We take Blu-ray playback for granted these days, with the vast majority of players pumping out nearly identical image quality, no matter the price. The Philips BDP5506 is an exception, failing many of our basic Blu-ray and DVD image quality tests, and it's the first player we've tested this year to do so.
It also carries a premium price ($165 street), but is missing many of the premium streaming services available on competitors, like Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, and Amazon Instant. The Philips BDP5506 does offer its unique MediaConnect screencasting feature, but we found it difficult to get working properly and its usefulness limited.
Philips generally has a knack for unique designs, but the BDP5506 looks like a generic Blu-ray player. The only design flair of note is a gray notch under the disc drive, but it doesn't do much to make the player stand out. The front-panel buttons are all touch-sensitive, but they work well enough that we didn't mind them. On the far right is a USB port, but otherwise the front panel is unadorned.
The home menu screen on the BDP5506 is one of the more straightforward we've seen. "Play disc," "Browse USB," and "Browse Net TV" are the simple options on the home screen, which are more descriptive than on most Blu-ray players.
nce you select the Net TV streaming-content portal, the design isn't quite as nice. While competitors like Panasonic and LG feature jumbo-size icons that are easy to read while leaning back on the couch, Philips has a more cluttered look, with many smaller icons for streaming services. There are also tons of services of dubious quality, which mostly get in the way of finding content you actually want.
The Philips BDP5506 has a basic connectivity package, and its HDMI output and coaxial digital audio output should be enough to cover most home theaters. There's no component video output, but that's not a major loss since 2011 Blu-ray players are limited to 480i resolution over component, because of annoying AACS rules.
The included remote is mostly well-designed. The directional pad is centrally positioned, Blu-ray-centric buttons like "pop-up menu" surrounding it. The large home button at the top is also appreciated, letting you escape back to the main menu no matter what you're doing. The playback buttons are tiny, and the eject button is strangely buried toward the bottom of the remote, but overall it's a decent remote.