Pioneer's Kuro range of plasma TVs were met with an avalanche of awards, but its Blu-ray players have also consistently been among the best performers of their type. The BDP-LX52 is the company's latest flagship model. Priced at about £500, it's obviously designed to appeal to picture purists rather than bargain hunters.
The BDP-LX52 may be pricy, but it doesn't exactly look all that flash. Although other manufacturers are starting to slim down their Blu-ray players, Pioneer has made little attempt to do so. The BDP-LX52 is quite tall, at 83mm, and relatively wide, measuring 420mm. The glossy black finish on the front and the central, ice-blue LED (dimmable from the remote) are appealing enough, but the overall look is quite conservative.
The player has a decent line-up of sockets, but a set of analogue surround-sound outputs is notably absent. This means that, while the BDP-LX52 has on-board decoding capability for high-resolution audio formats like DTS-HD MA, DTS-HD High-Resolution Audio, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus, you need to hook it up to an HDMI-enabled receiver to be able to take advantage of it.
What you do get on the connection front are HDMI, component and composite video outputs, along with optical digital and stereo phono audio connectors. There's also an Ethernet socket for connecting the player to the Internet so you can access interactivecontent, and a USB port for adding extra storage space.
As the player has 1GB of on-board storage for saving BD-Live extras, you may not need to add USB storage at all. One issue we have with the USB port, however, is that it can't be used to play back your own media files -- you can only use it for storage. If you want to play formats like DivX, JPEG and MP3, you'll have to burn these files to CD or DVD first. The player also lacks any media-streaming capabilities, so it can't connect to a PC over a network to play files from a Universal Plug and Play server, unlike some other recent players and TVs.
Nevertheless, the BDP-LX52 is very easy to set up, as it guides you through the initial configuration process and even offers a number of picture presets that are optimised for different types of displays (Kuro, plasma, LCD and projector).