Toshiba's Unfussy Blu-Ray Makes The Grade On Price

Written by Danny Phillips     24/05/2011 | 04:11 | Category name i.e.HOME ENTERTAINMENT

If you're not hung up about getting a Blu-ray player that plays in 3D, but simply want a second player around the home without the networking frills, Toshiba's BDX1200 could well be up your street. But does it have any redeeming features in terms of cutting edge tech?

Key Features
DivX HD, MKV, MP3 & JPEG playback
USB port
BD Live
Built-in picture adjustments
Dolby True HD & DTS HD Master Audio support

Design, Connections and Features
Toshiba's latest Blu-ray range caters for two different types of people - those who want 3D Blu-ray playback and those who don't. If you're one of the former, check out the BDX3200, a basic but likeable player that at around $199 costs considerably less than many of its big-name rivals. But if you couldn't give a hoot about 3D then the BDX1200 is the player for you, costing about $40 less than the BDX3200.

The BDX1200 features the same attractive external design as its sibling, with slinky bodywork, a gloss-black fascia and shimmering silver strip running along the top. As noted about the Toshiba BDX3200, the player is light as a feather but the aluminium bodywork is actually fairly sturdy. Along the fascia you'll find a row of buttons for up-close playback control, a miniscule display panel that only shows a limited amount of information, and a USB port - but unlike the BDX3200 this isn't hidden under a flap.

On the rear panel you'll find the same array of sockets as the BDX3200 - HDMI, composite, analogue stereo and coaxial digital audio outputs, plus an Ethernet port. Anyone looking for multichannel analogue outputs or a second USB port should start looking at more expensive players - this is as bare bones as Blu-ray players get.

With no 3D on board the Toshiba BDX1200's feature list is short to say the least, but then again at around $160 you can't expect much more. Even so, it's undeniably disappointing that neither of Toshiba's new players will let you stream media from PCs, which is an increasingly popular way of distributing content around the home. And with its impressive-looking cloud-based service Toshiba Places available on its latest range of TVs, it's a shame that something similar couldn't have been incorporated into its Blu-ray decks. However, you can still play your content via the USB port on the front panel. The player supports a decent range of formats, including DivX HD, MKV, MP3 and JPEG.

Being a Profile 2.0 player, the Toshiba BDX1200 can access BD Live content, but you need to connect 1GB of USB storage to do so. And with no built-in Wi-Fi or support for USB dongles, the wired Ethernet connection represents your only way of getting online, which may be a pain in the backside depending on the player's proximity to your router.

Elsewhere the deck does everything you'd expect it to, such as decode Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio into PCM (in case your AV receiver's HDMI inputs are earlier than v1.3) or output them in bitstream form. It can also output Blu-ray pictures in their native 1080/24p format, which should result in a lack of judder when viewed on a compatible TV.

Like the BDX3200, the BDX1200 is blissfully simple to setup. That's mostly thanks to the clear and responsive on-screen menus, which are embellished with HD graphics and use a logical structure that sensibly groups the options into Display, Audio, General and Information sub-menus. Highlight the icons along the top and the list appears below - simple. OK, it's not a patch on Panasonic's latest one-touch system, but poses few operation problems.

We were impressed by the BDX3200's comprehensive range of picture adjustments, but delve into the Display settings here and disappointingly many of them are missing.  You still get the same dual-menu arrangement - Video Processing and Motion Video Processing - but the latter lacks the individual colour adjustments and the second tier of picture settings, plus you only get three picture presets (Standard, Vivid and Smooth) and not the Custom or Cinema settings of the BDX3200.

The remote control is identical to the BDX3200's zapper, and although it won't set your coffee table alight the uncluttered layout does make life easy when controlling the player's menus. The neat, logical arrangement of buttons won't take long to master and sensibly the menu controls and playback keys are conveniently placed for your thumb.

With HDMI connections ensuring a faithful digital representation of what's on the Blu-ray disc, it's pretty hard for players to deliver a bad picture, even budget-conscious models like this. And sure enough the BDX1200's image quality is excellent, making our Avatar disc sparkle with razor-sharp detail reproduction, wildly vibrant colours and levels of depth and contrast that keep the picture look cinematic at all times.

The movie's intricate CG is beautifully rendered and pin-sharp, ensuring that the textures of skin, plants and scenery never get lost in a mushy haze. That, juxtaposed with the deep, natural colours and complete absence of digital nasties like jaggies or block noise, means that you get a dazzling 2D picture, even during dark scenes when terrific shadow detailing means you never lose track of what's going on. Motion tracking is right on the money too.

To back up our findings we took the trusty Silicon Optix HQV Blu-ray for a test drive and like the BDX3200 it passes the disc's stern tests with flying colours. The Video Resolution Loss, Jaggies and Film Resolution Loss tests were cleanly reproduced, avoiding the sort of artefacts that constitute a fail, which isn't bad for a $159 player.

But sonically the BDX1200 is merely ordinary. After hooking up the analogue stereo outputs to our receiver and blasting out some CDs, songs sound a little thin and don't eke out the same levels of detail as a pricier deck would. But to be honest this isn't aimed at audiophiles and budget buyers can have few complaints with this level of audio quality.

On paper the BDX1200 may look like an unappetising prospect - a Blu-ray player with no networking capabilities, no 3D support, no Wi-Fi, no cloud internet content and a generally basic spec. But if you accept that you're never going to get those features at this sort of price, then the BDX1200 starts to look like a decent little deck that still has a place despite its basic nature.

It's perfect for people who simply want to watch 2D Blu-rays and DVDs, perhaps in the bedroom, without fussing about with all those fancy features. And if that's you, then the BDX1200 is a decent choice, thanks to its terrific pictures, user-friendly operating system and digital media support via USB.

For the original review, click here


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Pros & Cons


Impressive pictures; Good-looking, easy to use menu system; MKV & DivX HD playback


Impressive pictures; Good-looking, easy to use menu system; MKV & DivX HD playback