LG BP620

The BP620 is LG's "flagship" Blu-ray player for 2012, but you couldn't tell by its $130 street price or ordinary feature set. It includes all the important features that manufacturers are charging for this year, such as 3D compatibility, built-in Wi-Fi, and a suite of streaming-media services.

The big catch, especially if you were familiar with LG's platform last year, is that Amazon Instant will not be included on 2012 players, which could be a deal breaker for cord cutters. However, LG continues to have one of the best-designed streaming-content portals, with a dead-simple user interface.

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Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:

Design

There's little variation in the design of Blu-ray players, but the BD620 avoids some of the mistakes other players make. There's no annoying flip-down front panel running the length of the player (looking at you, Panasonic DMP-BDT220) and the front-panel buttons are physical buttons, rather than the finicky touch-sensitive variety.
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Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:

Front-panel USB port

The LG BP620 can also play back a variety of digital media files over its USB port or over your home network using DLNA. I tested a mishmash of digital video and audio files, with somewhat positive results if you ignore the ugly interface. A few MKV and Xvid files worked, and while a ripped DVD (from TS video and audio folders, doesn't work with ISO) did play, there were annoying quirks that would make me skeptical of depending on it. That's consistent with my experience that Blu-ray players are generally just mediocre as local-media streamers -- useful occasionally, but you're better off with a more specialized device if you're a heavy torrenter or digital music streamer.
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Decent remote, but no Netflix button

The included remote is the same one LG has been using for years and it's a pretty good clicker. There's ample separation between the various sections of the remote and the white coloring of the playback buttons (play, stop, and so on) makes them stand out in a dim home theater. The major flaw is the remote is missing a button that lets you jump right to Smart TV (or even better, a Netflix button), which is available on many competitors.
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Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:

Back panel

Around back is a basic set of outputs, with an HDMI output, optical output, and Ethernet jack. The BP620 doesn't have dual HDMI outputs like Samsung's flagship BD-E6500, but they're not that useful anyway. If you have an older non-HDMI receiver, you can always use the optical audio output for audio without losing much, if any, sound quality.
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Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:

User interface: The apps you want aren't in LG Apps

The home screen has a simple layout, but it's more confusing than it needs to be. That's because it has a Premium icon, which has the apps you want like Netflix and Pandora, and an LG Apps icon, which has a bunch of apps you don't care about. That's the opposite of what you'd expect, and even a seasoned CNET colleague of mine had to ask, "How do I get to Netflix?" when picking up the remote for the first time.
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Photo by: Matthew Moskovciak/CNET / Caption by:

Best layout for streaming services

The Premium section is where you'll find streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Pandora, and they're laid out in a straightforward grid of icons. The layout is actually the best I've seen so far, without any unnecessary layers or screens getting between you and your content. Unfortunately you can't customize the order that the apps are laid out in, but there aren't enough apps to make this a problem. For simple navigation, LG's Smart TV interface is a winner.
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Photo by: Matthew Moskovciak/CNET / Caption by:

Netflix interface

The BP620 has a modern Netflix interface, allowing you to search and browse movies that aren't in your Instant Queue.
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Photo by: Matthew Moskovciak/CNET / Caption by:

LG apps

The LG Apps section looks fine, but you'll basically never need to go there. The selection of apps is dismal, ranging from worthless games to classic books displayed on your TV. Given the quality of the apps in the app store, LG should have left if out completely, especially since it's so confusing next to the Premium section. Note that you can't add any of the Premium streaming-media services to the customizable "LG apps" bar that runs along the bottom of most screens, which makes it practically useless.
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Photo by: Matthew Moskovciak/CNET / Caption by:
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