If you've been following the Blu-ray market, it was getting obvious toward the end of 2008 that standalone players needed to innovate, since previous step-up features, like Profile 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio, were becoming standard. LG was the first company to break the mold by releasing the BD300, which was the first Blu-ray player with built-in Netflix streaming--and it did it well. The LG BD370 is the entry-level successor to the BD300, and it's very similar, with the main upgrades being onboard decoding for DTS-HD Master Audio Essential and faster load times. Unfortunately, we still had some nitpicks with the image quality on both Blu-ray and DVD, and competitors like the Samsung BD-P1600 and Panasonic DMP-BD60 perform better. If Netflix streaming is a must, and you can't stand the flip-down design on the Samsung BD-P1600, the BD370 is a good option. But if you're a videophile who puts a premium on image quality, you'll want to pick another player.
The BD370 has a unique look, with no exposed disc tray and a silver square dominating the otherwise glossy black front panel. The disc tray hides behind a small automatic door on the left hand side--an arrangement we liked much better than the Samsung BD-P1600's flip-down door. The front panel controls aren't obvious at first, because functions like Open/Close and Play are activated by pressing the corners of the silver rectangle in the middle of the unit, and Power is the silver circle in the center. These controls aren't easy to figure out by just glancing at the unit, but they do keep the front panel looking sleek.
Additional front panel controls, along with a USB port, are accessible under a flip-down panel. It's the only USB port available, so if you keep a flash drive in there for BD-Live functionality, you'll need to leave the front panel down. We observed that the BD370's disc drive was unusually slow and jerky, which doesn't matter much in terms of actual use, but it makes us a little worried about its durability.
The included remote is one of the better ones we've seen on a Blu-ray player. Buttons like Disc Menu and Home are appropriately separated, and playback controls fall comfortably under your thumb. Additional seldom-used buttons are hidden under a slide down cover on the bottom half of the remote; we actually liked having those buttons out of sight as it makes the remote simpler.
The user interface is similar to the one on last year's BD300, and we like it. Using snazzy high-def graphics and easy-to-understand icons, the BD370 makes all its functionality available from the initial boot-up screen.
Both of LG's 2009 Blu-ray players include Netflix Instant streaming. The user experience is nearly identical to that of the Netflix Player by Roku, and we recommend you check out that review for more information. In short, you can stream anything in Netflix's "Watch Now" section, and while there are some flaws--much of the SD content is not wide screen, for example--it's a pretty great user experience overall. The initial catalog of movies and TV shows was fairly lackluster, but recent deals with CBS and Disney have significantly improved the content selection. (CNET Reviews is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)
The BD370 will also offer CinemaNow access starting in May, which provides pay-per-rental pricing, similar to satellite and cable video on-demand services. We've never used CinemaNow on a standalone device before, and we'll update this review with our experiences when the service becomes available.
YouTube functionality is also included, and the interface is surprisingly responsive. Within a second you can browse the featured, most viewed and top-rated videos, and there's also search functionality. Videos start out playing in a small window; you can make them full screen by pressing the Display button. Unfortunately, there's no aspect ratio control, although full screen mode shows wide-screen content correctly, without stretching or squeezing, and the smaller screen mode shows 4:3 content correctly. We don't find much of YouTube's content to be compelling in a "sitting on the couch" environment, but it's nice in a pinch if you want to show your friends a couple of viral videos.
Like almost all 2009 Blu-ray players, the BD370 is Profile 2.0-compatible, which means it can play back the Internet-enabled BD-Live features available on some new Blu-ray movies. To access BD-Live content, you'll need to connect an Ethernet cable and a USB drive for storage.