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Pioneer BDP-320 Blu-ray Player Review  Print E-mail
Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players
Written by Thomas Spurlin   
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Article Index
Pioneer BDP-320 Blu-ray Player Review 
Blu-ray and DVD Performance
Music Quality and Final Impressions

Pioneer made a nice-sized splash at the 2009 CEDIA conference in Atlanta, touting several high-quality Blu-ray players with a slate of appealing hardware underneath the hood.  One of those players was the BDP-320 (released earlier this year), their second-tier model currently priced at $399.99 list.  With versatility and quality in mind with this 1080p/24, Profile 2.0 machine, it delivers a ravishing high-definition experience – though you’ll likely be waiting for prolonged gaps in between load times for the content to appear.  You’ll discover that it’s a player inadvertently designed for the patient once you’ve grown accustomed to some of its slights, and persistence will eventually pay off once this Pioneer gets on the move.

Out of the Box:

At first glance, the BDP-320 is a sleek unit with a very appealing aesthetic.  It’s pitch-black with a glossy sheen and somewhat prone to fingerprints, yet the attractiveness certainly trumps the potential for smudges.  At the front are two circular buttons, one for Power and one for Play, that also mesh into the solid black design for a streamlined look.  Its dimensions place the width at a hair under 17 inches, the height right at 3 inches, and the depth pretty much at a solid foot back, so it’s fairly standard in girth – if a little slimmer across than other players.  Size and curvature of the unit largely resembles a Motorola cable box, with a groove straight down the middle separating the top and bottom.   It helps to hide the slim Stop/FF/Eject buttons, which are standard, thin plastic push buttons that underwhelm a bit with their solidity.  Included alongside the unit itself are a set of composite A/V cables, a generic AC power cable, a set of batteries, Pioneer’s stock remote and the Operations Manual.


Next to the disc tray is a very small, circular protruding Eject button, which causes the tray to react quickly after being pushed.  It also serves as a quick-jump remote start button, as pushing the Eject button boots up the player as normal. The tray itself reminds me more of a stable computer drive instead of a traditional, less flimsy variety; it comfortably slides in and out, staying stable both back and forth.  Just above the Blu-ray logo lays a blue light that toggles on and off for different purposes.  Using the remote’s dimmer can remove it (discussed later).The LED display right next to the disc tray contains time and Pause/Play markings, along with indicators that show whether a signal is in HD, 24/50/60hz, and both PQLS and LAN indicators.

To the rear, we’ve got a robust offering of inputs to fit just about every need.  Aside from the expected HDMI port, Ethernet input, and Toslink option, we’ve also got outputs for 7.1 channels of analog sound – a step-up from Pioneer’s introductory model, the 120.  Also to the rear is a USB port that works as a storage port for photographs and MP3s, as well as a BD-Live storage and system updates.   Sadly, an internal wireless device isn’t available, so you’ll have to run a LAN-line Ethernet cord to get online with BD-Live.  Components jacks are also available to the rear for those without HDMI receivers / televisions.  For the purpose of this review, however, we’ll be running an HDMI player to a bitstream-capable receiver, Onkyo’s TX-SR605.

Setup:

Pioneer’s initial on-screen setup offers a very sturdy, step-by-step “Initial Setup” process that takes us through a systematic fail-safe process in getting the BDP-320 up and running.  With an easy-to-view gray/black interface, we’re given options to adjust Video Out, Audio Out, Speakers, HDMI, Network, Language, Date, Navigator, Playback, Parental Lock, and additional Options.  Video Out offers a limited range of adjustment, merely to set screen size, while Audio Out tinkers with the Dolby Digital/DTS/AAC Out.  Speaker setup can alow for different Audio Output modes, Speaker size/distance attenuating, and Channel level.

When playing a disc, pressing the Video Adjust button brings up Pioneer’s picture adjustment options.  Selecting one of the “Memory” slots opens up a scaled adjustment menu, which happens to be rather robust.  Within this window, we’re given the option to adjust Progressive Motion (480i/p), Pure Cinema (480i/p), noise reduction for Y (luminance), C (chroma), and B (block noise) , Mosquito Noise Reduction, Detail, White Level, Black Level, Hue, Chroma Level, and so on.  The noise reduction cannot be adjusted over HDMI 1080p/24 signals, however.  These options were left along, with “Pioneer PDP” as the selected display function.

pioneer back

Most of these sections are self-explanatory, but there are a few points to clarify: under Video Out, it gives two options on how to send 4:3 material – either by Full or Normal.  To ensure that you’ll be able to do a manual zoom with your television, you’ll want to select “Normal” to get the non-anamorphic image up.  Under HDMI, we’ve got a smorgasbord of functions, including High-Speed Transmission (On/Off), HDMI Color Space (including Deep Color at YcbCr 4:4:4, along the standard array RGB/YCbCr options) , Audio Out (which selects whether to decode or bitstream audio -- Auto, PMC, Off), Kuro Link, Display Power On, Display Power Off, and PQLS (Precision Quarts Locking System) for links to other Pioneer A/V receivers.  Sadly, there’s not a toggle for screen saver time, which will be a burden later once you’ve discovered the horribly quick speed in shifting to the standby screen.

Remote:

The remote included with the BDP-320 mirrors that of other current-model Pioneer players.  It’s a streamlined, unaffectionate remote that’s a bit on the long and heavy side, yet it packs in most of the options you’d want.  Along with the typical assortment of Start/Stop, Skip, Fast Forward (containing four different speeds) and Top Menu buttons, it also contains a side Pop-up Menu to access the on-screen JAVA-based menus available during the Blu-ray presentations.  Near the bottom, the four-color options for Bookmarks are available, along with the aforementioned “Video Adjust” button   

At the center is the main directional hub, made of a ridged texture that might cause a shiver or two down the spine if fingernails are run along the ridges.  As per usual, four central menu buttons are available at different corners of the circle: Top Menu, Home Menu, Return, and Tools, which  brings up the GUI during the program being watched.  In addition, a Display button is available to monitor the types of files, bitrate flow, and codecs used for Blu-ray media.




 
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