DVD Players

Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD Blu-ray DVD Player

Introduction

The last few Pioneer Elite DVD players really impressed me with their level of video processing. Pioneer hadn’t gotten to a point where their “Pure Progressive” technology was starting to compete with Faroudja-based players displaying high quality film and video based de-interlacing. Unfortunately, on the Blu-ray side their new Elite player continues a long and rather disturbing trend of mediocre SD playback performance. This is in no way exclusive to Blu-ray as far as HD players go, but with more manufacturers in the mix, I was hoping we’d see big differences in performance, especially as the price tags go up.

I tested the Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD along with a small batch of other Blu-ray players, including models from Panasonic, Sony, and Samsung. The interesting thing was the comparison with the new Samsung BD-P1400, which literally performed identical to the Pioneer with HD and SD video processing. This isn’t too surprising, given the limited number of HD decoding chips on the market, but I was hoping that Pioneer would implement their “Pure Progressive” video processing solution with the SD playback side, especially given their premium price point.

Specifications

  • Codecs: Blu-ray, SD DVD, Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD-Master Audio
  • MPEG Maker: Sigma Designs
  • MPEG Model: Unknown
  • De-interlacer Maker: Sigma Designs
  • De-interlacer Model: Unknown
  • Outputs: HDMI (1.3a), Component, S-Video, Composite, Coaxial, Toslink Optical, 5.1 Analog Audio
  • Accepts 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p60, 1080p24
  • Dimensions: 4" H x 16.5" W x 14" D
  • Weight: 14.3 Pounds
  • MSRP: $999 USA
  • Pioneer Electronics

The Results

What the Pioneer does well is core video performance. The player does not crop any active pixels from the image and retains the full head and toe room in the luma range. Y/C delay is non-existent, and the player does reasonably well with our chroma tests, only failing the 2-3 alternating cadence test. This may have more to do with the fact that the player can’t handle an alternating 2-3 cadence properly, resulting in an unstable video image at times.

The analog video side performs really well in this category as well, and may be the best reason to consider the higher price point if you are planning on using the analog video outputs. HDMI alleviates a lot of the analog filtering and power issues, making it the preferred video connection in just about any application, but there are still some consumers out there using analog outputs, and Pioneer seems to have put more effort into this section than I’ve seen with some of the other Blu-ray players. Its analog video frequency response is just about perfect.

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Moving on to our cadence tests, the 95FD didn’t perform very well. This player only passes our most basic 2-3 cadence test, but with any flag hiccups the 95FD drops to video mode. Blu-ray player manufacturers have been advertising that their players will upscale DVDs well, but I’ve seen all evidence to the contrary. Again, at these price points, I would expect more since there are still a lot of people enjoying SD DVDs.

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The 95FD does handle video content quite well and passes our motion adaptive tests as well as our 2-2 based cadence tests.

On the usability scale, the 95FD is about average. The Pioneer takes quite a while to power up, and load times are slow. It loads SD DVDs a lot faster than it does Blu-ray discs, but it is still a few steps behind the average standalone DVD player. Navigation isn’t too bad though, and this is in line with what we’ve seen from Pioneer offerings in the past. Layer change was 1.25 seconds which is not very good. Overall responsiveness was rated as borderline.

Conclusions

Yet again, I find myself recommending that end users look elsewhere for SD DVD playback. I really hope at some point we’ll see better DVD playback performance across the board from these new generation players since there is still a lot more content on DVD and titles I’m sure people still want to watch that are not available on Blu-ray. With Pioneer Elite’s reputation for DVD playback with their standard DVD players, I was surprised how badly this player did overall.