Blu-ray Players

Pioneer BDP-430 3D Blu-ray Player

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

The cost of Blu-ray players has plummeted over the past couple of years, and numerous models from various manufacturers are available for $300 and less. Pioneer's ne BDP-430 is only $299. It is 3D-capable and includes several Internet apps. It is also a player that we tested with our new Blu-ray HDMI Benchmark.

Specifications

  • Design: 3D Blu-ray Player
  • HDMI 1.4a
  • Internet Apps: Netflix and Pandora
  • Audio Connections: 1x HDMI, 1x Optical
  • Audio Codecs: DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD
  • Video Connections: 1x Component, 1x Composite, 1x HDMI
  • Data Connections: 1x USB Front, 1x USB Rear, 1x Ethernet
  • Dimensions: 2.6" H x 16.6" W x 9" D
  • Weight: 5.5 Pounds
  • MSRP: $299 USA
  • Pioneer

Design and Setup

Like most Pioneer players, the BDP-430’s construction is simple, not flashy, and feels solid. It is not the slimmest, or the lightest player on the market, but it also won’t take up your entire shelf.

The BDP-430 has the basic outputs and Ethernet input, but, unfortunately, WiFi is not built it, a proprietary USB adapter is required. Hooking up the player to the Internet was a breeze for me though, because I happen to have an available Ethernet connection in my family room.

For streaming apps, the Pioneer includes the two most important ones: Netflix and Pandora. Setup for Netflix was a breeze, as all I had to do was enter in a short activation code on the Netflix website under my account. I never had to input my email and password into the Pioneer using the remote, which we all know can be a pain.

On the Audio and Video settings menu are some of the standard options you would see on a Blu-ray player. Component video output can be selected to resolutions up to 1080i and HDMI up to 1080p, along with the priority of Component over HDMI. One major option that is missing is the ability to select different color spaces. Without this option, it is possible you may experience a loss in picture quality depending on how your receiver or TV handles the 4:4:4 YCbCr color space, which is what the Pioneer is set to output. By default, the Pioneer will also send 12-bit DeepColor to the display, if supported. Audio output can be set to PCM, for older receivers, or Bitstream for newer receivers that can decode the lossless codecs, although, I suggest only using PCM. Unfortunately, the player cannot mix audio tracks on-the-fly such as commentary to bitstream output. Finally, there is an option for Dynamic Range Control which will adjust the dynamic range of the signal to allow dialog to be heard more clearly. Essentially, it is dialing back loud explosions and sound effects so they do not over power the dialog.


In Use

I popped in Disney’s Visions disc, off their WOW setup and demo Blu-ray, and started enjoying some tranquil scenes of nature. Colorful macro shots of flowers looked vivid and sharp, perhaps a little too sharp. There was the slightest amount of edge enhancement going on and I couldn’t find anywhere in the menu to turn it off. The edge enhancement was even more pronounced on the test footage of a large sailboat on the Spears and Munsil Blu-ray. Rigging lines created a halo around them that was very distracting.

With some “real-world” viewing, scenes from Toy Story and Up looked very good. It was harder to make out the edge enhancement while watching most material, but it is definitely not something you expect to see in a Blu-ray player, let alone one that costs $299. Smooth color gradients and excellent shadow detail were all apparent on the Pioneer.

I also took a look at the super awesome (a must see if you haven’t) movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. This movie has a muted look, but the detail is wonderful. Overall, the image looked pretty good, but again I could detect a bit of haloing around dark tree branches. The terrific DTS-HD MA soundtrack filled my home theater with all the classic 8-bit sound effects and head-banging music in Scott Pilgrim.

Using Netflix was a breeze and had all the normal menu options I have come to expect: Suggestions, New Arrivals, Genres, Instant Queue, and Search. I went ahead and fired up the movie Kick-Ass. Buffering only took about 5 seconds (of course this is Internet connection dependant) and the movie began. Fast forwarding to a scene later in the movie was simple as small thumbnails are displayed along the movie’s timeline. The picture quality was surprisingly good. Although no replacement for Blu-ray, the streaming quality was certainly better than standard 480p DVD. The real deal-breaker for me with today’s streaming options is the lack of lossless audio tracks. I love the pristine sound quality of DTS-HD MA tracks on Blu-ray discs and won’t give them up until streaming offers them as well. Overall, a very nicely executed Netflix experience on the Pioneer.

I had essentially no issues while using the Pioneer. Everything felt solid and very polished in execution. The menu styling is a bit simplistic, but it works and is easy to navigate. The load times were decent and navigating discs was quite responsive. The only major problem I had was returning to the main menu after using Netflix. None of the buttons seemed to take me back to the Pioneer Home menu. Eventually I think the small “Exit” button on the remote took me back to the main menu, but it was very slow and flaky. The unit would hang for almost a minute on the Netflix screen until a grey square icon appeared and eventually the Home screen came up.


On The Bench

The Pioneer BDP-430 did OK on our bench tests. It had some difficulty with the incorrectly set progressive flags on the Galaxy Quest menu, where the footage in the chapter selections would break up. I also noticed a small amount of stair stepping and inability to resolve the small detail on the Natural Splendors Avia Zone Plate via Component output. This player has no settings for noise reduction, so it immediately failed our test for that. Even more disturbing is that the player failed the wedge patterns on the Spears and Munsil disc for HD deinterlacing. I also noticed a fair amount of edge haloing from the players undefeatable “detail enhancement” on the Ship footage present on the Spears and Munsil Blu-ray test disc.

On the plus side, the Pioneer BDP-430 breezed through our HDMI tests, outputting perfect color and luma values. Through the Quantum Data Analyzer we also determined that it outputs the 4:4:4 YCbCr color space in 12-bit (deep color).


Conclusions

The Pioneer BDP-430 came so close to being a great player to recommend. It handles Netflix very well and is certainly quicker than past Blu-ray players, however, the lack of internal WiFi, video options for color space control, noise reduction, and, most importantly, an option to turn OFF detail “enhancement” prove this player is not quite worthy of our seal of approval. Since the Pioneer does at least provide perfect output from its one color space setting of 4:4:4 YCbCr, if they were to supply a firmware update to allow the user to turn off any sort of detail enhancement (or just disable it altogether), the other issues are minor and could be overlooked.