Philips BDP7200/37 Blu-ray Disc player

Philips BDP7200/37 Blu-ray Disc player

When I saw how good the Blu-ray version of The Searchers looked on Philips' US$400 (as of 4/24/08) BDP7200, I jotted down the notation, "looks like VistaVision"--because that's truly how clear and crisp I found the image.

John Ford shot his 1956 western in VistaVision, a special process that used twice the usual amount of film to deliver a beautiful, highly detailed image.

Another juror noted the high-quality color and sharpness of the image. This model's overall performance score of 85 placed it second only to the Sharp BD-HP20U for image quality.

For sound quality, as well: This model scored highly on our audio tests; in particular, our uncompressed PCM test track from The Last Waltz came out well-rounded.

This player is Blu-ray BonusView-enabled, so you can play back the picture-in-picture features available on some movie titles.

You'll need patience to use the BDP7200, though. While the unit powered up in less than 20 seconds (reasonably good for a Blu-ray player), it took an additional, mind-numbing 44 seconds to start playing a disc. The total startup time, 64 seconds, was the second worst in the group. Once running, the player responded sluggishly to such remote control commands as popping up the menu and skipping chapters.

The on-screen menus and displays, rendered in standard definition, don't look attractive, either. Although the menu takes up quite a bit of on-screen space when you display it, it doesn't give you much in the way of information or useful choices. I can guess what "Auto Standby" means, but I would appreciate a display that offers details--such as how many minutes of inactivity puts the TV into standby mode, as opposed to the BDP7200's far less useful On and Off options. (The documentation offers the needed information, but we all know how often users delve deep into a manual.)

Even when you do access information about the disc, you may be frustrated: The Information screen that comes up when you press the remote's Info button is opaque and unnecessarily close to the middle of the screen, blocking more of the image than necessary.

Those complaints aside, the BDP7200 distinguishes itself by delivering terrific image and audio quality at a comparatively low price. Support for BonusView, too, makes this model a great choice.

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