LG BD570 Blu-ray Player Review 
Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players
Written by Thomas Spurlin   
Wednesday, 15 September 2010

LG’s home theater equipment has maintained a sturdy name for itself since high-definition has taken prominence, wedging in between the other bigwigs for a share of the market with sturdy performance and often times intriguing design choices. Their Blu-ray players are no exception, offering a stylish flare in their chassis with respectable performance – not to mention a range of affordability scaled between models.  These factors have carried over into LG’s new 5-series of Blu-ray decks, ranging from the network-free 550 model to their higher-end 590 model with a 250 GB storage drive. Here, AVRev got its hands on their BD570, yet the details that highlighted their performance are somewhat muted this time around. Unfortunately, its awkward design implementation, problematic stability, and merely sufficient performance, for both Blu-ray discs and standard-definition DVDs, hamper the fluidity of the BD570’s  wireless networking and an attractive, easy-to-navigate (if overdesigned) interface.

Out of the Box:

Measured less than two inches high and a fairly standard 8 inched wide, 17 inches deep, LG’s player does appear sleek when looked at from a distance. The size isn’t celebration worthy, seeing as other models with equal skill sets fit nearly the exact same dimensions, but the compactness of these new decks still impresses in comparison to previous models, like JVC’s XV-BP1. The gray spindle from the 370 model has been tossed aside, though a center design fixture still remains in the form of two soft, glowing lights surrounding the Blu-ray logo (obviously only alit when the player’s on).  The most noticeable aesthetic change comes in the hinged front door/cover, altered from the two-flap design from before into one large concealing flap – a design-only implementation that really isn’t necessary, considering the minimal arrangement underneath.  

remoteAside from a standard Pause/Stop/Advance row of circular buttons that sits to the right of the LED clock, as well as an aggravatingly-placed USB port that requires the flap to be open in order to utilize media on a storage device, LG’s player also implements cumbersome placement and construction design for the Eject / Power buttons.  A blocky strip discreetly sits at the top that controls both functions, Eject on the left and Power on the right, which offers that little extra bit of convenience in not flipping open the tray to control these features. However, the strength of the button’s construction isn’t very sturdy, feeling as if the mechanisms underneath each side of the bar could become brittle with time. That’s just speculation, of course, but the build quality reeks of cutting corners.

To the rear of the unit, the BD570 offers a standard array of jacks for easy plug-and-play usage – aside from one exception. An HDMI port serves as the central connection, with component video and Toslink audio ports also available for legacy connections and an Ethernet port for hard-wired internet connections. Frustratingly, LG Has opted to go the route of a built-in power cable instead of a port for an interchangeable AC adapter, which  wouldn’t be quite as big of an issue if the cable itself wasn’t extremely short – roughly five feet in length.   Therefore, many folks might need to invest in an extension cable to reach power outlets / strips further than that away, and obviously those with AC cords already positioned in their console will likely want to think twice about the player.

Remote:

LG’s remote – model AKB72975301 – surprised me with its user-friendly design, fitting comfortably in the hand with a moderate weight and a comfortable button layout. The first thing that stands out is the navigation spindle at the center, made with a skin-gripping material that makes placement of fingers comfortable.  Directly outside of the directional points, the Disc Menu, Title/Pup Up Menu, Info/Display, and Home buttons surround them – and each of the buttons click.  It takes a little getting used to, but the button clicks become somewhat likable after a while.  To the bottom, the rest of the Blu-ray functions can be sound, such as the quad-colored RGYB buttons, as well as a series of controls for LG televisions – which work just fine on a 55LH40, as does the SIMPLINK function. Equally as distinct as the central symbol, the primary glow-in-the-dark  Play / Pause / Stop buttons sit at a curve at the center of the remote.

Setup:

Easily one of the biggest sways in its favor, the LG BD570’s setup process couldn’t be simpler. When the system boots up, a new-fangled GUI becomes available that’s a bit different than the norm.  Instead of static menu options, LG adds a bit of flare with each option – Movie, Photo, Music, Home Link, Netcast, and Setup – in shimmering ice cubes bobbing up and down in water. It’s a different touch, but one that shows a level of fun, out-of-the-box design innovation that adds to the experience of setting up a new toy. Under the “Setup” ice cube, which transitions to a normal block menu once selected, six functions are available: Display, Language, Audio, Lock, Network, and Others. Display handles rudimentary tailoring to aspect ratio, resolution, Hz display for 1080p content, and color space, while the Audio controls the HDMI / Digital Output (set to Primary Pass-Thru via HDMI), Sampling Frequency, and Dynamic Range Control (DRC).

Rear of the 570

 Connecting to the Internet under the “Network” function operates on about the same level of simplicity as finding a wireless signal with a computer, as the player instantly registers signals in the area. It prompts the user for either a Wired or Wireless connection, locates access points, and then opens up a passkey screen for protected networks. One thing that might be a bit startling is that there’s not an uppercase function directly visible, but that’s just because it’s another option underneath the “#+=&” that pops up after hitting the button once. Type in the passkey and wait for the Dynamic IP to be registered, and then the player’s ready for internet access.  Also under the Network Men are toggles for verifying information for Netflix and deactivating Vudu. At this point, updating the firmware in the “Others” menu will alleviate a lot of issues that the player will incur later on – something experienced first-hand.

