LG BP620 review:

LG BP620

LG Smart TV streaming 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.

LG BP620 back panel
The BP620 has just a handful of jacks on the back panel.

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:

LG BP220 ($90 list): Smart TV (Ethernet-only)
LG BP320 ($120 list): Smart TV + Wi-Fi
LG BP520 ($130 list): Smart TV + 3D + Wi-Fi ready (requires dongle)
LG BP620 ($150 list): Smart TV + 3D + Wi-Fi

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.

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