Introduction to the Pioneer BDP-62FD Blu-Ray Player
Every year Pioneer updates their Blu-ray players, and every year I wind up happy yet disappointed with them. Each year performance and features seem to improve only to have a flaw, like edge enhancement or poor colorspace support, derail the Pioneer from being really top notch. This year Pioneer is offering the BDP-62FD, a $400 universal Blu-ray player that carries the Elite badge and features dual HDMI outputs among other features.
PIONEER BDP-62FD BLU-RAY PLAYER SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Universal Blu-ray Player
- Codecs: All
- 3-D Support: Yes
- Streaming Support: Netflix, Pandora, Picasa, YouTube
- Connections : Dual HDMI 1.4a, Coaxial Audio, USB, Ethernet, RS-232
- Dimensions: 3.3″ H x 17.1″ W x 9.5″ D
- Weight: 6 Pounds
- MSRP: $400 USD
- SECRETS TAGS: Pioneer, Universal Players, DVD Players, Video
This year has seen a number of excellent players come into the market, making the task even tougher for the Pioneer BDP-62FD. Has Pioneer improved upon the issues of the past couple of years to make a universal player that can stand out in today’s crowded Blu-ray player market?
Design and Setup of the Pioneer BDP-62FD Blu-Ray Player
It seems that more and more products from Pioneer are carrying the Elite branding and that the differentiation of Elite vs. Non-Elite is more difficult to understand than before. Looking at the rear and bottom of the BDP-62FD I wouldn’t expect it to carry the Elite moniker as it lacks the gold-plated outputs, copper chassis screws, and copper sub-chassis that has been a hallmark of the Elite line for years. Compared to the SC-68 receiver that just passed through my home and had the same Elite branding, it seems to be a very different level of design.
One very interesting design decision on the BDP-62FD is the total lack of any analog audio outputs on the rear of the chassis. I’m not surprised to see players lacking analog video outputs now that they can no longer output HD signals, but for a universal player to have no way to output audio except over HDMI is something new. It certainly would offer some cost savings by not needing a DAC or more RCA outputs, but it also means someone that wants a universal player for their older analog system will need to look elsewhere.
There is a pair of HDMI outputs that allow you to send audio and video separately to your display and audio processor. I am a big proponent of this on higher end players as it allows you to avoid having other devices that can degrade the video signal before it reaches your display device and have lossless audio as well. Also absent from the BDP-62FD is Wi-Fi support without purchasing a separate adapter for $100. Online content available with the Ethernet connection is limited to Netflix, YouTube, Picasa, and Pandora, as well as local media streaming. FLAC playback is also only supported from local media, not over the network, in a strange twist.
Setup of the BDP-62FD was quick and easy. Most of my testing was done on a Samsung PN51E8000 plasma, though a Samsung PN50B650 plasma and Sony VPL-HW50ES projector were also used. Once the HDMI connections were made, resolution was set, and most extra features were disabled it was time to see how the Pioneer performs.
Pioneer BDP-62FD Blu-Ray Player In Use
The first thing I noticed with the Pioneer BDP-62FD is that it was fast to load. Discs went from insertion to playing quicker than any player I have tested to this point, and was a huge change for where Pioneer was just a few years ago. The menu system was also quick and responsive, and navigating the menus of titles was very quick as well. Where older Pioneer players were slow enough that my wife would give up before a movie had even loaded, the BDP-62FD was so quick that she had no complaints at all.
Watching a film, there was nothing at all to complain about that I could see. Colors were rich and vivid but without any false color push to them, and high quality Blu-ray transfers were as sharp and detailed as you expect them to be. 3D films were handled just fine, with Avatar looking as good as you remember it being. Blu-ray concert videos shot in 1080i60 had pull-down done correctly and I could see no aliasing or other artifacts from the interlacing present in the content itself.
As a universal player, there isn’t much to comment about for the BDP-62FD as all the sound quality is going to be dependent on the DACs that you use it with. I had no issues with it sending SACD, DVD-Audio, or standard Redbook CD content to my processor, but over HDMI it sounded the same as any other universal player does. Switching between regular and Pure Audio modes, the shuts down the section, didn’t cause a change that I could hear over HDMI.
