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