Blu-ray Players

Toshiba BDX3000 Blu-ray 3D Player

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Toshiba BDX3000 Blu-ray 3D player

A lot of my time with this player was as part of the WX800 TV review I did recently. There isn’t much to say about 3D content specifically since its quality is dependant on the display, not the source. The only movie I watched in 3D after the TV review was finished was A Christmas Carol. I do want to cover it here because it is easily the best 3D content I have viewed to date. This description is more a follow-up to the WX800 article than it is an example of the BDX player’s abilities. Simply put, A Christmas Carol looked fantastic. All my previous observations about the crosstalk and lack of image clarity were largely forgotten with this disc. The ghosting was not completely gone but it was so minimal I barely noticed it. Mind you, it was only the fifth 3D title I’ve been able to get my hands on. There just isn’t anything out there yet. If you’re investing in the format be warned, content selection is EXTREMELY limited at this time. The release of this disc was quite well-timed for the holidays and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Not only was the image near reference-level, it was obvious Disney knows how to best use the format. Resolution was always retained even in fast-moving action scenes. Objects always had a clear place in the z-axis never being too far in front of or behind the screen plane. Obviously any 3D Blu-ray player will render this film equally well but I have to take this opportunity to let you know what I saw.

For the remainder of the review period, I connected the BDX to my main theater system which consists of an Anthem LTX-500 LCoS projector and an Integra DHC-80.1 processor. The 80.1’s video output was set to pass-through so all video processing was handled by the player. I watched a few Blu-rays and DVDs. I also listened to some music utilizing the optical connection. I always prefer TOSLink or coax over HDMI for music reproduction due to its lower jitter.

The Wiz is a recent Blu-ray reissue and Universal has done a decent if not stellar job blowing the dust off this 32-year-old film. The image looked as solid as I’ve seen on any other player; including the Oppo BDP-83. Film Mode was engaged to get the proper 24p frame rate from the disc. The DTS-HD Master Audio encode is the best thing about this release and it sounded excellent through the BDX-3000. Big musical numbers were rich and dynamic with lots of punch and pizzazz. Obviously this player gives nothing away to its competitors in the Blu-ray audio department. I used the BitstreamHD output and let my Integra DHC-80.1 handle the decoding duties. I observed no dropouts or artifacts of any kind.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars, animated series is one of my favorite references for testing displays and players. No surprise, Blu-ray performance in all aspects was exemplary. The bright bold colors popped just as they do when I play this disc in my Oppo. The painted textures used in this CGI presentation showed an appropriate level of grit and grime on the storm troopers’ uniforms as well as other surfaces. The sound was also excellent. Even though the encode is only Dolby Digital, it had tremendous depth and slam especially during the many battle sequences. The BDX had no trouble with the extreme LFE information as my very-large Axiom EP-800 sub shook the walls with its usual aplomb.

Toshiba BDX3000 Blu-ray 3D player

On DVD I watched the James Bond classic, The Spy Who Loved Me. This disc is part of the Lowry Digital restorations released a few years ago. It has unfortunately not made it to Blu-ray just yet. This particular transfer is not quite as stellar as others in the set showing a little softness and obvious edge enhancement. On the BDX, it looked decent, in fact, not too far from my reference Oppo. The ringing was a little more pronounced and the detail a tad softer but scaling and deinterlacing seemed OK. As I mentioned earlier, the Film Mode does not work for DVDs so no 24p mode is available. This makes a bigger difference for me than resolution. I was able to use the 24Hz mode in my Integra pre-pro without trouble.

A Beautiful Mind has several torture tests including side-pans and images of stained glass windows that will show crawl and breakup on poor-performing players. I did not see these issues from the Toshiba. The picture was reasonably sharp and pans did not show any excessive resolution loss. There was the usual 3:2 judder of course but this is no worse than any other player I’ve tested recently. Given the performance I observed, the BDX3000 will do a fair job with DVD up-conversion. For more detailed information, please refer to the benchmark tests in the next section.

Toshiba BDX3000 Blu-ray 3D player

I started my music listening with a bit of Strauss in the form of his lush and beautiful wind concerti. This is a superb recording that I have listened to many times. The BDX did a passable job over its optical connection. I did miss that last nth degree of detail and transparency I’m accustomed to but then classical music shows this more than other genres. The music was still rich and dynamic with a strong low end. The Toshiba gave away little to my Oppo player. Only the tiniest bit of detail distinguished the two presentations.

I recently purchased the Beatles stereo remasters and have been re-discovering my youth by listening to all the albums. I played a few of these records when I was growing up and the music is now so wonderfully familiar. These recordings sound amazing especially given their age. I listened to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and found myself enjoying the entire album before I realized how much time had passed. The recordings are that engaging and they sounded every bit as good played on the Toshiba as on any other source. My recent switch to coax or optical connections for music rather than HDMI has really opened up a new horizon in my listening room. Not only are dynamics greatly improved, the detail and imaging is worlds better. The Beatles’ stereo recordings frequently image many instruments to one channel or the other. It’s neat to hear George Harrison’s guitar coming only from the left channel or a keyboard riff firmly anchored in the right. The Toshiba did a fine job preserving the artists’ and engineers intent.

Like many Blu-ray players in the current generation, the BDX3000 offers Internet apps in the form of Netflix, Vudu, Pandora and Blockbuster. Since the only one of these I subscribe to is Netflix, I could only try that app. Setup was the essence of simplicity. The player generated a code which you then enter on your computer (I used my iPhone) to get connected. The titles in your streaming queue appear on the screen in a side-scrolling chain with cover art. Selecting a title brings up a synopsis and the runtime info. Playback starts a few seconds after the app measures your connection speed. I got 10 of 13 bars over my 802.11n network, not bad at all. Quality varies widely depending on the movie or TV show you’ve chosen. Some episodes of Dirty Jobs bordered on unwatchable due to macroblocking and other artifacts. Zombieland showed decent resolution but there were frequent frame drops and periods of judder. That’s when I realized the flaw was with the player’s Film Mode setting. Once I turned it off, the image was much smoother. It is strange that 24p doesn’t work with DVDs but it does engage with streamed content. Too bad it doesn’t work! I don’t recommend using the Netflix streaming service with a projection setup. The image just doesn’t hold up on the big screen. A TV 50 inches or smaller is OK if you’re not sitting too close. None of this is the fault of the BDX3000.

One aspect of player performance I should touch on is ergonomics. Most Blu-ray players perform equally on Blu-ray content and do a fair job with DVD up-conversion. There is a greater divide when comparing usability and responsiveness. On this score, the Toshiba did not fare too well. Loading discs was good and response to remote commands was OK when a transport key was pressed but menus displayed only after a delay of several seconds. Ejecting a disc was also very slow. It usually took at least 10 seconds after I pressed the button before the disc finally emerged. Moving in and out of the Netflix app was also sluggish. It took 17 seconds for my queue to appear and another 24 to return to the player’s home menu. Other than the poor response times, I had no other problems with the BDX3000. It never failed to read a disc and no lockups were observed.