Review: LG BD300

Still battle weary from the high-def format fight? You’re not alone. Blu-ray might’ve KO’d HD DVD with a wild haymaker, but consumers are still lukewarm about upgrading. LG and Netflix figure their newest conversion device, the highly anticipated LG BD300, might be enough to change your mind.

In short, the LG BD300 is a Blu-ray player bolstered with Netflix’ Watch Now service. For Netflix subscribers this means the 12,000 streamable Watch Now titles previously PC-landlocked are now viewable on your big screen courtesy of the LG BD300. For anyone who isn’t a Netflix subscriber this means the LG BD300 is … just a Blu-ray player.

At the very least, the LG BD300 makes for a decent Blu-ray drive. Save for a couple oddly placed buttons and a busy remote, it sports clean, counter-top-friendly chops. For consumers wanting to dip a toe in the Blu-ray pool, this unit’s passable picture quality, quiet operation and sub-$400 price are a good value. Still, things get a little muddy when it comes to the Watch Now features.

The presentation is not the problem, but bridging the PC-to-TV divide is where the BD300 fails. Despite being web-ready, the device requires a PC for almost all the Netflix-related functions. Registering for the service for the first time? Better bust out the laptop. Want to add Watch Now titles to your queue or stream titles not already in your queue? Back to the browser you go. It seems the BD300 is only tasked with playback, so all the capabilities that make a Netflix subscription worthwhile (i.e., recommendations, ratings, queue reorganizing) are confined to your computer.

This doesn’t necessarily damn the BD300. Like the Roku box before it, the unit is adept at streaming content quickly, and presenting it in passable (but not quite) DVD quality on a big screen. Paired with its modest performance as a Blu-ray player, the BD300 is a probably a steal for existing Netflix subscribers. But if you’re holding out for the perfect living room device that melds high-def media with a rotating catalog of on-demand titles, this probably isn’t it.

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