Pioneer offers up two new Blu-ray players

Pioneer announces two new Blu-ray players--the BDP-51FD and the BDP-05FD, which are high on price and low on extra features.

Pioneer's "budget" Blu-ray player will still set you back $600.
Pioneer's "budget" Blu-ray player will still set you back $600.

Pioneer announced two new Blu-ray players Wednesday morning, the BDP-51FD and step-up Elite BDP-05FD. Pioneer has so far taken a decidedly high-end approach to the Blu-ray market, with the company's initial players selling for upward of $1,000. Honestly, we're not sure what the appeal of these players are, but Pioneer tells us they can't fulfill the existing orders for the $1,000 BDP-95FD--proof, it would seem, that the enthusiast videophile market is alive and well. With that in mind, let's take a look at the key features of the upcoming Blu-ray players.

Key features of the Pioneer BDP-51FD:

  • Blu-ray Profile 1.1 (BonusView)
  • Can output Blu-ray discs in 1080p at 24 frames per second
  • Onboard Dolby TrueHD decoding, DTS-HD Master Audio onboard decoding available with future firmware upgrade
  • Can output Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio in bit stream format
  • 7.1 analog outputs
  • Wolfson digital audio converters
  • $600 list price, available this summer

Our first reaction to the specification sheet is that it's underwhelming given the price tag. Onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio (after a firmware update) is nice--as is Profile 1.1 support--but the Sony PlayStation 3 already offers onboard decoding for both soundtrack formats and Profile 2.0 support for only $400. The step-up BDP-05FD doesn't offer much more, in terms of value:

The Pioneer Elite BDP-05FD will set you back $800.

Key step-up features of the Pioneer BDP-05FD:

  • Gold-plated connectors
  • Aluminum front panel
  • Touch-sensitive buttons
  • Two-year warranty
  • $800 list price, available this summer

The BDP-05FD has all the jacks you need, including 7.1 analog outputs.
The BDP-05FD has all the jacks you need, including 7.1 analog outputs.

If the BDP-51FD seems a little expensive for what it offers, then the BDP-05FD really seems expensive for its step-up features. The step-ups seem to be mostly cosmetic, with the player sharing essentially the same feature set as the cheaper BDP-51FD. For an Elite player like this, we'd at least like to have seen some enthusiast-friendly features such as SACD and DVD-Audio support, DivX compatibility, or even networking functionality like we saw on the BDP-HD1. We'll have to wait until summer to see these players, which will be going head-to-head with similarly priced high-end competition from Denon and Panasonic. In the meantime, we're sticking with the PS3.

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