The BD390 also offers streaming CinemaNow access, which provides pay-per-rental pricing, similar to satellite and cable video on-demand services. CinemaNow's catalog contrasts with Netflix's in that it offers more new releases, similar to Amazon's Video On Demand service. We did a full hands-on report with CinemaNow on the BD390, but the short story is that we were mostly unimpressed. It's a decent additional feature on the BD390, but it shouldn't tip your hand for or against the player.
Like virtually all 2009 Blu-ray players, the BD390 is Profile 2.0-compatible, which means it access playback BD-Live features available on some Blu-ray movies. It has 1GB of onboard storage, so you won't need to plug in a USB memory stick to download extra content. You'll need an Internet connection to access BD-Live features and the BD390 is equipped with both an Ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi. The BD390 is the first player we've tested to support a faster Draft-N Wi-Fi connection and it will still work with slower 802.11b/g networks.
In addition to Blu-ray playback, the BD390 can play back an extensive variety of media formats via its USB port. Video, music, and photo files are support and the list of supported formats is lengthy: MP3, JPEG, PNG, AVI, WMA, DivX-HD, XVID, and yes, even MKV. We plugged in a 250GB USB hard drive and tested a large variety of files, including some high-definition MKV and MPEG-2 files, and for the most part our experience was excellent, with only some very high bandwidth MPEG-2 files occasionally showing some artifacts.
The BD390 is also capable of streaming media from networked connected PCs, although we found we couldn't stream MKV files off the network. Otherwise, we had no problem streaming DivX and MPEG video files using only the wireless connection. Our network connection wasn't 100 percent reliable--sometimes it took a while for our media servers to be recognized--but it worked well once we were connected. LG provides a Nero server software for Windows, but the free TVersity program worked well for us, and we suspect any UPnP-compatible software would do the job. (The included software doesn't support Macs, but the BD390 should work with any UPnP or DLNA-compliant software on the network.) It's worth pointing out that the experience was significantly better than the streaming functionality on the Samsung BD-P3600, but you're better off using the USB port if you want better reliability.
The BD390 has onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. That means it can decode those soundtrack formats so they can be played back on almost every HDMI-capable AV receiver. Bit stream output is also supported, if you'd rather the decoding be done in your AV receiver. Those looking to play DVDs with legacy DTS formats, like DTS 96/24, ES, ES Matrix, and Neo:6, will be happy to note the BD390 has decoding for these formats, unlike players that feature the step down DTS-HD Master Audio Essential.
The BD390's connectivity is nearly comprehensive. The main port is the HDMI output, which can output both 1080p HD video and multichannel high-resolution audio. There is also a component video output, which is capable of outputting Blu-rays at 1080i and DVDs at 480p, as well as a legacy composite video output. For audio, there are 7.1 analog outputs, which can enable those with older AV receivers to listen to Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio at full resolution. There are also both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, along with a separate analog stereo output. Rounding out the connectivity is an Ethernet port (if, for some reason, you don't want to use Wi-Fi).
While the inclusion of CinemaNow, YouTube, and especially Netflix streaming is a big selling point for the BD390, we'd love to see the online content selection grow. Amazon Video on Demand and Pandora (the latter already available on LG's network-connected home theater systems) would be ideal candidates for future firmware upgrades.
To test image quality, we put the BD390 head-to-head with its main competitor, the Samsung BD-P3600. Both players were connected via HDMI to our Gefen distribution amplifier, which passed the signal along to the LG 42LH30.
We started off looking at Silicon Optix's "HQV" testing suite on Blu-ray. First up was the Video Resolution Loss Test, and the BD390 handled it perfectly. It depicted all the resolution of the test pattern without significant jaggies on the rotating white line. The BD390 also passed the next two jaggies tests, with solid performance on both a rotating white line and three pivoting white lines. Last was the most important test--the Film Resolution Loss Test--and again the BD390 performed well, cleanly rendering the test pattern and the subsequent panning shot across Raymond James Stadium.
We switched over to program material and the BD390 continued to perform well. We fired up some of our favorite test scenes, and "Mission: Impossible III" was up first. The BD390 had no problem with the beginning of Chapter 8, as the staircase in the background was moire-free. Chapter 11 looked great, too, with the trimming of the limo looking crisp and devoid of any jaggies. Next up was "Ghost Rider" and the BD390 handled the end of Chapter 6 nicely, too; the grille of the RV was clearly defined and lacked moire. Finally we took a look at the video-based "Tony Bennett: American Classic" and the BD390 did well, with only minimal jaggies showing up on the clapperboard at the beginning of the Diana Krall segment. Overall, the BD390 offers excellent image quality on Blu-ray Discs, and we found its performance to be nearly identical to the BD-P3600.
Load times have improved on many 2009 Blu-ray players, and we put the BD390 through our suite of disc loading tests. The BD390 got off to a great start, loading "Mission: Impossible III" in 11 seconds with the player on, and 25 seconds with the player off; that just about ties our speed champion, the BD-P3600. On discs with more elaborate menus, the BD390 is still very fast, but is just a hair behind the BD-P3600. It loads the main movie of "Spider-Man 3" in a minute and 4 seconds (the BD-P3600 does it in a minute, 3 seconds), and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" in a minute and 22 seconds (the BD-P3600 does it in a minute and 15 seconds). While the BD-P3600 may be slightly faster, both players are fast enough that you really don't notice a lag.
We also tested the image quality of the LG BD390 on standard DVDs. Test patterns courtesy of Silicon Optix's HQV suite were first on our plate, and the initial resolution pattern looked crisp and detailed, with none of the image stability issues that we sometimes see. The BD390 also did well on the next two jaggies tests, with only some slight jaggies showing up on a test with three pivoting lines. Some test footage with a racecar sometimes trips up lesser players, but the BD390 showed off its 2:3 pull-down processing and had no trouble with the clip.
LG's player did similarly well with program material. The introduction to "Star Trek: Insurrection" looked smooth, with the curved edges of the bridge and boat hulls rendered without jaggies. Last up was "Seabiscuit," which is a torture test for DVD image quality, but the BD390 held its own, with only minor artifacts occurring on the opening sequence of black and white photos. All but the pickiest videophiles will be satisfied with the BD390's DVD performance.