While the home cinema world mourns the death of Pioneer’s revered plasma TVs, the company continues to channel its considerable AV expertise into the Blu-ray market through its joint optical disc venture with Sharp. The BDP-330 is its latest entry-level Blu-ray player, but despite its ‘affordable’ approach, Pioneer still reckons it’ll deliver the sort of performance that home cinema enthusiasts would sell their granny for.
Something else Pioneer has always prided itself on is build quality, and even at this price point the BDP-330 is a solidly made machine with characteristically sleek, suave looks. The step-up BDP-LX53 goes one better, offering the ‘Armoured Chassis Concept’ and a drive stabiliser, but even without it the BDP-330 feels rigid and robust.
As ever, Pioneer’s player is coated in the glossiest of gloss-black finishes, which makes the deck look deeply sexy from top to toe, while the neon blue light on the front oozes hi-tech allure. It’s also worth noting that the bodywork is much slimmer than Pioneer’s high-end decks.
An up-close inspection of the front panel reveals a couple of discreetly integrated buttons below the disc tray, including pause, stop and open/close. Elsewhere, the play and power buttons sit at either end and there’s a USB port on the front panel.
On the back the BDP-330 offers everything you need, provided you have an AV receiver with HDMI inputs (if not, we really think it might be time for an upgrade). We say this because there are no multichannel analogue audio outputs, so you’ll need an HDMI-equipped amp to enjoy HD audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. Aside from an HDMI output, there’s a set of component outputs plus composite, analogue stereo and optical digital audio outputs.
Rounding up the sockets are an Ethernet port, providing a wired connection to the web, and a second USB port that allows you to plug in Pioneer’s optional Wi-Fi USB dongle, making it easier to explore the deck’s web-based features.
The Wi-Fi USB dongle (AS-WL100) will be available from September and will cost around £60. It supports 802.11b/g/n and the WPA, WPA2, AES and TKIP security systems. Because the BDP-330 is only equipped with one set of drivers that works with their dongle, you can’t use cheaper adapters from other manufacturers.
This brings us neatly to the most significant new feature added to Pioneer’s new players – YouTube access and RSS news feeds. OK, so players from other manufacturers like LG and Panasonic been able to stream YouTube videos for some time now, but its introduction to Pioneer’s range – a company whose performance-centric approach on previous players has left them surprisingly light on cutting-edge frills – is a fairly significant step. The player doesn't throw DLNA media streaming from PCs into the bargain, so sadly BD Live, YouTube and RSS is all you get.
YouTube and RSS can be accessed either from the Home menu or from the icons plonked on the Pioneer splashscreen. Select YouTube and you get a very nicely presented interface, with the video screen on the right and options down the left and along the bottom. Sadly the cursor is sluggish to move around, which makes for a frustrating user experience, but at least the clips play with minimal stuttering and you can watch clips in HD (which may depend on your broadband connection). RSS news feeds run below the company logo on the splashscreen and keep you up to date with the latest developments from Pioneer in a variety of languages, which to be honest is fairly pointless.