The LG BP420 (opens in new tab) is the company's latest attempt at making a mark in the highly competitive budget Blu-ray player arena.
In the past, good though its TVs, for example, have been, LG has had to compete with some excellent players from class leaders such as Panasonic and Sony. This year's model has no easier task ahead of it: those brands are fielding ever more competitive rivals.
And from the get-go, the BP420 looks pretty much par for the course: in the current Blu-ray player fashion it's slim, black, and rectangular, making it similar to most other budget machines.
It's also lightweight and compact, but while this slight build might make it seem a bit flimsy, happily nothing rattles.
LG BP420: Connectivity
The front panel has a large green display that's easy to read, along with buttons to handle basic disc functions – play/pause, stop, eject and power. However, given the sleekness of the enclosure, these controls do feel a bit clunky.
There's also a USB socket on the front, while to the rear are HDMI, composite video, digital optical and stereo analogue audio outputs, along with an Ethernet port for connections to a home network.
There's no inbuilt wireless network connectivity, so if you want to go wi-fi you'll have to add on an external Ethernet bridge device.
Along with the usual 'get you started' video cables, the BP420 is supplied with a remote built more for comfort than style: it's no looker, but it fits well in the hand, with large buttons arranged to make it easy to use, especially when flicking through the menus and options.
As an alternative, there's an LG remote app, able to control both the player and one of company's TVs, and available for both Apple and Android smartphones.
LG BP420: smart TV apps
The BP420 has adopted LG Smart TV technology functionality, which gives you quick and easy access to streaming videos, apps, live TV, web browsing, and a whole host of entertainment that you can enjoy from just one box.
It contains LG’s Premium video on demand service, which lets you stream online content from BBCiPlayer, Netflix, AceTrax, and Autocar and Stuff magazines.
Navigating through BBCiPlayer content is fairly easy, but since it lists a limited number of videos on the homepage, you’ll have to venture into the search page to find a particular programme.
And while we’re talking about the search page, you still have to use your remote’s keys to go up and down and sideways to select the letters, but it’s surprisingly very easy to navigate. Videos upload quickly and there were no interruptions while streaming.
You can also install various entertainment, news, lifestyle, education and games apps through LG’s App store. You can customize your home screen by adding your favourite/most used apps on the bar at the bottom of the screen for quick access.
A glaring omission however, is its lack of social media content: Facebook, Twitter and Skype, which are available on rival players such as the Panasonic DMP-BDT220, aren't available here.
LG BP420: Smart sharing
If you want to access photos, videos and music that’s stored on your digital cameras, smartphones, tablets, laptops or USB, then LG’s Smart Share function is a useful feature. It enables you to stream multimedia content wirelessly to your TV, and the MediaLink service organizes this content into a neat library, and also pulls information about movies and music from the internet.
And there’s no need to worry whether your digital files will be compatible with the BP420. The BP420 supports the standard list of music and video files for playback, with the addition of AAC and FLAC files, which can be missing in some rival players.
Along with standard CD resolution, it can also play up to 192kHz/24bit, which is impressive, and even comes with a bundled copy of Nero MediaHome 4 (opens in new tab) to run on a PC, enabling it to stream to the player.
All of these multimadia features are accessible via the user-friendly on screen menus. While not being flashy, it’s a simple yet stylish interface that’s easy to navigate with swift and smooth switching between options.
LG's made set-up of the player very straightforward and painless, but it's worth checking for firmware and software updates on a regular basis, as these can enhance functionality. Fortunately the update procedure is smooth and fast.
LG BP420: Picture quality
Although the LG offers a range of picture and sound options, we endede up sticking to the dafeult settings, so coarse is he effect of the various adjustments. For example, increasing the colour balance on The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn by just one step makes the hues too saturated, while decreasing the brightness by one step makes it significantly darker.
However, when left as standard the BP420 displays a good level of detail, apparent in its rendering of the textures of clothes and walls on the Tintin Blu-ray. Along with deep blacks, there’s also good contrast, making the bright sparks exciting and punchy against the backdrop of the dark interior of the spaceship in Monsters vs Aliens.
The rich, warm colour palette, while looking exciting, can mean that some subtler details of skin tones – conveyed with refined precision by the Panasonic DMP-BDT220 – can be compromised. Spin the 3D version of Tintin and you’ll find similar visual characteristics, but it conveys a good sense of depth that’s pleasing to watch.
For those that have a large DVD collection, there’s good news: the BP420 does a good job of is capable of upscaling to 1080p, and does it well. It displayed the rich and complicated landscapes of the The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' Middle Earth with a good amount of detail and minimal noise.
Yes, some rival players produce a cleaner image, but the blue-tinted scenes with Arwen and Elrond were smooth with black levels once again being strong.
However, when compared to the class-leaders, the BP420's handling of motion lacks some stability: there's motion blur when Captain Haddock's waving his arms around in Tintin's North Africa chase scene on Blu-ray, and slight amount motion judder when there’s a long pan across the landscapes of Middle Earth on DVD.
LG BP420: sound quality
The BP420 delivers good surround sound, immersing you in what you’re watching, but we wish the midrange was a bit more powerful so that the dialogue was more weighty and prominent. Some of the finer nuances of characters’ voices in Tintin can get a little lost amidst the explosions and effects.
As a budget Blu-ray player, the LG BP420 is a full package that ticks all the right boxes.
True there are rivals that go that extra mile to deliver superb performance, and LG needs to up its game to reach the same heights, but this is definitely a step towards that goal. It’s a fine player capable of an enjoyable performance, and given its affordable price, is well worth an audition.