If you haven't ripped your CD collection yet, you either have a runaway case of procrastination or you're just not that into technology. That's what makes LG's CD-ripping Blu-ray player, the BD690, a bit of a strange hybrid. The type of tech-oriented people who will appreciate the BD690's solid Blu-ray playback and excellent suite of streaming-media services probably ripped their CD collections years ago and are in no rush to revisit that tedious process. They're also better off going with the similarly priced Sony PlayStation 3 Slim ($250), which gets you HD gaming, streaming video, Blu-ray playback, and CD ripping.
That makes the LG BD690's primary audience nontechies, specifically nontechies willing to pay a premium ($260 street price) for a unique Blu-ray player. That's a narrow audience, but if you're in it, the BD690 is a good choice. Its built-in Gracenote service does an excellent job of automatically downloading album art and metadata, so your digital music library stays well-organized. Still, the ripping process could use refinement. You'll likely need to crack the manual just to figure out how to rip a CD (there's shockingly no "Rip CD" button or onscreen menu option) and we sorely missed a bulk ripping mode to speed up the process.
Even with those flaws, we're not aware of another product that combines all of this functionality in a single box. The LG BD690 may not be the dead-simple CD-ripping Blu-ray player of our (parents') dreams, but it's good enough to recommend if you can put up with its quirks.
The BD690's thick, chunky look seems like a throwback now that Blu-ray players have slimmed down. It's 2.3 inches tall, which doesn't sound like much, but it towers over the 1.5-inch Panasonic DMP-BDT210, for example. The front panel has a sleek look with no buttons, which are all behind the flip-down door.
Despite the simple layout of the home screen, the Premium and LG Apps icons aren't as straightforward as you'd think. Premium brings you to LG's full suite of streaming-media services (Netflix, Pandora, and so on), while LG Apps brings you to an app store that carries barely useful programs. So, basically, when you want to access apps you might actually use, don't select LG Apps.
Once you get into the streaming-content portal, the interface is excellent. Unlike Samsung's cluttered Smart Hub interface, LG's streaming-content home screen has big icons for the various services. It's the best interface we've seen for streaming content on a Blu-ray player in 2011, mainly because it's easy to quickly get to the streaming service of your choice.
The ripping process works relatively well, but we were frustrated that LG didn't put in the extra effort to make it great. Pop in a CD and there's no menu option for ripping. Instead, you have to know to press the "info/display" button on the remote to bring up the CD Archiving option.
Finally you have to pick a folder to save it all to, even though you'll likely just select the default. All of these steps should be automatic, but instead they have to be manually repeated every time you rip a CD.
The built-in 250GB hard drive can hold well over 400 CDs in lossless format. That means unless you have a truly extensive CD collection, there's not much benefit to using the other compression options.
The LG BD690 has the standard assortment of ports for a Blu-ray player, with the modest addition of including both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs. Note that while the LG BD690 does have a component video output, it's limited to 480i resolution, due to annoying AACS rules.
The included remote's button layout is quite good, but we would have really liked a Smart TV button for jumping directly to the streaming services. Similarly, as we mentioned, there are no dedicated buttons for the CD-ripping functionality, which is a huge omission. Unfortunately, LG decided to largely copy the standard remote used with its other Blu-ray players instead of optimizing a remote for the BD690's unique features.