The BDP-150 is one of two Blu-ray players in Pioneer’s current range (alongside the £230 BDP-450) and is the cheaper model of the two. With a price tag of around £120 it won’t break the bank but should still offer a step-up from the sort of deck you get in your local supermarket.
It’s a 3D-ready Blu-ray player, which also plays media files over a home network or via USB and offers a modest selection of Internet content.
Design and connections
The deck’s 58mm-high bodywork is much chunkier than most of the wafer-thin budget decks on the market, but feels satisfyingly sturdy. It’s not exactly a stunner, but Pioneer’s classic all-black finish keeps it the right side of stylish. The brushed fascia plays host to an LED panel and a disc tray, while the low button count keeps it clutter-free. A USB port is provided for media playback from flash drives.
On the back is an HDMI v1.4 output, alongside composite and analogue stereo outputs (which aren’t found on the step-up BDP-450, weirdly), a coaxial digital audio output, Ethernet and a second USB. Step up to the BDP-450 and you get a second HDMI output, which lets you feed two displays at once, or feed a 3D TV and AV amp separately.
The BDP-150 lacks the abundant features of a Samsung or Panasonic deck, but there’s a few noteworthy features, such as YouTube, Netflix and Picasa access. It’s great to see Pioneer embracing the connected revolution, but it’s a limited selection and the lack of truly worthwhile apps like iPlayer and LoveFilm is disappointing.
Even more disappointing is the news that the BDP-150 lacks integrated Wi-Fi – to get it you’ll need Pioneer’s optional adapter, which will set you back around £50. If that’s too pricey then you’ll have to hook up the Ethernet port. This is all a little hard to swallow given that several similarly priced players (and some cheaper ones) come with Wi-Fi out the box.
Network media streaming is possible thanks to the deck’s DLNA certification, and format support is excellent – DivX HD, WMV, AVCHD, AVI, MKV, MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, 3GP, FLV and JPEG. The same formats can be played from USB storage devices, and it’s nice to discover that the BDP-150 will play Super Audio CD, marking it out as a deck for music lovers as well as film fans.
Naturally the Pioneer handles all HD audio formats, outputting them as bitstream or decoded PCM. Sound Retriever Link boosts the quality of compressed music formats when played on a compatible Pioneer amp, while Stream Smoother reduces picture artefacts on low-bitrate videos.
The Continued feature allows you to bookmark a point in the film, so you can resume from the same place if you have to press stop. Not all Blu-ray discs do this by default, so it comes in handy if you need to visit the setup menu, as you can’t access it during playback.
Almost every player we see these days has a flashy, kaleidoscopic menu system with HD graphics and slick animations, but Pioneer is having none of it. The BDP-150 keeps it real with no-nonsense black backgrounds, static dialogue boxes and monochrome images for each menu section.
Thankfully all of the menus are easy to navigate and quick to respond. The main menu offers access to the Home Media Gallery where you can access content on all connected sources, and Web Contents where you’ll find YouTube, Netflix and Picasa – listed in a rather uninspiring way.
Play music from USB or DLNA devices and it displays track details with cover art, which is a nice touch. The setup menu is neatly organised and covers all bases, including Video Adjust settings (contrast, hue, brightness and saturation).
A separate set of picture adjustments appears when you select the Custom picture preset, which could negatively affect image quality if you make adjustments in both menus.
The remote is more plasticky than the BDP-450’s zapper but its button layout is thoughtful and the labelling is clear. You can also operate the player over a network with an iOS or Android device installed with Pioneer’s iControlAV2012 app.
With an AV heritage as rich as Pioneer’s, it comes as no surprise to find that the BDP-150’s picture quality is superb. It passes the pixels to a TV without any glitches, errors or artefacts, leaving you with pictures that look clean as a whistle and sharp as a tack.
This is immediately apparent when viewing Avengers Assemble. It picks out the finest details, like the stubble on Selvig’s face and the texture of Banner’s tweed jacket, and backs it up with rich colours, smooth shading, crisp edge definition and judder-free motion tracking, which really helps when following the movie’s busy finale.
It also copes well with trickier material like the Silicon Optix HQV Blu-ray, smoothly rendering all of the disc’s test patterns and cadences without any serious artefacts. Its 3D performance is equally problem-free, resulting in some wonderfully immersive galactic vistas when playing Thor in 3D.
The Pioneer also boasts some impressive audio chops. It has a considerable advantage over most other players with its SACD playback, which naturally brings loads of detail and multichannel expansion – Roxy Music’s Avalon disc sounds positively intoxicating. But it also fares well with CDs, conveying music through its analogue stereo outputs with a sense of openness, clarity and balance.
The BDP-150 is a competent Blu-ray player, doing a dependable job with 2D and 3D Blu-ray pictures and offering a useful range of features, including DLNA and Internet content. Format support is impressive and its sound quality is better than you might expect from a video-centric machine.
The problem comes when you start comparing the BDP-150 with the other players in its price range and realising how much more you could get for your money. Players like the Sony BDP-S490 and Samsung BD-E6100 throw in Wi-Fi, superior Internet content and more engaging onscreen designs. Its build quality is better, but the BDP-150 doesn’t offer a significant step up in performance to justify it on those grounds either, making it a deck for Pioneer devotees only.
Manufacturer and model
Component video output
Composite video output
Digital audio outputs
Dolby TrueHD decoding
DTS HD Master Audio decoding
DLNA media streaming
YouTube, Picasa, Netflix
Supported media formats
DivX HD, WMV, AVCHD, AVI, MKV, MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, 3GP, FLV, JPEG
Dimensions (main unit) W x H x D
435 x 58 x 250mm