The big connectivity addition for the BDP-HD1 is the Ethernet port, which enables its Home Media Gallery function. The gallery extends the functionality of the BDP-HD1 beyond just a standard Blu-ray player, making it part network media player as well. The unit is capable of playing movies, music, and photos over the wired connection. File format support is pretty basic: WMV and MPEG for movies; MP3, WMA, and WAV for music; JPEG, PNG and GIF for images. All we needed to do was run the Windows Media Connect software on our PC, and it worked like a charm. There is no indication as to whether this port can be used to update the firmware.
The BDP-HD1 is also one of the first products we've seen with the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certification. In theory, this means that the BDP-HD1 should be able to display content from other DLNA-certified products on the network. Unfortunately we didn't have any DLNA-certified products on hand to test this, but it could become a more useful feature when there are more DLNA-certified products on the market.
We started off testing the Pioneer BDP-HD1's performance as a network media player and were mostly happy. We had some high-definition WMV files on our computer and were able to stream them over the BDP-HD1 to an HDTV without a hitch. MP3, WMA, and WAV files were also not an issue, and we found the organization of the files easy to browse. We did run into a problem getting JPEGs to show up; only 1 photo out of a folder of 20 would show up. The JPEGs we had were of average size with short file names, so we're not sure what the problem was here.
Moving on to video quality testing, we were excited to test out the BDP-HD1's 1080p/24 output, and luckily we had the Pioneer Pro-FHD1 on hand. The Pro-FHD1 one of the few displays capable of accepting a 1080p/24 signal, and it can also change its refresh rate to 72Hz. Technical details aside, the supposed benefit of this combination is that the 24fps output paired with a compatible display can decrease judder.
Unfortunately, our testing seemed to reveal that this combination did not yield the expected results. In the beginning of Chapter 4 of Corpse Bride, there's a slow pan down over a window. With the Pioneer BDP-HD1 in 1080p/24 mode (called "source direct"), with ADV set to On for the Pioneer Pro-FHD1, we saw more judder on center window bracket than in 1080p/60 mode with ADV set to Off. It's not a night and day revelation--there is still some judder with 1080p/60--but after observing several movies in both modes, we definitely felt that 1080p/24 increased the amount of judder we saw, instead of decreasing it. Similar behavior can be seen toward the end of Chapter 4 on Aeon Flux on the bottom edge of the white building, as well as on Tears of the Sun, on the tail of the jet aircraft on Chapter 1. This is disappointing; we were looking forward to seeing decreased judder as it is a frequently occurring artifact that can take the viewer out of the movie experience. Unfortunately--at least with this combination--1080p/24 didn't deliver. We didn't have any other displays on hand that could accept 1080p/24, but we'll update this review after we check out the BDP-HD1 on Sony's VPL-VW50 projector in the next couple of weeks.
Aside from 1080p/24, the high-definition video quality of the BDP-HD1 was excellent. That's not to say it was better than the competition--we find the image quality nearly identical for all current Blu-ray players. Still, the detail and colors from movies like Crank, Tears of the Sun, and Corpse Bridge look phenomenal, and we don't think anybody will be disappointed with its Blu-ray image quality.
As most people purchasing the BDP-HD1 probably already have a collection of DVD movies, we tested its ability to upscale DVDs. We started off with Silicon Optix's HQV test suite in 1080i mode, and noticed that the BDP-HD1 wasn't able to pass the full resolution of DVD--the vertical resolution was a little soft. We switched over to 720p and 1080p, and things got worse; we saw some instability and flicker in the image. It didn't get much better as we went through the rest of the tests. It struggled with most of them, included the crucial 2:3 pull-down race car test. The BDP-HD1 does, however, have 2:3 pull-down detection, as we were able to see on the introduction to Star Trek: Insurrection with the bridge and the hulls of the boats being rendered smoothly. That's not to say the movie looked good though. Insurrection doesn't look that good to begin with, but we've seen a much better picture from better upscalers, such as the Oppo DV-981HD.
We were about to watch some scenes from Seabiscuit, but unfortunately the BDP-HD1 has some issues playing our copy of the disc. We followed this up by putting it through our full disc compatibility test, and overall the BDP-HD1 had more trouble than most players with our burned DVDs. The bottom line is that if you're looking for high-quality upscaling and consistent DVD playback, you're probably better off going with a different player, such as the Panasonic DMP-BD10 or the Philips BDP9000.
Finally, some of the complaints leveled against this first round of Blu-ray players are slow load and power-up times. The Pioneer BDP-HD1 suffers from the same problems, taking about 30 seconds for a picture to show up on the screen after we hit the Open/Close button. Starting with the BDP-HD1 powered down, it took us about minute before the disc we had in the player would start playing. While some players are better than others, the current standout is the PlayStation 3, which has very fast load times and almost-immediate chapter skipping.