to Netflix, unlimited streaming is free. All you have to do is activate your BDX2700 on the Netflix site. The process takes a couple of minutes.
BLOCKBUSTER also provides streaming movies. The difference from Netflix is that with BLOCKBUSTER you rent or buy the movies individually and there is no monthly subscription. Most new movies rent for $3.99 and sell for around $17.99.
You can also rent or buy movies from Vudu. One advantage with Vudu is that they stream many of the movies in HD (in Vudu terms, 720p) and HDX (1080p). Usually, you pay a slight premium for the high def versions.
But the real prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jacks box is a feature called Vudu apps. Vudu no longer just furnishes movies. I've encountered Vudu apps on other streaming content devices and am truly impressed with the wide range of providers that they have lined up.
On the BDX2700, I counted over 100 sources of streaming content from big name publishers like the New York Times, the Associated Press and Wikipedia. But you also can find video from diverse sources like NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Lampoon and Philharmonia Orchestra.
Vudu is also the conduit to flickr, Picasa, facebook and twitter. The biggest drawback to using these services is that all the text must be entered on an onscreen keyboard using the arrow keys on the remote, which does not facilitate quick tweeting.
Pandora Internet Radio is a slick free music service where you create your own personalized stations like Jimi Hendrix or Beyonce and Pandora assembles a collection of music by that artist or songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice.
I suggest that you use Pandora by running the BDX2700's audio into an A/V receiver and out to separate speakers. Then you can listen to your stations without powering your TV on.
If you want to be your own content provider, you can plug in an SD card or a USB drive full of photos or music files. The player automatically senses when either is attached and Music and Photo icons are added to the Home Menu.
The slideshow interface provides four transitions, including the vital Fade, and six slide durations (1, 2, 5, 10, 15, and 30 seconds).
You can add music to your slideshow, though you probably will need to crack the well-written manual to learn the procedure.
Of note, the BDX2700 does not link to your home network, therefore you cannot access images or music or videos that are residing on your computer's hard drives or on a separate media server.
The layout on the non-backlit remote control is a bit unconventional, but if you need guidance, the labels are big and easy to read. I feel sympathy for the On/Standby button all by its lonely at the top of the remote.
The EPA is now publishing a list of ENERGY STAR qualified TVs. (You can find it here.)
The EPA has also begun a list of of ENERGY STAR qualified Audio/Video equipment, including devices like Blu-ray players.(You can find it here.) The list includes the Toshiba BDX2000**. I assume that covers both the BDX2700 and the BDX2500.
The EPA list only shows Watts in Standby. For the Toshiba, it's .5W.
We decided to take our own measurements at different stages. To measure power, we hooked the BDX2700 up to our watt meter, called Watts up? Pro, and took a reading during playback of a Blu-ray movie and another in standby mode.
During playback of a Blu-ray DVD, the meter ranged between 15.5 and 16.0W. If I stopped playing but still had the disc in, the Home menu pops up and the meter hovers around 11.5W.
When I streamed the HD version of the Chinese epic movie Red Cliff from Netflix, the reading only rose a notch to 11.6W.
This 15 to 16W range is near the middle of the Blu-ray players that I have measured lately.
The BDX2700 does not offer a Quick Start mode, which shortens the startup time when turning on the player. Even though this player is not the fastest that I have encountered, I don't miss Quick Start because it wastes power.
The first time you plug in the BDX2700, you go through a procedure that Toshiba calls Quick Setup, and it is fast. After you answer a few questions about how you have hooked up to your TV and what language the menus should be, you're finished.
Actually, you may have another step. In my initial wiring, I plugged in an Ethernet cable from my network router to the LAN port on the Blu-ray player. When I turned on the BDX2700, it automatically found the connection and I was set.
Now, if you decide to go wireless, then the player will sense that you do not have an Ethernet cable plugged in and an onscreen message will pop up instructing you to push the red button on the remote to configure your network connection.
I pulled out my Ethernet cable to test this wireless connection process. Basically, for my network setup, the player searched for any available wireless networks and presented me with a list. I clicked on mine and entered my password and the player was connected. (Your procedure may be different depending on how your network is designed.)
Once the player is linked to the Internet, the first thing to do is to check to see if your player has a firmware update. The player will go online to see if you have the current firmware version and if not, it will download and automatically install the new one. Since the BDX2700 just hit the market, no update was available.
Next, if you plan to take advantage of any of the streaming features, you need to sign in and/or register your Blu-ray player. For example, to watch Netflix movies, you will need to pay a monthly subscription to Netflix and register your player on their site.
Other services like BLOCKBUSTER are pay as you go, but you still must open an account online.
Vudu apps are free, as is Pandora. Though with Pandora, you set up an account and create your music stations.
If you love to get under the hood and tinker with settings, Toshiba offers you a list of submenus. For most folks who just want to watch their Blu-rays, I suggest that you take a quick tour of the controls but leave well enough alone.
If you need to tweak the BDX2700 to match your audio setup, then you will find the settings in the Audio menu. The manual does a good job of explaining the different options.
It's refreshing reading Toshiba's PR about the BDX2700 because they don't tout any fancy techno-hype pet names for their features. I appreciate this just-the-facts-ma'am approach.
And the facts are that the BDX2700 delivers high-end performance when playing Blu-ray discs and upconverting standard definition DVDs.
Add to that, the user interface is elegant and well-designed.
To reiterate, if you plan on streaming content from any of the Internet providers and you are serious about obtaining good picture quality, you will need fairly fast and robust bandwidth from your Internet provider, ideally around 10Mbps.
I know some sites suggest as low as 2.5Mbps, but if anyone else in your house is accessing the network, the video playback will deteriorate. At least try to have around 5Mbps.
As for audio performance, I did not test out the 7.1 channel analog audio outputs, but my thinking is that the BDX2700 is delivering the signal and the real test is how well your audio system handles it.
I believe this is especially true with the digital Dolby TrueHD and dts-HD Master Audio signal coming through the HDMI cable. The major factor will be the quality of your A/V receiver and speakers. If you are simply feeding the audio straight to your TV speakers, the quality of the audio emanating from the Blu-ray player is overkill.
Finally, if you have read any of my other Blu-ray player reviews, you know that almost every player that I have seen has hiccupped at one time or another when playing back Blu-ray discs. It usually happens with a special feature.
For example, on the Director's Cut of the Watchmen, the Maximum Movie Mode gives a lot of Blu-ray players trouble. Also, accessing the BD-Live content on the first Transformers Blu-ray can freeze up some players.
The BDX2700 handled both with aplomb.
With high-end features like built-in WiFi and 7.1 channel analog audio outputs, the BDX2700's list price of $249 seems reasonable. But I just took a quick spin around the Internet and I'm finding it for under $200 and with some retailers, this Blu-ray beauty goes for even less.
At that level, I think this WiFi enabled player is a bargain when compared to its competition.
Of course, if you don't need the wireless capability, Toshiba makes the BDX2500 that is WiFi ready, but the hardware is not integrated into the unit. I'm finding the BDX2500 online for under $130, which is a real steal, especially since it also includes all the online streaming content partners and 7.1 channel audio outs.
Remember, neither player can be upgraded to 3D capability.
With the BDX2700, Toshiba began with a solid performing Blu-ray player and then added high-end features like built-in WiFi and a whole host of Internet content partners. And for the audio enthusiasts, they threw in 7.1 channel analog audio outputs. The only thing missing, the player is not 3D ready.