When it's released in the fall, the LG BD300 will be the first Blu-ray player that will also have access to Netflix's online Watch Now library of streaming movies. But thanks to LG's sneak preview of the product (at its Manhattan press event last night), we have a pretty good idea of what we'll be getting when it hits stores in a few months.
The Netflix functionality is, not surprisingly, effectively identical to that of the standalone Roku Netflix Player: load up the "Instant" queue on your Netflix account, pair the LG player to your account, and begin watching any of those movies or TV shows over your home's broadband Internet connection. Any Netflix subscribers with the $8.99 per month plan (one disc at a time) or better is eligible for unlimited streaming. The online library of 12,000 or so titles--while far expanded from the original offerings--is still dwarfed by the overall Netflix library of more than 100,000 titles. That said, the beauty of the Netflix system is that you can always have a stack of DVDs--or Blu-rays--checked out as well.
The Netflix function is just one feature accessed by hitting the "home" button on the remote. Other network-friendly features include music and photo streaming--presumably from networked PCs or flash drives plugged into the front-panel USB port. On the Blu-ray front, the BD300 will be fully Profile 2.0 compliant, so it will be able to access the online and interactive BD-Live features that will be becoming more prevalent in Blu-ray discs. Bonus View (picture-in-picture commentaries and special features) will also be supported. Beyond a mention of "Dolby TrueHD support" on LG's spec sheet, audio details weren't specified, so we don't know how--or whether--the BD300 will handle DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.
The BD300 will be LG's first Blu-ray player since the BH200, a combo player whose arrival on the market was essentially negated by HD DVD's death spiral. Still, if LG has managed to fix the few annoyances that hampered that model's Blu-ray playback, the BD300 could have some real potential. That said, the "under $500" price will need to get closer to $400. Even with the added niceties of Netflix and media streaming, the LG player will need to beat the combined $500 price tag of a PS3 (with Blu-ray, media streaming, and games) and the aforementioned Roku Netflix box. Likewise, both the PS3 and Roku box offer Wi-Fi connectivity, while the LG BD300 is Ethernet only.
CNET will have a full review of the LG BD300 as soon as it becomes available.