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Philips BDP7200 review: Philips BDP7200

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Editors' note June 9, 2008: The rating of this player has been changed since its initial publication to reflect changes in the marketplace.

6.0

Philips BDP7200

The Good

Unique design; can output Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio in bit-stream format; excellent video quality in 1080p/24 mode; Profile 1.1 compliant

The Bad

No onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio; subpar image quality on Blu-ray Discs in standard 1080p mode; lacks Profile 2.0 support; no Ethernet jack for firmware upgrades.

The Bottom Line

The BDP7200 has a unique design and is Profile 1.1 compliant, but subpar Blu-ray image quality and the lack of onboard audio decoding options limit its appeal.

When first announced at CES, the Philips BDP7200 grabbed some headlines with its $350 price tag, which was $50 less than the Sony PlayStation 3. Well, a couple of months have passed and apparently Philips couldn't live up to its promise. The BDP7200 is now going for $400, precisely the cost of the least-expensive PS3. You'd expect a standalone player to have at least as many features as the PS3 for the same price, but the BDP7200 does not. It lacks onboard decoding for high-resolution audio soundtracks and is limited to Blu-ray Profile 1.1. We might have been able to overlook those faults for solid Blu-ray playback, but the Philips fell a step behind the top performers we've tested, such as the PS3 and Panasonic DMP-BD30K. If you like the Philips design, aren't picky about extra features, and can live with its video performance issues, the BDP7200 can serve as a stylish Blu-ray player with a reasonable price tag. On the other hand, most buyers will be better off with the multitalented PlayStation 3, or with better players expected later this year.

Design
The look of the BDP7200 is a refreshing break from what we see on other Blu-ray players. The dark gray plastic casing has rounded corners, rather than the traditional boxy edges, while the faceplate is darker, glossy black, with the Philips logo prominently featured in the center of the unit. The left side consists of the disc tray, while the right side has a nicely sized LED display next to the playback controls. These include handy chapter forward/backward buttons and a resolution toggle, which are nice for when the remote goes missing.


We definitely appreciate the high-definition graphics on the BDP7200's menu system.

The BDP7200's predecessor, the BDP9000, was one of the first Blu-ray players to feature high-definition menu graphics, and the BDP7200 continues the tradition. The home menu looks sharp and features three options: Disc Tray, which confusingly plays the movie; Settings, which takes you to another menu with more settings; and Product Info, which simply tells you the firmware version. So while we liked the graphics, we wished its layout were more helpful.

The BDP7200's included remote control has a decent button layout, although there are some missteps. On the upside, the remote has a centrally located directional pad, surrounded by useful buttons such as Back and Pop-up Menu. We were surprised, however, that the "Top Menu" button wasn't near the direction pad, and we had to search for it when we wanted to return to the standard start-up menu on Blu-ray Discs and standard DVDs. We liked the separate rocker buttons for volume and channel control--for those who want to control their TV with the Philips remote--but the placement of the playback controls is subpar, with fast-forward and rewind buttons located far away from the play, pause, and stop buttons. The back side of the remote is covered with a glossy finish, which is a magnet for fingerprints.

Features
The audio capabilities of the BDP7200 are a bit disappointing. There is no onboard decoding available for the newest, high-resolution soundtrack formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Note that similarly priced competitors, such as the Samsung BD-P1400, decode most new soundtracks, and the new Panasonic DMP-BD50 is supposed to decode them all. On the bright side, the BDP7200 is capable of sending high-resolution soundtracks to a compatible receiver in bit-stream format, which will let you take advantage of the full resolution of these soundtracks. However, only buyers with new receivers that have Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master decoding can use this feature, so most people will be stuck with plain old Dolby Digital and DTS.


Notice that there are just standard Dolby and DTS logos--not Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master audio.

Connectivity is solid for a Blu-ray player. The most important connection is the HDMI port, which can output Blu-ray Discs in 1080p plus carry high-resolution multichannel audio. For analog video, there is a component video output--which can output Blu-ray Discs in 1080i and DVDs in 480p--plus a legacy composite video output. For audio, there are both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, plus 5.1 analog outputs. The major omission is an Ethernet port, which would have enabled easier firmware upgrades.


The BDP7200 has pretty much every jack you'll need, but we would have liked an Ethernet port.

