|Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD Blu-ray Player|
|Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players|
|Written by Adrienne Maxwell|
|Thursday, 01 May 2008|
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Television and Movies
I spent about a week using the BDP-95FD with its out-of-the-box software version, and I found its start-up and disc-load times to be somewhat slow – on par with my Sony BDP-S300, but not nearly as speedy as the Panasonic DMP-BD30 Profile 1.1 player I just reviewed. It took about one minute to go from power-up to a “no disc” message on the front-panel LCD. The load time for standard-def DVDs was good, averaging about 30 seconds from load to studio logo. With Blu-ray discs, though, the player took over a minute to load even basic menus, and that time grew considerably when I added BD-Java-based interactive menus to the equation. I then checked for a software update and discovered that one was available. The BDP-95FD froze up the first time I tried to launch the update, requiring a hard reboot, but the second attempt was successful. The good news is, the update improved the player’s speed in several respects. Start-up time was reduced to 48 seconds, standard-definition DVD load times remained consistent, and basic Blu-ray menus – like those in The Fifth Element (Sony Home Entertainment) or Kingdom of Heaven (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) – loaded more quickly, averaging about 25-35 seconds. As for dense, Java-based menus like those in War (Lionsgate) and Sunshine (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), the update did improve load times, but this player was still slower than the Panasonic model, both in load times and in general navigation.
The next step was to test the BDP-95FD’s processing. The player’s Source Direct mode, which outputs every disc at its native resolution through HDMI, is a nice option for those people who would prefer to let their TV, projector, or outboard video processor handle the de-interlacing and up-conversion functions. (Through component video, Source Direct will output 1080p Blu-ray films at 1080i and SD DVDs at 480i.) I began with demos of Kingdom of Heaven, Mission: Impossible III (Paramount Home Entertainment) and the Pirates of the Caribbean films (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) output at 1080p/24. The image quality was excellent, boasting great detail and good black and white reproduction. If you choose to set the player to output 1080p/60 through HDMI, it performs all of the processing internally, for both SD and HD discs. To test a player’s 1080p/60 output with real-world content, I use the opening seconds of Chapter 8 of Mission: Impossible III, in which two priests descend a long, wide staircase. A player or TV with poor processing will produce significant moiré in the steps; the Pioneer did not. The scene had a bit more shimmer than I’ve seen from the best players and TVs, but there weren’t any blatant artifacts. Its processing performance was similar when I tested the component video outputs, displaying the Mission: Impossible scene at a 720p resolution. The BDP-95FD also did a nice job de-interlacing standard-definition DVDs through both the HDMI and component video outputs. With both of my real-world test scenes – the Coliseum flyover in Chapter 12 of Gladiator (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) and the Venetian blinds in Chapter Four of The Bourne Identity (Universal Studios Home Video) – the BDP-95FD didn’t create any blatant de-interlacing artifacts and the overall level of detail was solid.
In the audio realm, I connected the BDP-95FD via HDMI to Pioneer’s VSX-91TXH receiver, which has onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoders. Not surprisingly, the two devices played nicely with one another. There were no HDMI communication issues, and the receiver had no trouble decoding the high-resolution soundtracks I fed it: Dolby TrueHD from Dave Matthews’ Live at Radio City (RCA), DTS-HD Hi Res from Reservoir Dogs (Lionsgate), and DTS-HD Master Audio from Kingdom of Heaven and Sunshine. The sound quality of these tracks was outstanding, and the effort to get there was minimal: a win-win.
During my time with the BDP-95FD, I didn’t have a Windows PC or DLNA-compliant server on hand to test the Home Media Gallery. However, I’ve used this feature in a previous Pioneer plasma TV, and I found it to be an easy, reliable way to stream content. Of particular note for those of you who own Media Center PCs is the ability to stream HD video; so, if you record HDTV content to your Media Center PC in another room, you can stream the recordings to the BDP-95FD for viewing on your higher-end home theater system. The BDP-95FD is the only standalone HD player I know of that offers a digital media receiver; both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox provide similar functions.