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9/10

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Arcam BDP100 and AVR400 - Connections and Features

The BDP100's connections disappoint at this price. There are no multichannel analogue outputs, which are arguably more relevant on audiophile products like this, and the HDMI output is v1.3, which means there's no possibility of 3D support for those whose want it.

However you do get component and composite video outputs, two analogue stereo outputs, plus optical and coaxial digital audio outputs. Custom install needs are catered for with the RS232, remote input and 12V trigger ports, a USB port is provided for BD Live storage and digital media playback, while the Ethernet port is your gateway to BD Live downloads. Sadly it's not used for media streaming over a network, but that's not a problem if you buy it with the AVR400, as the amp supports network streaming and internet radio via Ethernet.

The back of the AVR400 is teeming with connections. You get five HDMI inputs - all v1.4 specified and ready to handle audio from a TV (via the Audio Return Channel) and 3D, should you decide to pair it with a 3D-ready deck instead of the BDP100. These are joined by three sets of component video inputs, composite and S-video inputs (four each), a set of multichannel analogue audio inputs and pre-outs (both 7.1-channels), six digital audio inputs (four coaxial, two optical) and six sets of analogue stereo inputs. Outputs include composite, component video and Zone 2 analogue stereo, while the comprehensive line up of control, radio and network ports includes Ethernet, USB, DAB, FM and AM aerial inputs, RS232, rLead/irDock (Arcam's proprietary iPod accessories), IR and trigger connections.
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The BDP100 is not a feature-packed Blu-ray player by any stretch of the imagination, but that's by design - Arcam instead ploughed the money into high-class performance and weapons-grade build quality and had no intention of making the BDP100 do tricks like DLNA media streaming, internet video streaming or 3D playback. But that implies that all high-end buyers have no interest in these features, which probably isn't true - many would love to have the option at this price. That said, Arcam has suggested that it will launch a 3D upgrade sometime this year.

It's also surprising not to find the BDP100 playing DVD-Audio or SACD, but again that wasn't part of Arcam's game plan - the focus here is purely and simply on delivering the best-possible Blu-ray pictures and audio playback from a single unit.

Still, that's not to say it's completely devoid of frills. Its USB port can be used to play back media files from storage devices, and supported formats include MP3, WMA, JPEG, AVI and WMV, although it didn't like our hi-def AVI files. It decodes Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio too (helpful if you're pairing it with a legacy amp that won't decode those formats) and outputs in film-friendly 1080/24p.

The AVR400 is much more generous in the features department. In terms of core audio duties it supports every HD audio format as well as DTS ES, Neo:6, 96/24, Dolby Pro Logic IIx and Dolby Volume automatic levelling. But among the more exotic stuff is a high-powered Torino video processor, which provides cross input conversion and upscaling to 1080p, with range of adjustments including brightness, contrast, colour, edge enhancement and noise reduction. You can also use the AVR400 as a network client and stream media files via Ethernet from connected PCs running uPnP software. It supports MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC and MPEG-4 AAC, a selection that will keep music fans very happy indeed, and the same files can be played from USB devices connected to the rear port.

Elsewhere, there are built-in DAB, FM and AM radio tuners, and when connected to your router you can manually browse for internet radio stations or use the vTuner service to organise them into favourites.

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