It has to be said that now is not a particularly great time to buy a Blu-ray player. First, it's only a couple of weeks since Paramount and DreamWorks shocked the world by announcing that they would exclusively be releasing their movies on HD DVD, not Blu-ray. And second, from October 31st this year all Blu-ray players released must meet a new specification standard dubbed Profile 1.1 that adds Java-based picture-in-picture video playback as a requirement. This is fine, except for the small matter of the fact that we're only in September. And so there's no pressure on even new Blu-ray players like Pioneer's BDP-LX70 to meet with the Profile 1.1 requirements.
But then maybe Pioneer has been thinking ahead with the LX70, and has slipped the Profile 1.1 requirements in there early? Sadly not. For even though at over £800 it clearly reckons itself a premium bit of kit, the LX70 definitely does not meet Profile 1.1 standards - and nor can it have its firmware upgraded to meet those standards some time in the future. So if you put in a Blu-ray disc that's got certain Java-based features on it, this deck will not be able to play them. Er, oh…
We guess we can find it in ourselves to have a little sympathy for Pioneer's position on this. After all, it takes months for a product to go from first planning to actual sale, and the Profile 1.1 requirements stipulated by the Blu-ray group only arrived relatively late in the day. But from a punter's point of view there already seems to be a compelling argument in favour of not buying the LX70 and instead waiting for the first of the ‘new breed' of Blu-ray decks later this year.
Tragically this already negative atmosphere is merely enhanced by the discovery that the LX70's HDMI output is only a v1.2 affair. This means it's not compatible with such HDMI 1.3 tricks as the ‘Deep Colour' extended colour palette, automatic lip-synching, and the carriage of full digital surround sound audio tracks. This is a really troubling omission on an £800-plus player when you think that HDMI 1.3 is found on the £450 PS3, Sony's new £700 BDP-S1E (which we'll be reviewing soon) and Toshiba's £500 HD-XE1 HD DVD player.
Yet more disappointment comes with the realisation that the LX70 doesn't support any way of outputting ‘next gen' HD audio formats - disappointment which only grows when the press release Pioneer has put together on the LX70 helpfully informs you that a Pioneer player with an HD Audio bit-stream output will be appearing ‘in the near future'. In other words, the press release itself seems to be suggesting that you wait for something better rather than diving into Blu-ray waters with the LX70.