Blu-ray Players

Pioneer Elite BDP-23FD Blu-ray Player


In Use

Now that the setup details are out the way, we can talk about the BDP-23FD in daily operation. The player takes about 30 seconds to open the disc tray when coming out of standby. The player takes about 20 seconds to start playing basic media such as DVD and CD. Blu-ray discs without Java were also pretty quick averaging about 20 seconds, but Java based Blu-ray discs could take almost a minute to load. In general, I found the player to be average in terms of responsiveness with some Blu-ray content being extremely slow. The player’s tray mechanism operated nicely but I was disappointed in the overall operation of the player’s drive mechanism. The player is somewhat noisy during chapter seeks and disc menu operations. Fortunately, this didn’t happen during normal movie or music playback and wasn’t a problem in daily use.

For Blu-ray playback, I tested the BDP-23FD with a few new releases: District 9, The Answer Man, and This Is It. The BDP-23FD did a fabulous job with all three movies, successfully reproducing the horrible living conditions of the aliens in District 9, the wonderful urban feel in The Answer Man, and in This Is It, the last glimpses of an amazing entertainer gone long before his time. The picture quality from the BDP-23FD was excellent, with all of the exceptional detail and depth that I’ve come to expect from Blu-ray video. On the audio side of things, the BDP-23FD had no trouble sending bitstream and high resolution LPCM output to my receiver. The analog audio side of the player performed very well, but in the end I was pleased with the audio performance of my receiver and preferred the simplicity of using a single HDMI connection to my receiver.

For DVD playback, I tested with the usual test material from Gladiator and Star Trek Insurrection. I did not see any major artifacts in the flyover scene of ancient Rome in Gladiator. In Star Trek Insurrection, I was not pleased with the opening chapters of the movie. The opening credits were not crisp and displayed some combing artifacts. The haystacks in the opening scene were also very noisy. I would have preferred to see this material look better on the BDP-23FD. We’ll take a closer look at the video performance in the benchmark section.

The BDP-23FD remote is straightforward and fits well in your hand. The Play button is uniquely shaped so you can easily find the transport controls without looking at the remote. A unique feature of the BDP-23FD is the “Tools” menu, which can be accessed from the remote.

This menu provides a simple one stop menu to access secondary audio and video, angle, output resolution, and audio adjustments such as lip sync control. While I really liked the convenience of this feature, I would have liked the Tools button on the remote swapped with the Popup Menu button, since I use the pop-up menus on Blu-ray discs far more often. At this price point, I would have also preferred a back-lit remote.

Another feature of the BDP-23FD is the Home Media Gallery, which allows for a convenient place to browse and playback home media and CDs. The interface is available from the Home Media Gallery button on the remote.

Selecting an audio CD, for example, brings up a menu which lets you browse tracks and also displays disc and track time.

The Home Media Gallery provides a similar folder display for JPEG images. You can also define playlists for the media in the Home Media Gallery, but this feature has limited utility since the playlists are erased once the disc tray is opened or the power is turned off. Although the player supports USB storage, which we will discuss next, you can’t access your own media from USB via the Home Media Gallery.

BD-Live Performance

In addition to the high resolution video and audio that Blu-ray offers, the other feature of the BDP-23FD that we must discuss is BD-Live. This technology relies on the network connection in the player to retrieve additional content related to the movie and to provide additional movie trailers and promotional material offered by the studios. The BD-Live specification recommends a minimum of 1 GB of storage in order to download content off of the internet. Thankfully, Pioneer gets this right and includes 1GB of memory internally in the BDP-23FD. While the player does have internal storage, you can use your own external USB storage with the BDP-23FD. Doing so bypasses the internal storage, and consequently means that the external storage is only used for BD-Live storage.

The BDP-23FD had no trouble accessing the BD-Live content during my testing, although initial performance was exceptionally slow. I used the player both on the original firmware and on the later version 3.41 firmware and was very pleased with the results. I included a small benchmark to give you a better sense of how the BDP-23FD compared against the PS3, as well as before and after the firmware change.

Pioneer did an impressive job improving both disc load time and overall BD-Live performance. This should illustrate just how important firmware updates can be to the overall enjoyment of a Blu-ray player. While the BDP-23FD is now much faster than when it first came to market, it still has a long way to go to surpass the performance of Sony’s Playstation 3.