Though no options to tailor the visual attributes are available in the Setup menu, a “User Setting” option can be found with a little digging. By hitting Display on the remote, which brings up a “Picture Mode” menu that mentions the audio track at-use, time progression, chapter listing, and a few other standard features, there’s one menu option next to a painter’s palette that reads “Standard”. Under this menu option, several picture modes are selectable – Standard, Vivid, Movie, and User Setting. These options tailor the Contrast, Brightness, Color, Sharpness, and Noise Reduction to degreed between -3 and +3, all of which are fairly start alterations.  Mostly, they push the image beyond looking natural by even a slight adjustment.

Performance:

LG’s BD570 poises itself as a modestly-budgeted wireless Blu-ray player, but can it still offer the high-definition prowess to make it a solid value? Well, yes and no. On a base level, the disc’s ability to render sumptuous color, detail crispness, fluid range of motion and natural film grain comes fairly close to matching that of its like-minded competitors, including Sony’s more readily recommendable BDP-S570, while its semi-swift speed with booting up and loading discs earns a respectable nod.  However, it has three problems that hold it back from being a little package of price-defying wonderful: handling of contrast, sub-par DVD performance, and a penchant for stubborn glitches within both mediums.  

SpearsLeave it to Spears and Munsil’s Hand-Forged disc to iron out any issues in the picture performance. After watching a bit of content on LG’s BD570, it’ll become obvious that the brightness seems to lean more towards gray than natural blacks.  After popping in S&M’s disc to test the contrast and black levels, the results stated that everything was about eight degrees too light.  It’s here that the “User Setting” function becomes important, because adjusting the Brightness down to -1 actually brings black levels a lot closer to an acceptable range. However, it can also be just a shade too dark, as the black levels intermittently swallow up detail – though the slightly darker look preserves a far more natural feel about the content. Therefore, the user has a choice between a minuscule higher level of detail in darker elements, or far more acceptable contrast. The rest of the functions, from 3:2 cadence, de-interlacing, and color clipping all passed without much to complain about, aside from an ever-so-slight discrepancy in color cutoff and slightly jerkier flow in 24p. Under a microscope, everything looks rather good.

GladiatorTo test the full Blu-ray capacity of the BD570, the urge couldn’t be resisted to do a bit of comparison testing with Paramount’s “re”-remastered disc for Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.  The new disc, a real marvel of color and detail, looks exceptional in LG’s player. The slight gradation in black levels during the rich, muddy battle sequence at the beginning offers a highly pleasing experience that’s roughly the same level of high-definition rendering as either the JVC XV-BP1 or Sony’s Playstation 3, while the thunderous DTS HD Master Audio bolsters the clanking of swords and hammering of horse hooves with great clarity and fine lower-frequency fluctuations.

There’s just one rather large problem: the player stutters, stops and skips ahead to another chapter early on in Gladiator, at the same point upon each attempt. That same effect doesn’t happen again on that disc, but it’s an unfortunate glitch – and not the last, sadly.  A few other instances occurred where the player would hiccup, fast-forward, then rights itself, and at one point completely lost audio.  Thankfully, however, performing a firmware update alleviated a lot of these issues, though the problem with Gladiator still persisted even after a bump up to software version 8.31.300.C. Nevertheless, the player still seems to have trouble with certain discs, which raises a rather glaring red flag.
 
Secret EyesThis isn’t a problem, however, with Sony’s rendering of The Secret in Their Eyes, a beautiful Argentinean mystery-romance hybrid shot entirely with Red One HD cameras.  The Blu-ray exhibits a staggering level of detail in close-ups and a velvety, stylish palette, all of which rendered gorgeously on LG’s player. It preserves the slight movement in a cramped public prosecution office extremely well, while retaining convincing flesh tones and impressively balanced black levels. This Master Audio track more focuses on verbal clarity, which the BD570 handled in a graceful fashion.

ResidentExercising the player’s ability to render more expansive aspect ratios, the BD570 successfully plowed through Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil.  The 1.85:1 aspect ratio was preserved well, holding the stylish-yet-dark cinematography within Raccoon City’s “Hive” with the sterile, metallic presence you’d expect.  Black levels grow deep, and the player keeps speed, while also offering some rather attractive close-ups on Milla Jovovich’s stunning gazes. But, if anything, it’s known that the soundtrack for that film is excessively loud, offered in a DTS HD Master Audio that plowed along with the expected amount of intense clunk and LFE-heavy punch.

RepulsionFinally, in an exercise to push out the player’s ability to render black-and-white contrast and aged prints, The Criterion Collection’s 1.66:1 presentation of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion unnervingly found its way into the player.  The densely-contrasted grayscale image pours through a thick layer of grain decently, though the film stock’s density does soften the image a bit in LG’s player – more so than in others. But the level of detail also surprises against Catherine Deneuve’s hair and against the cracked walls, while the sound presentation of Polanski’s erratic design pierced and prodded the speakers well in its 2-channel Master Audio rendering.
 
