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Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD Blu-ray Player Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 May 2008
Article Index
Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD Blu-ray Player
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The Downside
As I described above, the BDP-95FD passed my real-world processing tests, with both high-def and standard-def DVDs. However, it did not pass all the tests on my HQV Benchmark Blu-ray test disc (Silicon Optix) through HDMI and component video. The BDP-95FD correctly de-interlaces 1080i and only produced minor jaggies in the diagonal-bar test, but it did not pick up the 3:2 sequence in film-based 1080i content. This means that if you were watching a Blu-ray disc that had a 1080i resolution, the player might introduce moiré and other artifacts when it converts the signal to 720p or 1080p/60. Of course, most Blu-ray films have a 1080p resolution anyhow, and you can bypass the player’s internal processing using the Source Direct mode, but that means your display device needs good processing. So, while this shortcoming may not affect the player’s performance with many discs, it’s worth mentioning, because other, less-expensive players on the market offer better all-around processing.

For those people who care as much about Blu-ray’s bonus content as they do about audio and video performance, this Profile 1.0 player can’t exploit all of the format’s potential.  Despite the inclusion of an Ethernet port, the BDP-95FD is not currently BD-Live-compatible, meaning you can’t access a Blu-ray disc’s Web content. Could a future firmware upgrade change that? In theory, perhaps, but Pioneer did not provide comment on the issue. What would be more frustrating: owning a Blu-ray player with no Ethernet port or owning one that has the port but not the Web functionality? Furthermore, the BDP-95FD’s Profile 1.0 nature means it doesn’t have secondary audio and video decoders to watch picture-in-picture features and commentary on discs like War and Sunshine. When I tried accessing the Sunshine disc’s PIP features, I got a message that the feature is only available on a PIP-enabled player. While the BD-Live issue could be fixed by a firmware update, the decoder issue is a hardware limitation.

The software update I performed improved load times, but it did not improve the functionality of all BD-Java features. The BDP-95FD was sluggish in moving through the dense menus of War, and it took four attempts before I was able to cue up the interactive “Yakuza Fighter Game.” The interactive “Liar’s Dice” game on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was playable without major disruption, but there were some odd stutters and jumps between video clips. By comparison, the Panasonic Profile 1.1 player moved quickly and easily through these games.

Several times, the BDP-95FD froze when I tried to open or close the disc tray, requiring me to reboot the unit by holding down the power button. It also exhibited the occasional navigational glitch; when I tried to skip chapters too quickly, it sometimes jumped forward or backward to a random chapter. (My Sony BDP-S300 has these same issues; it’s no coincidence that these two players both start with the letters BDP.) Once again, the software update improved the issues, but did not fix them entirely; perhaps a future update will.

For the Blu-ray fan who cares solely about audio and video quality, the BDP-95FD delivers bit stream high-resolution audio over HDMI and produces a beautiful 1080p/24 image. Mate it with a KURO plasma and a receiver like the VSX-91TXH, and you won’t be disappointed. Still, I expect a premium-priced player to deliver premium performance, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that you can get more Blu-ray functionality, better all-around processing and faster response times in players that cost half as much as the BDP-95FD. Pioneer will likely release their own Profile 1.1 player this summer; rumor has it that the player will come in at a slightly lower price point. So, if your heart is set on a Pioneer Blu-ray player, maybe you should wait.

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