Blu-ray players are so inexpensive now, and their image quality so similar, that you might be tempted to just buy the cheapest one and call it a day. But there are still advantages to shopping around and maybe paying a couple of bucks extra.
The LG BP350 is a 2015 model that is still available in the US for $79, the UK for £66 and Australia for AU$159. It's one of the cheapest Blu-ray disc-spinners around, and it comes with hefty compromises. It's one of the slowest players we've tested at loading both discs and streaming videos, and it's missing all but the most basic connections. If you only want to play Blu-rays and very occasionally watch Netflix, this will do the job. But we think it's worth paying a bit more for something like the $80 Sony BDP-S3700 or the $100 Samsung BD-J9500.
With its cross-hatched finish the BP350 looks more like a lemon zester than a Blu-ray player. A power button, a tiny eject button and a USB port adorn the front panel, while 'round the back there's just a power input and an HDMI port. That's a sparse rear even compared to other players at the price -- usually you can expect at least an Ethernet port and a coaxial digital port as well. At least it has Wi-Fi.
There's a small selection of the most-popular streaming services onboard, namely Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Spotify and Pandora. While that selection is dwarfed by the dozens on offer from Sony players, at least they're all preloaded on the LG, so you don't need to trawl through lists to find new services.
The BP350's main screen is not as pretty as its competitors', but it's pretty straightforward to use. Missing from this player are any kind of casting capabilities, whether it's Google cast, Miracast or a dedicated service like LG's own Music Flow app.
In its favor, the BP350 passed all of our real-world and synthetic benchmarks. On the other hand, no Blu-ray player has failed any of these tests in several years. In other words, picture quality is basically the same on all recent players we've tested. The LG will upscale your DVDs to a high standard as well as play your Blu-rays with the same fidelity afforded by other budget players.
Operational speed tells a different story. The LG wasn't exactly Usain Bolt in our tests. At 30.12 seconds to load Netflix, the LG is the slowest we've tested recently -- it's even 6 seconds slower than the 7-year-old PlayStation "Slim." By contrast, our current favorite at the price, the Samsung BD-J5900, is able to load Netflix in 15 seconds.
Sadly, the player isn't able to play upon power-up and so it doesn't pass our "Mission Impossible III" test. However, pressing the power button and hitting play a few times netted a time of 15 seconds, which is a little slower than average.
You want a cheap player? You got it. With a minimum of features designed to serve the unfussy bedroom TV watcher, the LG BP350 at least does the job. But if you're looking for better speed or streaming features, Sony and Samsung are better choices.