Toshiba BDX3300 Blu-ray player review

Pros

  • Great value
  • Solid picture quality
  • Built-in Wi-Fi

Cons

  • Lacklustre onscreen presentation
  • Lightweight build quality
  • Poor remote

As a latecomer to the Blu-ray party, Toshiba's players have so far been basic but affordable affairs – until now, that is. This year, the company has added 'smart' features to its range for the first time, enabling you to stream content from the Internet as well as play Blu-ray, DVD and CD.

The BDX3300 is one of four new players. Heading the range is the BDX5300, which comes equipped with 3D playback, built-in Wi-Fi and web content. The BDX3300 sits one step below, lacking 3D support, while two other players without Wi-Fi complete the line-up – the 3D-ready BDX4300 and the non-3D BDX1300.

Design and connections

The first thing that jumps out when you look at the BDX3300 is how much smaller it is than your average Blu-ray deck, measuring just 360mm wide. Also attracting attention is the silver triangle at the bottom of the fascia, adding a subtle touch of glamour that you won't find on the entry-level BDX1300.

Upon closer inspection however, the build quality is a little lightweight for our liking, with plasticky casing and buttons, plus the LED display is too small to read easily from the other side of the room.

On the back, Toshiba hasn't exactly gone to town on sockets, supplying only the bare essentials – HDMI output, coaxial digital audio output and an Ethernet port for hooking up to a router. Sparse, but it's fine for basic setups.

There's also a USB port on the front that allows you to play digital media from storage devices. You'll also need to bring this port into play if you want to watch BD Live content, as there's no built in memory.

Features

Heading the bill are the online services, which include the essential BBC iPlayer plus YouTube, Acetrax and Picasa. Unlike players from Samsung, LG, Sony or Panasonic they're not given their own graphical GUI with a fancy name – they're just buried within the deck's rather dull main menu.

Although this selection seems a bit stingy, it's a case of quality over quantity; offering four apps that you're very likely to use, rather than bombarding you with puzzles and games that you're probably never going to use. What's more, Acetrax offers a better range of movies than the en vogue Netflix.

And if you own a wireless router these services are easy to access thanks to the deck's built-in Wi-Fi adapter, which supports the 802.11b/g/n standards. That's a real boon, as many companies would make you fork out for an optional WLAN dongle at this price.

You can also use the BDX3300 to stream digital files from a server on your home network, such as a PC, although I couldn't get it to find the files on my laptop during the test, despite other players having no trouble.

If the same happens to you, then you can load files onto a USB stick and play them via the front port. The deck handles MPEG-1, MP4, hi-def AVI, MKV (containing 1080p video), XviD, AVCHD, FLAC, AAC, MP3, WAV and JPEG. That's not a bad selection but DivX and WMA are conspicuous by their absence.

Rounding up the features are the bread and butter Blu-ray stuff – Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio decoding/bitstream output, 1080p upscaling, 24fps output and a range of picture tweaks under the Video Adjust section of the setup menu. You can set the levels of brightness, contrast, hue and colour saturation, and choose from three sharpness presets – low, middle and high.

Operation

Operating the BDX3300 isn't plain sailing. The remote is a fiddly affair, with tiny, spongy buttons that all look very similar. Thankfully, owners of iPads, iPhones and Android devices can download an app that lets you operate the player and Toshiba's TVs.

Also hindering the BDX3300's usability is the lacklustre onscreen presentation. It's fairly easy to follow and responds well, but looks dull. The Media Center menu, where you'll find the connected services and USB content, is simply a box that lists the various files and folders. Superficial stuff perhaps, but when you compare it with the dazzling menus on Samsung's latest players for instance, it seems positively prehistoric.

In its defence though, it's easy to setup from the start thanks to the wizards that fire up when you first boot up. It covers all the essentials except for network configuration, which is handled within the setup menu.

Performance

Despite its budget approach in other departments, there are no complaints about the BDX3300's picture quality. Naturally, images are razor sharp, with the Toshiba bringing every last pixel to the screen with no significant artefacts to hinder the clarity.

Fine detail and tricky textures are deftly handled, staying resolutely focused even when objects start moving around.

Exercise caution with the deck's built-in sharpness presets though – in 'middle' and 'high' the picture can look forced, with hard edges and an unnatural look.

An excellent contrast level ensures deeply saturated colours and solid blacks, and it's reasonably well versed at rendering detail during dark scenes, though some areas look murky. It makes subtle shades like skin tones look natural, skilfully preventing them from looking waxy or lobster-like.

The BDX3300 is no slouch when it comes to loading discs. The 42-second wait for Java-heavy discs to appear onscreen is pretty much the average among today's Blu-ray decks, but other discs can take about half that time to load.

Verdict

The BDX3300 is undoubtedly flawed, shows signs of its budget price tag in the onscreen presentation and build quality, but in every other respect it's brilliant value for money.

Getting a player with built-in Wi-Fi, online content (including BBC iPlayer), DLNA support and a USB port for just under £70 could be too hard to resist, and certainly makes it worth tolerating the deck's shortcomings.

Specifications:

Manufacturer and Model

Toshiba BDX3300

HDMI output

1

Component video output

No

Composite video output

No

Ethernet

Yes

Digital audio outputs

1 (coaxial)

Dolby True HD decoding

Yes

DTS HD Master Audio decoding

Yes

USB port

Yes

Built-in Wi-Fi

Yes

iPod/iPhone support

No

DLNA media streaming

Yes

Smartphone control

Yes

Online content

BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Picasa, Acetrax

3D ready

No

2D-to-3D conversion

No

Supported media formats

MPEG-1, MP4, hi-def AVI, MKV, XviD, AVCHD, FLAC, AAC, MP3, WAV, EG

Sound modes

None

Dimensions (main unit) W x H x D

360 x 36 x 200mm

Weight

Not given