With streaming content the Pioneer did well with Netflix, offering 1080p video and 5.1 audio for supported titles. Buffering was quick and easy, and it has the same standard Netflix interface that almost everyone has now. Using the Marvell QDEO chipset allows Pioneer to do some noise reduction and artifact removal on streaming content, which can help out. Since Netflix has improved in quality considerably the past few years this isn’t as big of a benefit as it used to be, but it is still useful on YouTube where low quality, heavily pixelated videos run rampant.
During my time with it the Pioneer BDP-62FD proved to be a well performing, quick responding player that let me forget about the experience of using the Pioneer BDP-51FD years ago.
Pioneer BDP-62FD Blu-Ray Player On The Bench
The first issue with the Pioneer BDP-62FD is one that isn’t usually caught on our tests, as it is so rare it isn’t even listed. When viewing the chroma multiburst and zone plate, the highest resolution vertical chroma material is not correctly displayed. While this is a common side effect of displays and receivers doing video processing, it is very rare in a player itself. Because of this, the Pioneer BDP-62FD will never display the finest color details correctly compared to other players, but it is also something you likely will never see outside of a bench test. Despite the fact that it isn’t easily visible, it is still a large error that should not occur in any consumer player.
With DVD content the Pioneer was virtually perfect, with no real issues to complain about. With Blu-ray content it didn’t fare quite as well. With jaggies it does quite well on the synthetic tests, but on the Ships video in Spears and Munsil, there is a lot of aliasing that occurs on the ship in comparison to other players. Additionally with scrolling horizontal text overlaid on film, while there aren’t any combed edges, there are areas where it improperly deinterlaces a highlight off the water as being part of the scrolling text, joining some letters together.
With noise reduction testing there are multiple noise reduction options, but neither removed all of the noise that was present in the test material that we use. The final issue I ran into wasn’t with the player performance, but an oddity in that it is one of the few players that will power off without closing the tray first, leaving it vulnerable to damage. Most likely this won’t be an issue, but you can’t just remove a disc and hit power to turn off the player.
Over HDMI, the Pioneer offers support for 4:2:2, 4:4:4 and RGB colorspaces. There is also an RGB Enhanced setting, which is useful to watch video content on a PC monitor as it expands the 16-235 video range to the 0-255 range of a PC display, leading to better shadows and highlights on a calibrated display. On our HDMI Benchmark, the Pioneer scored perfectly, with only RGB containing the smallest errors, with a dE of around 0.1. Those errors are completely invisible to the eye, so for all real world purposes, the Pioneer will put out a correct image in all colorspaces it supports.
In our loading tests, I mentioned that the Pioneer was fast, and it was the best in everything I have tested. On titles without Java, like The Fifth Element, it loaded quicker than anything indicating a faster drive mechanism than other players. On the BD-J tests, with The Dark Knight and Toy Story 3, it maintained its lead showing it has a fast drive and a fast processor as well. As titles get more and more complex, the BDP-62FD looks to have what it takes to keep up with the fastest players currently available.
Conclusion about the Pioneer BDP-62FD Blu-Ray Player
As I mentioned in the opening, Pioneer continues to move forward on their Blu-ray players, but each year seems to come up with an issue that causes me reservations about them. This year they have produced the fastest Blu-ray player I’ve tested so far, and one that completes most of our testing quite easily. However, it comes up short in the amount of online content it offers, a lack of WiFi, and a serious issue in the lack of chroma resolution in testing. While most people, including myself, likely will never notice the chroma issue in actual playback, and mere presence of the issue is something we shouldn’t see in a Blu-ray player today, and in fact that I’ve only seen in one other player ever.
The tricky part with the BDP-62FD is the value proposition that it offers. For $200 less you have the Sony BDP-S790 that is almost as fast, offers far more online streaming content, better noise reduction and DVD scaling, integrated Wi-Fi, and analog outputs. The only feature it is really lacking is DVD-Audio support, but for most users that difference isn’t worth $200. If you need DVD-Audio support, you can step up to the Oppo BDP-103 for $100 more, which includes a Wi-Fi adapter that offsets the cost benefit of the BDP-62FD, as well as analog outputs, no chroma issue, and even better video processing.
In the end, the Pioneer BDP-62FD is possibly the best Pioneer player I have used to this point, but that unfortunately doesn’t really give it a good position in the marketplace. I feel I find myself writing this every year, but hopefully next year Pioneer can fix the small issues that plague their current Blu-ray players and offer one that fills a good niche in the marketplace, but right now the BDP-62FD seems to have trouble finding that necessary balance.