The standalone Blu-ray player is a knuckle-dragging troglodyte just a hair away from extinction.
LG knew this was the case when it updated its flagship BD590. Though 3-D capabilities are MIA, video download services, web content and even disc-ripping make this player a truly evolved gadget.
As a Blu-ray player, the BD590 offers exactly what you’d expect. Playing our 10th Anniversary edition of Fight Club (I am Jack’s planned obsolescence) yielded a fantastically crisp picture and great audio, courtesy of the unit’s Dolby TrueHD and DTS support.
When we tired of our disc collection, we switched over to Netflix to stream old episodes of Rescue Me and to Vudu to rent new releases like Sherlock Holmes. Mood music, slideshows and video podcasts are covered by Pandora, Picasa and YouTube respectively.
Being able to wander through these services while discovering new content had an interesting affect on the way we consumed media: Rather than merely bringing discs to the BD590 for playback, we found ourselves firing it up for content search and discovery. Catering to exploratory use is easily the device’s smartest function.
What’s more intriguing — though somewhat less useful — is the player’s ability to rip CDs and store them on its hard drive. Like most gadget freaks, we were excited to learn that the BD590 was shipping with a hard drive and the ability to rip and store content. And, like most, we crumpled with defeat upon learning that it won’t rip Blu-rays or even DVDs.
To be fair, this setback is largely addressed by remembering these two counterpoints: First, at 250 GB, the BD590 hard drive was never meant to be an HD-video-storing powerhouse. And second, you can still dump ripped video content onto the hard drive over USB or Ethernet.
If you can learn to live with this limitation (or at least work around it), then there’s a lot to love about the BD590. The disc-ripping/library management interface is easy to use, offers high-quality audio formats and fills track metadata using the Gracenote service.
Unfortunately, it’s also wicked expensive. For $10 less, consumers can buy a PS3, which also plays Blu-rays, streams Netflix, rents movies, rips CDs — and plays top-tier video games. Also, the PS3 is slated to get a firmware upgrade that will add 3-D video support over the summer, which is something the BD590 will probably never receive.
If you’re looking for a truly forward-thinking, all-in-one movie/music/web device, there are better options out there. But if you’re searching for a dedicated Blu-ray player with good online video chops, the BD590 is worth consideration (though you might want to wait for LG to cut the price a bit).