 PersiaOn a supplemental level, BD-Live and BD-Java were tested via Disney’s Prince of Persia Blu-ray to fine success. Connecting to the Internet operated without a hitch, though the decision towards a 570 model (instead of the 590) will require the user to have a USB 2.0 storage device. Also, as a bit of a surprise, the BD570 can handle PAL-encoded special features, as tested by Tartan’s UK presentation of I’m a Cyborg.  That feature alone, built into an inexpensive player, and deserves an appreciative nod.

DVD performance was tested with episodes of The Vampire Diaries and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and the impressions left weren’t exactly wine and roses.  In short, the results were hazier and somewhat unstable on a visual level, with a fairly flat level dimensionality and erratic constancy.  The audio punches in Hellboy filled the room with enough oomph and the Vampire Diaries’ dialogue-driven, music-heavy mix sound decent enough, but nothing to really praise. Its attributes aren’t terrible, really, but more on a mediocre level that’s sup-bar to the present status quo. This is a shame, because the BD570 actually handles PAL-encoded discs, such as Tartan UK’s edition of A Bittersweet Life.



Music, Media and Streaming:

LG’s BD570 can access media files in three separate ways, starting with disc-based playback. 2L Nordic’s Reference disc tested the player’s capacity for both high-definition and standard CD fare, amounting to an underwhelming but meekly satisfying experience.  Stringed instruments in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 In D Major find a meaty center in the sound balance, yet the notes carry very little impressive punch in any of the high-definition or standard-definition tracks.  The Gregorian chanting in Crux Fidelix fared better, showing the player’s capacity for mid-range competency, while the echoic sounds filled the space with admirable expansiveness.

The BD570 can also access music files either by the USB 2.0 port at the front, as well as by DLNA connection – which also offers photo and video support.  Wireless streaming works without a hitch after locating an applicable computer within range, accessing the assorted files in a simple folder structure. The sound quality’s about what’s to be expected, loading songs in zippy fashion and structuring the files in a pleasant, soft GUI. Photo access operates as expected via the same file access structure as the music, while AVI, MKV, and WAV video file formats are supported on the video side.

Left Side

In addition to disc and data file access, the LG BD570 also comes through with a fine buffet of streaming services under its NetCast function. Paramount being Netflix, activated in the same fashion as other devices by quickly typing in an access code. Along with that, the BD570 also offers support for Vudu, CinemaNow, MLB.tb, YouTube, Pandora Napster, Picasa, and AccuWeather, all of which have graphical representations. Unfortunately, LG still doesn’t support Amazon Video On-Demand.

Pros:

Solid Blu-ray Rendering, Fluid Wireless Connectivity, DLNA Access, Streaming Services, Quick-Moving

There’s no doubting that the LG BD570 operates as something of a home-theater Swiss army knife.  Sure, the Blu-ray playback stands out as the primary draw, which the unit handled with substantial, if somewhat middle-of-the-road, quality.  But it’s the other elements that it really excels, especially the wireless connectivity – which is very easy to set up and quick to load.  That connectivity also carries over into wireless PC access, where music, video, and photo files can be streamed through a sleek GUI via DLNA access.  On top of that, the player supports several streaming services, while tapping into all of its features – from disc-loading to file access – at a reasonably quick rate. Plus, the addition of a PAL to NTSC decoder is always welcome.
Right Side

Cons:

Glitchy Playback, Contrast Issue, Awkward Design Flaws, Poor DVD Performance

Unfortunately, there are a few issues with the BD570, first being a rash of glitches – both of the disc-skipping and the odd fast-forwarding types -- in a few Blu-rays and DVDs.  Some of these points are rectified by a firmware update, while others persist even with the most up-to-date software.  Under the hood, the performance also affects the player’s ability to render accurate contrast, either appearing too light or just a bit too dark after tinkering with the “Brightness” in the user-defined picture adjustment. The player also suffers from a few design idiosyncrasies, such as the now-dated front flap and a flimsy curved button for the Eject and Power buttons at the top. On a performance level, even when things are operational, the standard-definition rendering leaves something to be desired.  Plus, the choice of a short, irreplaceable power cable isn’t exactly a positive point.

Final Thoughts:

For $220, LG’s BD570 offers fine high-definition rendering and fluid wireless connectivity into an incredibly affordable package.  From an outside perspective, with knowledge of its successes and ease of use, it’s easy to recommend. However, spending a bit of time with the player shows some performances blemishes, including a handful of glitches that even the latest firmware updates cannot smooth out, along with some design quibbles. Therefore, I’m left at a bit of an impasse with a final word. It’s worth considering if standard-definition performance isn’t a paramount driver and if you’re able to be patient with a small handful of potential glitches, as the strengths that it offers can be rewarding at the price.  But it’s not without discrepancies. 





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