Introduction to the Toshiba BDX5200 3D Blu-ray Player
To compare today’s Blu-ray players with the very first models that shipped back in 2006, one would find those early players to be a mere shadow of what’s available today. Early adopters had to live without full lossless sound support, no 24p, no Internet apps, terrible ergonomics, glacially slow load times, and of course, high prices. Now we have models like Toshiba’s BDX-5200 that give you everything but the kitchen sink for under $180. Ain’t technology great? It’s amazing how much has changed in only five years. Blu-ray has gone from exotic to ordinary in what seems like the blink of an eye.
Back in 1999, I purchased my very first DVD player, a Toshiba. I’ll never forget sitting down with my wife that first night and watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, all 4½ hours of it, in one marathon session. That player served me very well until 2005 and never gave me a moment’s trouble. Fast forward to today and Toshiba is playing in the sandbox with other Blu-ray player manufacturers competing in a fast-paced market with ever-changing products. The BDX-5200 is their latest entry; let’s see how it stacks up.
TOSHIBA BDX5200 3D BLU-RAY PLAYER SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: 3D Blu-ray Player
- Codecs: Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, BD-Video, DVD-Video, CD, AVCHD, CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, BD-R/RE
- Audio Output: LPCM, Bitstream, Bitstream Mix
- Internet Apps: Blockbuster, Netflix, Pandora, Vudu, CinemaNow, YouTube
- BD-ROM Profile 2, Version 2.0 & Profile 5, Version 3 (3D)
- External Storage: USB 2.0, SD Memory Card
- Audio Connections: Coax Digital, 2-channel RCA
- Video Connections: Composite, HDMI 1.4
- Supported Video Resolutions: 480i/p, 720p, 1080i/p
- 24p Output: Yes, for Blu-ray Only
- Wireless: Ethernet (100BASE-T), 802.11n
- Dimensions: 1.7″H x 17″W x 7.7″D
- Weight: 2.9 Pounds
- MSRP: $179.99 USA
- SECRETS Tags- Blu-ray, DVD, Video
Design of the Toshiba BDX5200 3D Blu-ray player
This is the player to buy if you want a minimalist look to your component rack. The chassis is very thin at less than two inches high with a plain front panel. It’s only visible features are the SD card slot, the disc drawer, the Blu-ray symbol and Toshiba’s logo. Since it’s not deep enough to stack other components on, you’ll want it either on top or on its own shelf. One word of caution if you plan to stack this player: The feet are incredibly thin – so much so that the metal on the chassis’ bottom will touch whatever it’s placed on. I suggest sticking on something thicker or using a couple of coasters to avoid scratching other components or your furniture. The front-panel controls are touch-sensitive and require one press to activate and second one to execute their function. Once the backlight turns off, you can’t see where to touch. Since I like to open the disc tray with the front panel button, I had to do a double-tap every time.
The rear panel follows the sparseness of the front with the fewest connections I’ve yet seen in a disc player. Video options are HDMI or composite only. There are no component video jacks. I suspect this will become more common now that studios can activate the image constraint token on their Blu-ray releases. This means analog video connections will be limited to a resolution of 540p. In fact all Blu-ray players introduced after January 1, 2011 are required to support the token. The HDMI output is version 1.4 which means the player supports 3D, which I did not test. Additional connections are 2-channel audio via RCA, coax digital audio, Ethernet and USB. If you want to add memory for BD Live functions, your options are the USB port or the SD card slot. No internal RAM is provided. If you can’t run a network cable to your equipment rack, 802.11n WiFi is built in.
The remote is quite functional if you have the lights on but the lack of a backlight makes it difficult to use in a darkened room. In an unusual touch, the numeric keypad is at the top which places the more often used buttons in the center. I applaud this design. The keys are different shapes which makes it a little easier to operate by feel. Like the Toshiba LCD TV I recently reviewed, there is a dedicated Netflix button which takes you right to that app, very convenient. There is no attempt to make this remote operate any other components. My only other complaint besides the lack of a backlight is I had to point almost straight at the player to get a response. If you’re more than a few degrees off-center, the range becomes more limited.
