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Pioneer BDP-51FD Blu-ray Player review



  • Recommended by TR
Pioneer BDP-51FD Blu-ray Player


Our Score


User Score

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Those of you who liked the look of Pioneer's BDP-LX71 but found the £600 price tag a bit on the steep side might want to investigate this entry-level version, which costs almost £300 less than its stable mate but somehow offers an almost identical feature list. The only difference between them is that the BDP-51FD features a few cosmetic tweaks and is fitted with inferior video DACs. It's hard to believe that these tweaks alone resulted in such a dramatic price drop but we're certainly not complaining…

The BDP-51FD's gloss-black fascia feels more plasticky than the LX71, plus it replaces the touch-sensitive buttons found on the pricier player with normal ones, and abandons the silver trim around the play button. But despite these tweaks this deck still looks the business, especially when paired with the company's similarly styled AV receivers and plasma TVs, and its chunky dimensions make a refreshing change from the normal slimline fare.

On the back panel you'll find an identical selection of sockets to the LX71, and it covers all bases. On the video side you'll find HDMI (v1.3), component, composite and S-video outputs, while audio sockets include optical and coaxial digital outs, 7.1-channel analogue outputs and a separate set of analogue stereo outs. The sockets aren't gold plated this time around, but Pioneer should be applauded for not cutting down on connections, even at this lower price point.

Although its similarity to the LX71 is a blessing in many ways, it's a hindrance in others. Like the BDP-LX71, the 51FD is specified as Profile 1.1, which means you're paying for a player that doesn't deliver the complete Blu-ray experience, when there are cheaper decks that support BD Live features.

Also disappointing is that the BDP-51FD shares the LX71's inability to decode DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks internally, which means you only get the DTS core from the multichannel analogue outputs. A firmware update is on its way in the next couple of months that will add this feature, but from the box the deck's audio capabilities remain incomplete. It can, however, output decoded Dolby TrueHD from the analogue outputs, as well as transfer Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio to your receiver in bitstream or PCM.

Elsewhere the feature list is exemplary. It can output Blu-ray discs in their native 24Hz frame rate, and with a growing number of TVs supporting 24Hz signals (including Pioneer's own plasmas) its inclusion is crucial. Your DVD collection is also in good hands thanks to the deck's 1080p upscaling capabilities, and so is your digital media collection - the player accepts DivX, AVCHD, MP3, WMA and JPEG files, and spins a wide array of disc formats.

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January 23, 2009, 4:00 pm

"along with the sluggish disc loading and boot-up times " and it's got 10 star performance? Also... 8/10 for features, yet it lacks the basic bd-live functionally?

Seriously, wtf?? I think I'll look for a different review site, one which is reliable and I can "trust".


January 23, 2009, 4:18 pm

So if all that is really different under the hood is the video DACs (which are only used for converting video to analogue) then the output from the HDMI port should be identical to that from the BDP-71? Similarly, gold-plated jacks aren't much good if you're exclusively using HDMI to extract both video and audio, right? The more I think about it, the less I am interested in BD-Live - yes, there may be some interesting applications of it in future, but for now it just seems to be used as a hook into advertising, trailers and worthless added content.

Andy Vandervell

January 23, 2009, 4:24 pm

Yeah, BD Live is a big giant 'meh' as far I'm concerned.


January 23, 2009, 5:17 pm

BD live is just something that should have been in the spec from the beginning.. the fact that they haven't put a lot on there yet is irrelevant. They'll use it much more in the future. For instance Zach and Miri doesn't have a commentary on it because kevin smith didn't record one before the deadline set for the DVD/blu-ray. They are putting that up on the bdlive menu at some point... You can dismiss the functionality right up until there's something you want. Personally, it's worth it for the auto firmware updates alone.


January 24, 2009, 6:40 pm

Two questions:

1. Why is it so big?

2. Who actually buys players without HDDs in them now anyway?

Danny P

January 26, 2009, 4:17 pm

Hi Jopey, sorry you didn't like the review. By performance I was referring to the picture and sound quality and not the loading times etc, which I tend to think of as an 'Ease of use' issue, which we don't rate here. Maybe I should make that distinction. And the 8/10 for features takes into account the lack of BD Live, but the rest of the features are actually pretty good.


January 26, 2009, 4:26 pm

@SRS eh? Hardly any Blu-Ray players have got HDDs in them, in fact the only one I can think of is the PS3, and it doesn't use it for Blu-Ray playback as far as I know - what would be the point of an HDD in a vanilla movie playing box?

marcof c

January 29, 2009, 6:08 pm

I think it's an excellent piece of equipment, superb picture performance, and, provided you update the firmware to 1.21 from 1.08, pretty quick in setup and disk load.

My only complain so far it's that infact it's not compatible with home-burned divx although "divx certified". I hope this bug will be resolved with the next firmware update!


marcof c

February 5, 2009, 12:25 pm

Hi guys, despite the instructions don't really help, finally the player handles home burned divx through the "home media" menu. Well done! Now it's 100% what it should be!. Ciao

Peter 9

February 12, 2009, 7:58 pm

In terms of picture quality and sound, can anyone please tell me How this Player compares to the Panasonic BD35.


March 1, 2009, 5:06 pm

I appreciate the "TR" criteria for validating Pioneer blu-ray player. The picture quality must be more important than BD live "gaming performance".

For those who prefer to play, the Sony playstation should be on the list.


March 24, 2009, 1:24 am

The picture quality of blu-ray titles, as far as I can tell from 2 feet away on a small, 42" 1080P set is marginally better than that of other players such as PS3 and Panasonic BD series. The audio quality out of HDMI is superb. I mostly enjoy rock/classic/vocal jazz and I love hearing every little discrete details of my audio pieces, including the breathing of the vocalists in between long notes. This is the first video player I felt that lets me enjoy as much audio details as it pleases with the rich video details.

The unique, and developed only for Pionner upconverting chip is now currently the best upconverting cpu available (it does a significantly better job with the new firmware) it uses now spits out near blu-ray quality from my DVDs.

Last weekend, I had my videophile friends over to watch Return of the King and being Blu-ray player owners themselves, they kept asking me where in the world I got my hands on the Blu-ray version of the movie.

After trying serveral players, I'm happy to report that I'll be keeping this player for now as it IS the best looking and sounding blu-ray player on the planet. New players are just around the corner from being released. We'll see what April brings.

A word on divx and H.264

BTW, this player does NOT play divx nor any of the H.264 files I've encoded myself. As of today, the latest firmware has NOT solved this issue.

steven onderwyzer

June 16, 2009, 9:28 am

I find the time for the disc trey to open and close very slow. also slow is the time for the program to start. I used to own an old pioneer dvd player. It was much faster. What about firmware? Will it help? How does one use firmware?


October 12, 2010, 9:32 pm

I'll gladly wait an extra 15-20 seconds for my player to boot in order to watch a movie with better video and audio performance. Hey, turn it on and go make a sandwich. Also, I purposely avoided a BD-Live player. Why have it? I have the best Internet media device: A Home Theater PC. Does everything BD-Live does and more and is free. I suspect BD-Live will die like Divx did.


November 28, 2010, 4:02 pm

I recently installed a new firmware (1.69a) and since then I can play certain music CD but not others. I have contacted Pioneer but no reply from them. Anybody has an answer?

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