LG BP530 review:

An easy-to-use, but sluggish, Blu-ray player

The main interface features the largely wasteful My Apps shortcut. Sarah Tew/CNET

The other optional app barely worth mentioning is Red Karaoke, because it's a pretty lackluster karaoke experience. I mean, there isn't even video of couples walking in slow motion along a beach(!), just poorly scrolling white text on a gray background. And you can't connect a microphone.

One of the most compelling features of this player though is the LG AV smartphone app. It not only lets you control the player with your phone, but it includes a feature called Private Listening. This enables you to listen to Blu-ray discs -- no apps unfortunately -- via your smartphone. While it sounds like a good idea, the sound quality doesn't scale down for slow connections, so you need to have a really good wireless connection or else you'll just hear mush. It's a great idea, but it just doesn't work that well here.

The player is also compatible with 3D discs, which distinguishes it from the 2D-only BP330.

There is only one video output on this player: a single HDMI port. To get an analog output, you'll need to try a more expensive player like the Sony BDP-S790. Be aware that come 2014 no player on the market should have analog outputs per rules set down by Hollywood and the hardware manufacturers, known as the "analog sunset." The LG's other connections are coaxial digital, USB, and an Ethernet jack. Wireless Internet connectivity is also included.

Performance: Not quite perfect
In terms of picture quality, the LG performed toward the bottom of our chosen group of 2013 Blu-ray players. However, there really isn't that much separating the top performer (Panasonic DMP-BDT230) and the worst (Sony BDP-S5100). The dividing performance test proved to be how well the players dealt with film content. The LG was unable to properly render 3:2 pull-down without jerkiness, while the Sony failed both of our film-based tests. What does this mean in the real world? Pans and fast action shots may have a little more judder than usual, but it isn't something you'll notice unless you're looking for it. All other Blu-ray tests passed without complaint.

Upscaled DVD content also looked fine, with no issues with moire in the fine detail of "Star Trek: Insurrection" on DVD. During the opening of the movie the camera pans across the rooftops of a utopian village, and lesser players will exhibit jaggies on some of the diagonal lines -- not so the LG.

In terms of speed, the player is a bit worse than average. While it was able to load "Mission: Impossible" in a decent 13.6 seconds -- roughly the same as the Panasonic player -- it took the longest of any equivalent player to load Netflix, with a snooze-worthy 35 seconds, or almost twice the time of the others. Though the Samsung BD-F5900 uses a bit more electricity in standby mode than most players, it is also the speediest I have seen.

In using this player for a few days, I did experience a couple of random lockups, and at one point needed to unplug it from the power to restart. I may have just had some bad luck with the player, but it's worth noting that I didn't have similar issues with the other units I've tested this year.

If it weren't for the cluttered user interface and slight picture quality issues, I'd recommend the LG BP530. The Private Listening feature is a great idea, albeit poorly executed, so I'd love to see it improved upon in future products. But for now, your $100 is better spent on the Samsung BD-F5900.

What you'll pay

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