Setup of the Toshiba BDX5200 3D Blu-ray player
This is a pretty basic player so installation was quick and easy. All I had to do was plug in the non-removable power cord and an HDMI cable and I was up and running. After initial power up, I ran through the menus which are intuitive and well-designed. My first task was to connect to my home network. Wireless operation is automatically enabled if you don’t plug in an Ethernet cable. Simply pick your network from the list and enter the password. (You have secured your router, right?) With a Cisco E3000 router anchoring my network, speeds are about same over the air as they are over a cable. I logged into my Netflix account with the provided code and was able to see my queue in minutes.
Moving on to playback options, I made sure 24p output was enabled by turning on Film Mode and that the signal was locked at 1080p. I prefer players that allow you to force this since my projector mistakenly reports its max resolution as 1080i. If you don’t have this issue with your display, you can use the HDMI Auto setting. You can also select Deep Color if you wish but since no content is encoded this way, it won’t make a visible difference. The only other options are Aspect (16:9 wide, 16:9 Pillarbox, 4:3 Pan and Scan and 4:3 Letter Box) and 3D which can be set to Off or Auto. Like all other 3D Blu-ray players, there is no function to convert 2D discs to 3D.
Audio output can be set to PCM Stereo, Bitstream HD, Bitstream Legacy, Bitstream Mixed, PCM 5.1 or PCM 7.1. Bitstream HD is the choice to make if your receiver or processor decodes lossless codecs, which most models now do. If you have an older unit anchoring your system, choose PCM 5.1 or 7.1 depending on your speaker count. Bitstream Legacy will convert lossless codecs to a lossy format, either DTS or Dolby Digital. And Bitstream Mixed will do the same but add menu sounds and PIP audio. If you want to limit the audio dynamic range, set this option to On. This can come in handy if you don’t want to bother the neighbors or if you have kids sleeping while you watch a movie.
The other two menu areas are System Settings and Network Connection. System Settings controls the media player function, the screen saver, CEC support and firmware updates which can be done over the network. Network Connection has many options for configuring either a wired or wireless hookup. If you have a typical setup like I do, all you’ll have to do is have the player find your router, key in the password and that’s it. There’s rarely a need to get into the weeds with network options.
Toshiba BDX5200 3D Blu-ray player In Use
Once the player was up and running, I loaded up some content to watch on my front projection system. The signal was routed through an Integra DHC-80.1 surround processor. I used the passthrough mode for video allowing the player to take care of the video processing duties. Audio was fed via Bitstream HD which assigned decoding to the Integra.
I have never seen more than the most subtle differences between players when watching Blu-ray discs and the BDX-5200 was no exception to that. I saw pretty much the same image I get from my reference Oppo BDP-83 which is always excellent and faithful to the original transfer. I used the same set of movies I had watched for the 55SL417 HDTV review I completed recently so the content was quite familiar.
The Last Samurai is a beautiful movie but not the best Blu-ray out there. Artifacts show themselves here and there in the form of noise and edge enhancement. The Toshiba did nothing to accentuate these problems and the film actually looked quite good. Color and contrast excellent as expected. Le Mans is a very grainy film with a superb Blu-ray transfer and it looked great as usual. No artifacts were observed. Grand Prix is the polar opposite being extremely clean and crisp at all times. The BDX handled this reference-level material beautifully. Motion processing was done correctly in the 24p mode. How to Train Your Dragon was my token CGI title and it looked fantastic. I love the 3D effect these movies impart (I watched the 2D version). Color was rich and bold and contrast was deep with truly inky blacks. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was my final Blu-ray disc and this dark film retained all its low-level detail and depth without issue.
