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Kogan Blu-ray player review: Kogan Blu-ray player

Kogan's budget-line Blu-ray player has excellent playback, and is even region free. At the same time, it's a player we could only recommend as a stopgap solution for multi-region buyers.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
4 min read

Note: when we originally reviewed the Kogan Blu-ray player we were unable to test the multi-region capability; those details and the recent price drop have been added to this updated review.


Kogan Blu-ray player

The Good

Multi-region for DVD and Blu-ray. Good playback quality.

The Bad

No network port. Blu-ray 1.1 only. Region switching is fiddly.

The Bottom Line

Kogan's budget-line Blu-ray player has excellent playback, and is even region free. At the same time, it's a player we could only recommend as a stopgap solution for multi-region buyers.

There's not much to be said about the design of Kogan's Blu-ray player that you can't ascertain from the pictures above. Like many AV components, black abounds, and it's certainly not a petite unit, measuring in at 430x305x60mm. The remote control is a little busy, and has the classic problem of shaping the play, pause and related controls identically; with no backlighting this makes it easy to accidentally tap the wrong command from time to time.

We did notice when installing the Blu-ray player that the casing wasn't particularly strong and had a slight tendency to "bounce" inwards — it's basically a cheap composite plastic. That's not a killer flaw, given that most players will fit into a cabinet, but if you were planning on dumping things on top of it (not a wise idea for any player) it's something worth bearing in mind.

Out of the box, the Kogan Blu-ray player supports the Blu-ray 1.1 profile for playback of standard Blu-ray discs, as well as DVD, CD and MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and AVI files. Audio support extends up to DTS-HD (reliant, of course, on your home theatre set-up).

You're covered on pretty much every front in regards to connection, from composite up to HDMI, although why anyone would connect a Blu-ray player via composite eludes us. You'll only get the full 1080p experience when connecting via HDMI, naturally enough, but a cable is not provided in the box. Kogan does sell them, which is probably why.

One feature that's largely unique amongst Blu-ray players to date that the Kogan offers is region-free playback — and allegedly not just for DVD, which some units do offer. The claim is that it'll handle Blu-ray discs no matter what region they're coded for.

Having given in terms of disc compatibility, though, it seems time to take something away. And that something is the lack of a network port. While it's not mandatory for a pre-Blu-ray 2.0 player to have one, the lack of a port makes it much tougher to apply any firmware upgrades. Kogan's web page for the player does claim that it's firmware upgradeable, but that would presumably have to be by self-burnt CD only.

The other more pertinent problem with the lack of Ethernet, and an internet connection particularly, is that you're doing yourself out of any BD-Live content offered by a Blu-ray disc. This is extra downloadable content that many newer discs offer. To date, there's not been much that's been really gripping in terms of BD-Live content, but at the same time, buying a player that will never work with it does limit your flexibility in the future.

Cheap players often suffer in the playback stakes, and at least on this score, the Kogan acquits itself as well as any other entry-level Blu-ray player we've seen. Testing with the Region B version of "Sleeping Beauty", we were in the menu within 90 seconds — almost exactly on par with the playback speed of Blu-ray on a PlayStation 3 console.

Films viewed via HDMI had good levels of clarity once we'd selected to have the "film" mode activated, with crisp lines and very few digital problems on our test display with the Blu-ray versions of Casino Royale and Spider-Man 3. Upscaled DVDs looked quite spiffy on a suitable screen. Unlike the remote control on the recently tested Kogan 42-inch 1080p LCD screen, the remote was nicely responsive from a range of angles and distances.

On the multi-region front, the Kogan does perform as advertised. Well, in a manner of speaking. Out of the box the player is in fact set to Region B, and popping a Region A BR disc into the drive brought up a predictable splash screen telling us it wouldn't play back region A discs. We tested with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Wall•E, Prince Caspian, Horton Hears a Who and Pineapple Express.

Interestingly, despite being US-sourced, the two Batman flicks and Pineapple Express didn't care what region the player was set to, but the others did. Switching the Kogan to region A is relatively simple — open the drive, tap 1,2 and it's done, with the same process but using 3,4 switching back to B. Kogan didn't inform us how to switch to region C, if you do happen to want to source discs from China. While that's a somewhat fiddly solution, it did work with our test discs, but we noticed that every time the player was powered down — just from the remote, so a soft power down essentially — it would revert back to region B automatically. As such, if you planned on getting a large library of Region A discs, you'd have to resign yourself to a future of lots of region swapping.

We can't overlook the fact that the Kogan Blu-ray player does open up Blu-ray playback to a much cheaper market than has previously been offered it, as is often the case with Kogan's products, especially as the company has just dropped the price to a very entry-level point. Kogan's built itself a decent little market in supplying technologies — most notably LCD TVs, but more recently things like GPS units and HD camcorders — at, as they say in the best dodgy shouted TV advertisements, "a fraction of retail price".

Where the Kogan falls over is in the lack of 2.0 compliance, which robs it of BD-Live support and an easy firmware upgrade path. There's no doubting that the Kogan Blu-ray player is inexpensive and the region free facility, while somewhat cumbersome, does actually work. We still feel like it's a stopgap player, though, and only of real interest to those who plan to accumulate a large mixed region collection.