Soundtrack support is about average, but LG makes it pretty confusing to figure out exactly what the BD300 can do. Those interested in the nitty-gritty can check out page 40 of the manual (you can search for the manual on LG's support Web site), but the short story is that the BD300 has onboard Dolby TrueHD decoding, but lacks DTS-HD Master Audio decoding. On the other hand, it does support both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio bit stream output, if you have a relatively new audiovisual receiver that has decoding for those formats. Of course, we would have liked to see onboard decoding for DTS-HD Master Audio, but it's worth remembering that even with ideal conditions, it can be between the high-resolution audio soundtracks and their standard Dolby Digital and DTS counterparts.
Connectivity is standard on the BD300. The HDMI output is the most important connection, capable of outputting high-definition video up to 1080p resolution, as well as high-resolution multichannel audio. There's also a component-video output, which can output Blu-ray Discs at 1080i and DVDs at 480p, along with a legacy composite-video connection. Audio connections also include both optical and coaxial digital-audio outputs, although analog audio is only supported by a stereo output--no multichannel analog outputs on the LG. There's also an Ethernet port in the back, which can be used for firmware updates, Netflix streaming, and downloading content for BD-Live-enabled discs. Rounding out the connectivity is the USB port on the front panel, which can be used for photos, MP3s, and storing BD-Live content.
For our Blu-ray tests, we compared the BD300 with our reference Blu-ray player, the Sony PlayStation 3, and our top-rated standalone Blu-ray player, the Panasonic DMP-BD55. We started off by looking at test patterns, with both players connected to a full suite of top-performing HDTVs, including the Pioneer PRO-111FD, Panasonic TH-58PZ800U, Panasonic TH-50PZ800U, and LG 60PG60. The first disc we checked out was Silicon Optix's HQV test suite on Blu-ray.
The Film Resolution Loss Test is the most important test pattern on HQV since most Blu-ray Discs are film-based. The BD300 failed the test--the most detailed sections looked strobelike, and showed no detail where there should be several individual lines. On the other hand, it did better with the second portion of the test--a panning shot across Raymond James Stadium--betraying some slight moire but not as much as we've seen on lesser players. Next up, we looked at the video-based tests, which are less crucial since not many Blu-ray Discs are video-based. Again, the BD300 failed the resolution test pattern, exhibited the same strobe-like effect on the most detailed section. It also did poorly on video-based jaggies tests, showing tons of jaggies on a test pattern with three pivoting lines, as well as a test with a rotating white line. This surprised us, as many Blu-ray players we've reviewed handle this test well. For what its worth, the PS3 and DMP-BD55 pass all the HQV tests.
The BD300 didn't do so well on test patterns, so we were interested to see how it handled actual program material. We started off with some scenes we know often give players problems. First up was the end of chapter 6 in Ghost Rider, and the BD300 performed well--we couldn't make out any moire in the grille of the RV as the camera pulls away. Next up was chapter 8 of Mission Impossible: III and again the BD300 performed well with no jaggies in the stairs in the background.
We also looked at some of the video-based portions of Tony Bennett: American Classic. Here, the BD300 didn't do so well. For example, at the beginning of chapter 7, we could see plenty of jaggies on the opening graphics and clapperboard, as well as on the shirts of the dancers that followed. The jaggies showed up again in chapter 14, as we could see them in several time in the dancers' canes. These are relatively minor issues--only videophiles will probably notice--but the PS3 and DMP-BD55 handle these scenes better.
It's worth noting that the issues we saw only occur with 1080p output at 60 frames per second. The BD300 looks as good as top-performing Blu-ray players in 24 frames-per-second mode, and also in 1080i mode, which relies on your HDTV to do much of the video processing. However, as many HDTVs don't do a great job with video processing and don't accept 24 frames-per-second content properly, we consider 1080p at 60 frames per second to be the most important output type.
We also tested disc loading times, and the BD300 did well. It loaded Mission Impossible: III in a very speedy 14 seconds, which is 6 seconds faster than the DMP-BD55 loads the same disc. Discs with BD-Java were considerably slower, with Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest loading in one minute, 45 seconds and Spiderman 3 loaded in 1 minute and 33 seconds.
If you're interested in how streaming Netflix movies look on the BD300, we covered it extensively in our review of the Netflix player. The bottom line is that it's not quite as good as DVD at best, and the quality depends heavily on your Internet connection. Our biggest gripe, as we said before, is that much of the content is presented in standard 4:3 aspect ratio, instead of the proper wide-screen aspect ratio.
There are about 700 Blu-ray Discs titles available, compared with more than 90,000 DVD titles, which means that its DVD performance is still a major issue. The LG BD300 didn't fare well in our DVD tests, and while some viewers might not notice the difference, videophiles will want to have a separate DVD player.
We started off our DVD performance testing using Silicon Optix's HQV test suite on DVD. The BD300 did OK on the initial resolution pattern, clearly displaying the full resolution of DVD, although we saw some image instability that we didn't see on the competing DMP-BD55. Next up were some jaggies tests, and the BD300's performance was mixed, showing only minor jaggies on a test with a rotating white line, but showing quite a few jaggies on a test with three pivoting lines. The BD300 did better on a 2:3 pull-down test, kicking into film mode quickly and showing very little moire in the background. Rounding out the tests, the BD300 didn't have any problems with scrolling CNN-like titles or rolling credits sequences.
We switched over to program material to see how the BD300 handled actual movies. First up was Seabiscuit, and the BD300 struggled on the introduction sequence. The slow pans over black-and-white photographs are a torture test for 2:3 pull-down processing, and we saw plenty of jaggies and image instability that detracted from the movie watching experience. It was particularly bad at about 2:07, when jaggies filled the entire screen and appeared to shake back and forth. We also took a look at the opening of Star Trek: Insurrection, and the BD300 did manage to engage film mode and render the scene without excessive jaggies. However, as we continued to watch, we did notice it slip out of film mode a few times, which we found very distracting and confirms what we found in the test patterns.