The real separator between most Blu-ray players is DVD performance. Some of us still have legacy discs in our collection. A few titles may never be released in hi-def so good scaling and deinterlacing performance is important. I cued up three titles starting with the poorest quality and progressing to the best. Star Wars, Episode I has always struck me as a below-average transfer, especially given its THX certification. Macro-blocking artifacts abound and detail is generally soft even when played on the best gear. The BDX-5200 did a fair job with this title. My Oppo only had a small advantage here. I don’t know what scaling technology Toshiba is using here but it works pretty well. Detail was about as sharp as it could be and noise was kept to a minimum. Night at the Museum is a little better. It hides its flaws with a saturated color palette and lots of brightly lit scenes. Again I was impressed with the scaling performance of the Toshiba. Detail was excellent and I never saw any processing artifacts. Double Jeopardy is one of the better DVD transfers I’ve seen and this player did not disappoint. Even on a 92-inch screen, I could honestly say I’ve seen worse Blu-rays (Force 10 From Navarone comes to mind). Overall, this is an excellent player to upconvert your treasured DVDs.
While I’m on the subject of video processing, I was highly impressed by the quality of streamed content on this player. My benchmark is the Apple TV which looks amazing even showing Netflix and YouTube. The BDX matches that standard. YouTube videos automatically showed in HD when applicable. I did most of my tests mid-day when ‘Net traffic is light and never had any stuttering or lockups. Netflix continues to impress me as they slowly but steadily improve their quality. Episodes of Medium in HD looked every bit as good as the original broadcasts and better than the DVDs. My only beef, and this is a general one, is the awkward interface anchored by the onscreen keyboard. This is where a Bluetooth or USB unit would be really nice. Searching for videos is a pain when you have to navigate with a standard remote. This is true of every streaming device I’ve reviewed save the Nixeus Fusion HD which supports a keyboard. I’m far from the first reviewer to make this complaint and I imagine at least some companies are working to add this feature. The first to do it will sell a lot of product!
Toshiba BDX5200 3D Blu-ray player On The Bench
Overall the Toshiba BDX-5200 did well on the Blu-ray benchmark. The main flaw is the lack of any colorspace selection in the menus, which doesn’t let the user know what format is being output. Our testing shows that it is 4:4:4 but without equipment that might be hard for a consumer to determine. Otherwise the Toshiba had some issues with mixed video and film content, and there was no reduction in mosquito or block noise in the test images.
The layer change time was very fast and almost unnoticeable, but the overall sluggishness of the UI was incredibly frustrating. Menus look nice, but the lag between a button press and something happening on screen was a major aggravation, and the speed of online streaming content, such as Vudu, was very slow with it taking multiple seconds to finish putting the elements of a screen image up when navigating. Toshiba does a good job of video processing, but they need to find a faster processor for their UI elements, or simplify the UI to make it more responsive.
As mentioned before, we only have YCbCr 4:4:4 output available from the Toshiba, but thankfully it does this flawlessly.
The Toshiba’s sluggishness in the UI carries over a bit into the load time tests. Basic titles like The Fifth Element take almost 50% longer to load than on recent players from Sony and Panasonic, and while closer on complex titles like Toy Story 3, it still lags behind.
Overall the BDX-5200 does well with video processing, but lacks complete colorspace support, and is a bit slow in use.
Conclusions about the Toshiba BDX5200 3D Blu-ray Player
- Excellent video processing for both DVD and streaming sources.
- Fast and convenient built-in WiFi
The Not So Good
- Only supports 4:4:4 colorspace output
- Non-backlit remote with below average response to commands
- Finicky touch-sensitive front panel controls
- No internal memory for BD-Live
- Thin feet may cause scratching of other components or shelving
The BDX-5200 includes pretty much everything you could possibly want in a Blu-ray player (at least this week) in a slim and value-priced package. The major selling points this year are 3D and Internet apps, both of which this Toshiba has. While not the best player in terms of ergonomics, I had no problems playing content or checking out Internet apps during my time with it. Its video processing prowess means your DVD collection will look pretty good for years to come. Some more-expensive models don’t perform as well on our core video processing tests. Toshiba has delivered a solid player here and is certainly worthy of consideration.