When you opt for a budget product rather than a name brand, it usually means you're looking for "good enough" instead of perfect. The Insignia NS-2BRDVD, from one of Best Buy's in-house suppliers, is a classic example of the former. The Blu-ray player lacks step-up features (such as Profile 2.0 compatibility and full high-resolution soundtrack decoding) and speedy, glitch-free performance seen on top players like the Samung BD-P2500 and Sony BDP-S550. At the same time, those flaws aren't enough to spoil the NS-2BRDVD's main draw, which is that it plays Blu-ray Discs competently for only $230. If you're cash-strapped and just need basic Blu-ray playback, the Insignia NS-2BRDVD fits the bill, but be sure to check out the competing Samsung BD-P1500 which offers more features and is heavily discounted online to about the same price.
The Insignia NS-2BRDVD has a traditional boxy shape, with the front faceplate covered in glossy black. The gloss doesn't extend beyond the very front, which makes it less slick than the Samsung BD-P1500's "block of obsidian" look. Front panel controls included the handy chapter forward/backward buttons, and the nicely sized LED screen was easily readable from about 8 feet back. There's an illuminated blue Blu-ray logo right in the center of the unit, which unfortunately isn't dimmable. Overall, it's not the kind of player you'll want to show off, but it's not an eyesore either.
The included remote will look familiar to anyone with Samsung home theater gear (it's a near clone), which means button placement and differentiation is pretty good. One nice touch is that the main playback buttons glow in the dark, which makes it easier to use in a darkened home theater. We've seen reports online that the remote tends to have a weak signal--meaning you have to point it directly at the unit to work--but we didn't have any problems during our testing.
The NS-2BRDVD is Blu-ray Profile 1.1 compatible, but, unlike most recent Blu-ray players, it lacks Profile 2.0 compatibility. That means you won't be able to access Internet-enabled BD-Live features available on some Blu-ray movies. We haven't been impressed with BD-Live features so far, but there have been some promising early attempts, such as director Christopher Nolan's live chat on The Dark Knight. Insignia is promising a firmware update to make the NS-2BRDVD Profile 2.0-compatible in March 2009.
The NS-2BRDVD's high-resolution soundtrack decoding options are below-average also. While it does feature the Dolby TrueHD logo on the outside, closer examination reveals that it can only support the format in stereo; it supports the step-down Dolby Digital Plus in full surround. It also lacks DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, although it does support the step-down format, DTS-HD High Resolution. Lacking full Dolby TrueHD compatibility is especially annoying because all recent Blu-ray players we've tested have it, but the reality is most buyers probably won't hear the difference with the step-down surround tracks. All soundtrack formats are supported in bit-stream output mode.
Connectivity is standard. There's an HDMI output, capable of outputting high-definition video up to 1080p resolution, upscaling standard DVDs to 1080p, and handling high-resolution multichannel audio. There's also a component-video output, which can output Blu-ray Discs at 1080i and DVDs at 480p, along with a legacy composite-video connection. Audio connections include both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, as well as a stereo analog audio output. There's a USB port on the back, too, which can be used to access photos and music from a USB thumb drive. There is no S-Video output, nor are there 5.1/7.1-channel analog outputs--not surprising at this price point.
You'll also notice the NS-2BRDVD has an Ethernet port, but as of right now it doesn't have any use. The NS-2BRDVD cannot upgrade its firmware over Ethernet (you need to use a CD or DVD instead), and it currently cannot access BD-Live features over its Ethernet connection. A March firmware update is planned to enable BD-Live, but the NS-2BRDVD really should offer firmware upgrades over Ethernet like most recent Blu-ray players do.
Blu-ray disc performance
We started off Blu-ray image-quality testing by looking at Silicon Optix's HQV test suite on Blu-ray, and the NS-2BRDVD did not perform well. It failed the initial Video Resolution Loss Test, as it could not depict all the resolution of the test pattern. It also performed poorly with the two video-based jaggies tests, with tons of jaggies all over the image. It finished up by failing the resolution loss test, as it didn't display all the detail on a test pattern and we could also make out moiré in the standing during a panning shot of Raymond James Stadium. Overall, it was a subpar performance by the NS-2BRDVD.
Next, we started looking at some actual program material. First up was Ghost Rider, and the NS-2BRDVD technically passed this test, as we didn't see the kind of moiré pattern in the grille of the RV at the end of chapter 6 that we usually see when a player fails. However, it's worth noting that we did some minor jaggies in the grille that indicated less-than-perfect performance. Next up was Mission Impossible: III, and the NS-2BRDVD did better. We saw no moiré in the stairs in the background at the beginning of chapter 8, nor did we see jaggies along the trimming of the limo in chapter 11.
Last up was the video-based Tony Bennett: American Classic, and the NS-2BRDVD struggled with this title, as we could see plenty of jaggies on the clapperboard and dancers at the beginning of the Diana Krall segment. Considering that video-based Blu-ray movies are pretty rare, we don't consider this a big issue.
So overall, while the NS-2BRDVD struggled with test patterns, we found only minor real-world performance shortcomings. Unless you're a videophile who demands the absolute best, you won't even notice.
We also tested the operational performance of the NS-2BRDVD, and it was one of the slowest players we've reviewed in a while. Standard discs like Mission Impossible: III took about 29 seconds to load with the player already on, which is only a little slower than average. Loading Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl slowed the Insignia to a crawl--it took 2 minutes and 36 seconds until we actually got the movie playing. If you're easily frustrated by slow gadgets, the Insignia might get on your bad side.
Before a recent firmware update in February, the NS-2BRDVD was plagued with serious disc compatibility issues. Recent Fox titles with BD+ protection seemed to be the problem titles; we couldn't get The Rocker to play in late January. The firmware upgrade seems to have solved this problem, although we'd note that we've still had some occasional glitches. The first time we tried to play Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl the Insignia spit the disc out after trying to load it. We put the disc back in, and it played perfectly. From our testing, it seemed to only be a minor issue, but there's no way of knowing if future new releases with trip up the NS-2BRDVD.
Standard DVD performance
We tested standard DVD performance as well, starting with Silicon Optix's HQV test suite on DVD. The NS-2BRDVD passed the first resolution test, displaying the full resolution of DVDs with only some slight image instability. Next up was a couple of jaggies tests, and performance was mixed; for several seconds the NS-2BRDVD failed terribly, but eventually its processing locked in and smoothed out the jaggies. The being said, even after it locked in, its performance was only average. On the other hand, the NS-2BRDVD handled the difficult 2:3 pulldown test easily, quickly locking into film mode and removing the moiré from the grandstands as the car drives by.
We switched over to program material, and first up was the opening to Star Trek: Insurrection. The Insignia handled this pretty well, smoothly rendering the curved edges of the bridge railing and boat hulls. Watching a little further, though, we couldn't help but notice that the movie just didn't look as sharp as you'd see on a better upscaling disc player, like the Samsung BD-P2500. We switched over to Seabiscuit, and the NS-2BRDVD struggled as we saw jaggies all over several scenes, to the point where it would bother even casual viewers. We can't recommend the Insignia for top-rate DVD playback, but on most discs it will probably look "good enough" for noncritical viewers.