The BDP7200 is a Blu-ray Profile 1.1 player. This means that it can play picture-in-picture commentary tracks--available on some 2008 Blu-ray Discs such as Sunshine. It is not, however, Blu-ray Profile 2.0 (also known as BD-Live) compliant, which means that it can't access any new Internet-enabled features seen on newer Blu-ray Discs, such as Walk Hard. If you're not interested in special features or have no interest in connecting your Blu-ray player to the Internet via Ethernet, you probably don't need to worry about Blu-ray Profile 2.0 compatibility, but do be aware that the PlayStation 3 is already BD-Live capable, and the upcoming Panasonic DMP-BD50 will be BD-Live capable as well.

Blu-ray performance
We started our image-quality tests of the BDP7200 by looking at Silicon Optix's HQV test suite on Blu-ray. The BDP7200 handled the initial video-resolution loss test well, displaying the full resolution of Blu-ray Discs, although we did notice some jaggies on the rotating white bar. Plenty of jaggies was also visible on the three shifting three lines, and the edges of the lines would break up for a second when they changed directions. The Philips didn't fare any better on the "Film Resolution Loss Test," failing the first test patterns and also struggling on a panning shot across Raymond James Stadium, with a good deal of moire showing up in the stands.

We switched over to program material to see if these issues cropped up in regular usage. We set the BDP7200 in the most-frequently used mode, 1080p at 60 frames per second, and popped in Ghost Rider. At the end of chapter six, we clearly made out jaggies in the grille of the RV as the camera pulls away. We also saw jaggies pop up in Sunshine. About 4 minutes and 26 seconds into the movie, the lines of the countertop aren't smooth, and above that, there are more jaggies in the grating on the wall. A little later, about the five minute mark, the rim of the glasses on the table appear to be "shimmering," followed by the horizontal lines on Captain Kaneda's shirt, which break up with jaggies. While some discs didn't suffer from this as much--such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest--it cropped enough times that it would annoy videophiles. We confirmed that the jaggies were not in the source by switching the BDP7200 into 1080i mode--which let our Sony KDL-46XBR4 handle the processing instead--and watching the same scenes, which did not have the previously mentioned jaggies.

With the Philips set in 1080p mode at 24 frames per second, the jaggies went away. The disparity between the two output modes has been relatively common on less expensive Blu-ray players. The issue is because of 1080i deinterlacing, which occurs when the players convert video on Blu-ray Disc--which is 1080p at 24 frames per second--into the more common format of 1080p at 60 frames per second. If you have a newer TV that can accept 1080p/24 signals properly, you won't see any issues. However, most HDTVs cannot accept 1080p/24 signals, so you'll be stuck with the less-than-pristine video quality described above. However, if your HDTV has proper 1080i deinterlacing, you can opt to set the BDP7200 in 1080i mode and your HDTV handle the processing, which may look better.

We also put the BDP7200 through our normal suite of disc-loading tests, and it performed better than expected, but still quite a bit slower than standard DVDs. It loaded Underworld: Evolution in about 36 seconds with the player on, and the same disc in 51 seconds starting with the player off. We also tried movies with Java-based menus, and it took us 2 minutes and 20 seconds until Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest loaded, and 1 minute and 53 seconds until Spiderman 3 loaded. Those times seem like a lot--and they are, compared with DVD--but they're actually a little bit better than average compared with similarly priced standalone Blu-ray players. Of course, the PlayStation 3 is still by far the fastest player for loading discs and navigating menus.

DVD performance
Philips DVD players have always performed well for the price, so we were optimistic going into our standard DVD performance tests. We started with Silicon Optix's HQV test suite, and the BDP7200 aced the initial resolution test, clearly displaying all the resolution of DVDs. However, it didn't perform as well on the following jaggies tests, failing test patterns consisting of a rotating white line and three shifting white lines. We also noticed plenty of jaggies on some test footage of a waving flag, and even a relatively simple test footage of a roller coaster showed more jagged edges than we would have liked. The BDP7200 performed better on HQV's difficult 2:3 pull-down test, snapping into film mode in about a second.

We switched over to program material and watched the introduction to Star Trek: Insurrection, our torture test for 2:3 pull-down processing. The BDP7200 had no problems passing the test, rendering the curved railing of the bridge and the hulls of the boats smoothly. We also watched Serenity, and saw only minor issues, despite the disappointing results from the test patterns. The BDP7200 certainly isn't the first player we'd turn to for DVD playback--and we expected more--but for casual viewers it does a fine job.

6.0

Philips BDP7200

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 5