It’s popular enough to say that “a Blu-ray player is a Blu-ray player.” And, to be fair – digital signals either work or they don’t; you’re not going to have substantial differences in picture quality between two different players connected via HDMI. Bits are either on or off; there are no shades of gray. This is only one facet of the product, though; it’s dishonest at best to pretend that all Blu-ray players are created equal, and the LG BP325W is absolutely capable of setting itself apart from the pack.
Functionality and Features
Let’s cover the more common features first. For starters, the player is compatible with the latest version of the Blu-ray standard. This means that it can easily push video out in 3D, at 1080p, at 24hz. You have Internet connectivity via both Ethernet and Wi-Fi, too; this is important to the variety of smart TV features included in the unit’s firmware. This includes a fully functional web browser alongside a variety of streaming video providers such as Netflix. Streaming video is in excellent quality, and the interface is responsive; the whole setup is fairly utilitarian from an aesthetic standpoint, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good menu, with large, visible icons laid out in an easy-to-navigate fashion; it’s just not particularly flashy.
There are some elements to the player that don’t work so well, though. For starters, there are almost no physical inputs on the player; just buttons for powering it on and off and opening and closing the disc drive. Everything is controlled exclusively through the remote; while the remote is a preferable option most of the time, the lack of physical controls can be an annoyance, nonetheless. It can even be an outright dealbreaker on what is otherwise a very attractive Blu-ray player, given an unfriendly environment; if you’re purchasing it for a situation where the remote is likely to be lost or destroyed – for example, a room where it’s likely to be used by small children – then the lack of physical controls as a failsafe means you’re going to be better off with competing products.
There’s not much to say about the 3D functionality – the BP325W pushes the data on the disc to your TV, at which point the quality of that screen determines what kind of a picture you’re going to get. Again, this is how digital signals work; if they’re usable, they’re pristine. The LG BP325W is a great 3D Blu-ray player, but those basic features are much the same on even lower-end models.
The selection of video processing features is nice, though. You can handle conversion between NTSC and PAL format video in real time, and there’s a good algorithm for DVD upscaling, which helps to breathe some life into those older discs. Nothing particularly advanced, but having a few genuinely useful options is better than the platter of half-baked choices some players offer.
As a note, the LG BP325W ships with an old, clunky firmware version. Until running the first firmware update, you’ll find that the smart TV features tend to be buggy and slow; they weren’t exactly finished when it first shipped. This is a solved problem now, but it’s still probably wise to be aware that LG shipped the BP325W half-baked, and if you can’t perform a firmware update immediately you’ll be stuck with a much less appealing product for some time.
LG BP325W Inputs and Outputs
The LG BP325W is a fairly small unit, and its inputs are accordingly limited by the physical size. You have a single USB port on the front of the machine; the player can play back video and audio files on a hard drive plugged up to that port, which is a nice convenience feature. A dedicated home theater PC will be a better choice for serious usage, of course, but the integrated video player works fine and is suitable for most usage cases.
Beyond that? Just the basics. The HDMI port is the primary means of audio and video output; there’s also a separate coaxial digital audio port, for use with particularly finicky sound systems. You also have the yellow/white/red composite cables, which still exist as a default despite the fact that there’s no compelling reason to use a Blu-ray player with that kind of video quality handicap. The analog conversion is mediocre, and composite output looks like it’s coming through a shower curtain; that being said, this doesn’t really matter. Again, there’s no real reason to bother with 480i video output from a $120 Blu-ray player. Or any other, for that matter.
LG BP325W Design and Aesthetics
The LG BP325W keeps with the minimalist trend of most recent consumer electronics. It’s a black box, with sharp lines and no excess of ornamentation. There’s a glossy front bezel, which plays host to the disc drive, the display, and the limited physical controls – but that’s really all there is in terms of aesthetic elements. Some of this year’s Blu-ray players look like the trend is starting to move back toward more distinct designs, but for now we’re still seeing very simple, plain units. It’s not good, and it’s not bad; it doesn’t do enough to warrant any particularly strong opinions.
One major pro of the LG BP325W is that it’s not picky about which disc formats it accepts. Beyond store-bought Blu-rays and DVDs, you can burn files to just about any medium you like, and this player will run them. Even things like the still-rare BD-RE rewritable Blu-ray format are accepted; it’s very future-proof, given that most users don’t even have Blu-ray burners yet. Similarly, the software can handle a wide variety of video encodings and container formats, meaning that essentially anything on that external hard drive plugged into the USB port is going to play back just fine.
The LG BP325W 3D Ready Blu-ray Player has a few awkward design features, and the factory firmware is – there’s no point in sugarcoating this – terrible. However, after the first firmware update, it boasts a fantastic feature set all-around, with great smart TV functionality alongside a staggering degree of compatibility. At a modest price in the neighborhood of $120, this player is an appealing purchase for any home theater.