If you're a TV manufacturer these days, you really need to sell some Blu-ray players too if you want to rake in maximum dosh. That's the reason Toshiba ended up making Blu-ray players once its HD DVD format had finally croaked. Philips has invested more in Blu-ray, though, so it stands to reason that the company would put more effort into its players, like this one, the BDP8000.
Designed to work with 3D televisions, the BDP8000 offers plenty of awesome features, unique styling and excellent image quality. You can expect to pay about £200 for this player.
Looks like a skunk
Finished in shiny black, with a bold silver strip across the front, the BDP8000 looks distinctive and attractive. The supplied remote control matches those that accompany the company's newer TVs, like the updated, LED-backlit Cinema 21:9 model.
The remote is smaller and more rounded than most, and fits satisfyingly into the palm of your hand. It also matches the black colour of the player -- the TV remotes are generally silver -- so you shouldn't struggle to pick up the correct controller if you also have a new Philips TV.
On the back of the BDP8000, there are component video outputs, which were originally designed for delivering analogue high-definition video. They'll soon be disabled by some Blu-ray discs, however, meaning you'll only get a standard-definition image out of the player. This probably won't be a problem for the majority of people, who are perfectly happy with HDMI, but, if you're using an older TV with few or no HDMI inputs, this might be an issue.
Not everyone has an HDMI-capable amplifier, so we're pleased to see the inclusion of 7.1-channel analogue audio outputs on this player. This, combined with built-in support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA, means you can send decoded audio to an older amplifier, experience the brilliant sound quality offered by these lossless codecs, and not have to spend a fortune on a new amplifier.
We expect connections like this on a high-end player, such as the BDP8000, but that doesn't mean every manufacturer bothers to include them. Well done, Philips.
Clear and pleasant menus
Looking at the menus on the BDP8000 is, by and large, a pleasant experience. The home screen is clean and offers just enough options, without overwhelming the user. From the home screen, you can play the disc, access video content via the Internet or a USB stick, and access the player's configuration options.
In terms of configurations, you can opt to fix the player's output at a resolution of your choice, such as 720p, 1080p or 1080/24p. These options are useful if your TV has trouble automatically negotiating a resolution for some reason. The BDP8000 also offers an automatic resolution option, which will be just fine for most people.
Additional options are provided for tweaking the quality of the picture and its colour output. We'd advise you to avoid these, as such alterations are best made on your television.
A bugbear of ours in times gone by was the speed at which Blu-ray players loaded discs. Happily, sluggish load times have almost entirely disappeared. While Blu-ray discs don't load as quickly as good old-fashioned DVDs, a wait of a few seconds is now all that you're faced with.
The BDP8000 backs up its decent load speeds with very responsive menus and swift disc-navigation times. Four years after Blu-ray launched, we're finally getting to the point where it's a viable and complete standard.
Picture and sound quality
The high-definition image from the BDP8000 is really excellent, but then that's true of the vast majority of Blu-ray players. We tested the player with Philips Cinema 21:9 TV, and we found the picture to be incredibly detailed. Inglourious Basterds looked fantastic. In particular, the scene where Brad Pitt addresses his troops sang with gloriously fine detail -- so much so that his neck scar didn't look as convincing as it perhaps should have. Good work, Blu-ray.
Audio on our stereo TV was good, although, in common with many downmixed soundtracks, the dialogue sometimes got lost among the rest of the sound effects. While this is undesirable, it's really the fault of Blu-ray engineers for not tweaking the dialogue slightly. On a 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround-sound system, however, you'll hear every word. Buy one -- you won't regret it.
3D content from the player also looks competent. With a HDMI 1.4 connection, the player will happily put your TV into 3D mode automatically.
Media streaming and USB playback
Philips has provided some media-playback options on the BDP8000. You can connect it to your network, and stream files using DLNA. Philips has been a leader in the use of this streaming standard, so it's not a surprise to see it included here. But we don't think it's the most user-friendly way to share video, and it often causes us nightmares in terms of getting devices to talk to each other.
USB playback should be better, as it's based locally. But the BDP8000 can't play MKV-contained HD MPEG-4 videos. That's a disappointment, as other companies have provided this functionality, including the more traditional, stick-in-the-mud Sony. While we can live without this feature, we resent having to when it's present on other players.
For reasons we don't understand, gadgets with 3D capability still attract a premium price tag. The application of the technology, especially in Blu-ray players, is reasonably inexpensive, but the Philips BDP8000 doesn't reflect that. Although it's a high-end player, with plenty of great extra features, we think the Sony range offers better value. The BDP8000 also lacks access to services like BBC iPlayer and LoveFilm, something offered by most of Sony's players.
Overall, the BDP8000 is a good Blu-ray player. But it's expensive, and that's likely to put most people off buying it, especially if they don't want 3D capability.
Edited by Charles Kloet