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Editors' note: This review also takes into account a new rating category, Value, in which this Blu-ray player receives a 7.
The BP620 is LG's "flagship" Blu-ray player for 2012, but you couldn't tell by its $130 street price or ordinary feature set. It includes all the important features that manufacturers are charging for this year, such as 3D compatibility, built-in Wi-Fi, and a suite of streaming-media services. The big catch, especially if you were familiar with LG's platform last year, is that Amazon Instant will not be included on 2012 players, which could be a deal breaker for cord cutters. However, LG continues to have one of the best-designed streaming-content portals, with a dead-simple user interface.
While the LG BP620 is an all-around solid Blu-ray player, it's not the best value in LG's lineup (that would be the BP320), nor is it the best 3D Blu-ray player in this price range (the Panasonic DMP-BDT220.) Still, the BP620's straightforward user interface makes it a top 3D Blu-ray player pick, especially if you don't need Amazon Instant streaming.
Design: Boring, but it works well
There's little variation in the design of Blu-ray players, but the BD620 avoids some of the mistakes other players make. There's no annoying flip-down front panel running the length of the player (looking at you, Panasonic DMP-BDT220) and the front-panel buttons are physical buttons, rather than the finicky touch-sensitive variety. It's a basic but well-executed design and my only quibble would be that the silver "Blu-ray 3D" logo looks a little tacky.
The included remote is the same one LG has been using for years and it's a pretty good clicker. There's ample separation between the various sections of the remote and the white coloring of the playback buttons (play, stop, and so on) makes them stand out in a dim home theater. The major flaw is the remote is missing a button that lets you jump right to Smart TV (or even better, a Netflix button), which is available on many competitors.
User interface: The apps you want aren't in LG Apps
The home screen has a simple layout, but it's more confusing than it needs to be.
That's because it has a Premium icon, which has the apps you want like Netflix and Pandora, and an LG Apps icon, which has a bunch of apps you don't care about. That's the opposite of what you'd expect, and even a seasoned CNET colleague of mine had to ask, "How do I get to Netflix?" when picking up the remote for the first time.
The Premium section is where you'll find streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Pandora, and they're laid out in a straightforward grid of icons. The layout is actually the best I've seen so far, without any unnecessary layers or screens getting between you and your content. Unfortunately you can't customize the order that the apps are laid out in, but there aren't enough apps to make this a problem. For simple navigation, LG's Smart TV interface is a winner.
The LG Apps section looks fine, but you'll basically never need to go there. The selection of apps is dismal, ranging from worthless games to classic books displayed on your TV. Given the quality of the apps in the app store, LG should have left if out completely, especially since it's so confusing next to the Premium section. Note that you can't add any of the Premium streaming-media services to the customizable "LG apps" bar that runs along the bottom of most screens, which makes it practically useless.
Features: The basics are covered
Again, the LG BP620 has all the major features covered: built-in Wi-Fi, 3D Blu-ray support, and a full suite of streaming-media services.
LG's Smart TV platform covers most major streaming-media services, especially if you count those coming in a future firmware update (MLB.TV, MOG). The big omission is Amazon Instant, which LG has said will not be included on its 2012 Blu-ray players and home theater systems. That's all the more puzzling because LG's Smart TV platform included the service last year. Amazon Instant isn't a make-or-break service for most buyers like Netflix, but it's certainly becoming a bigger draw as Amazon improves its Prime Instant Video catalog.
Around back is a basic set of outputs, with an HDMI output, optical output, and Ethernet jack. The BP620 doesn't have dual HDMI outputs like Samsung's flagship BD-E6500, but they're not that useful anyway. If you have an older non-HDMI receiver, you can always use the optical audio output for audio without losing much, if any, sound quality.
The LG BP620 can also play back a variety of digital media files over its USB port or over your home network using DLNA. I tested a mishmash of digital video and audio files, with somewhat positive results if you ignore the ugly interface. A few MKV and Xvid files worked, and while a ripped DVD (from TS video and audio folders, doesn't work with ISO) did play, there were annoying quirks that would make me skeptical of depending on it. That's consistent with my experience that Blu-ray players are generally just mediocre as local-media streamers -- useful occasionally, but you're better off with a more specialized device if you're a heavy torrenter or digital music streamer.
There are a few "premium" features that the BP620 is missing, but I don't miss them. There's no 2D-to-3D conversion, but I've never seen that feature done well and it's already built into most 3D TVs. The BP620 doesn't have any onboard memory, but most manufacturers are omitting that feature too. That's fine by me, as it was only really needed for (nearly useless) BD-Java features.
Performance: Perfectly average
Performance may be the most important criterion for HDTVs and speakers, but it's almost irrelevant when choosing a Blu-ray player. Last year, we found that all major manufacturers' players showed nearly identical image quality with Blu-ray discs, and so far in 2012, the overall speed of the players is pretty close too.
I still put the BP620 through its paces for Blu-ray image quality, DVD image quality, and Netflix image quality. Blu-ray and DVD image quality were unsurprisingly excellent, as you'll find on any modern Blu-ray player. Netflix streaming quality was also great, looking as good with HD content as any other player.
The BP620 (like all recent Blu-ray players) is considerably faster than the Sony PlayStation 3 for loading movies, but it's average compared with other 2012 Blu-ray players. In many cases, the contest is a wash; the Panasonic DMP-BDT220 turns on faster thanks to a quick-start mode, but the LG is faster to load movies with complex menus and is much faster at skipping chapters. The Panasonic is the overall speed pick because of how quickly it turns on, but aside from Sony's sluggish BDP-S590, all of the players I've tested so far are pretty comparable.
If you want all the testing details, check out CNET's 2012 comprehensive Blu-ray chart, but the main takeaway is that performance just isn't that important in choosing a Blu-ray player. You're better off picking a player based on which model has the features you want and is easiest to use.
What about LG's other Blu-ray players?
If you've made it this far and you're sold on LG's Smart TV platform and menu design, you might be wondering if one of the step-down models is a better buy. LG's Blu-ray player line basically breaks down as follows:
For my money, the BP320 is the best overall value. Built-in Wi-Fi is worth paying for and makes the player a lot more versatile if you ever want to move it to a secondary room, like a bedroom or den. For most buyers, who don't have 3DTVs, 3D Blu-rays, or interest in the format, 3D isn't an essential feature. (Although at the time of publication, the BP620 only cost $7 more than the BP320 on Amazon, which makes it more of a coin flip.)
Conclusion: Great interface on an otherwise average player
If you need 3D compatibility and are smitten with LG's straightforward Smart TV interface, the LG BP620 is a very solid all-around Blu-ray player at a reasonable price. Otherwise, it's hard to argue that Panasonic's DMP-BDT220 isn't the better pick, with more streaming-media services, a dedicated Netflix button, and a faster bootup time for the same price.