Pioneer BDP-51FD Blu-ray Player - Pioneer BDP-51FD

By Danny Phillips



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


Our Score:


The BDP-51FD also delivers wonderfully sharp pictures, teasing out every last speck of detail from the disc's pristine transfer - aerial shots of Hong Kong are beautifully rendered, patterns and textures are crisp and focused and the clear reproduction of the Joker's facial features makes his grotesqueness more pronounced than ever. The deck combines its excellent eye for detail with smooth, natural colour reproduction and a complete lack of noise.

Our positive impressions continue with a run-through of the HD HQV disc from Silicon Optix, and like the BDP-LX71 it makes short work of the crucial tests. Its handling of the diagonal filter test is superb, rendering the rotating bars with completely straight, smooth edges. With the Film Resolution Loss test, there's no strobing in the corner boxes of the test pattern, and with the camera pan across the stadium the seats are focused and exhibit no moiré noise or flickering.

It's not just a dab hand with hi-def material either, as DVDs upscaled to 1080p also look sublime. It may not be hi-def but Star Wars Episode III on DVD still boasts loads of detail, emphatically defined edges and bold, radiant colours. It's also hard to detect any artefacts like mosquito noise or jaggies, which is evidence of some pretty special upscaling circuitry at work inside.

We're also highly impressed by the player's audio capabilities. We channelled The Dark Knight's TrueHD track through the Pioneer VSX-LX51 AV receiver and the two components make perfect bedfellows, delivering the sonics with power, poise and dazzling clarity. CDs also sound terrific - George Benson's jazz-funk classic Breezin' sounds sweet as a nut, with Benson's guitar licks reproduced with loads of character, while the drums are delivered with plenty of snap.


It's great to see Pioneer delivering a product that gives those on a modest budget the chance to see what the company is capable of, and there's no doubt that the BDP-51FD delivers the best picture performance we've seen from a sub-£400 player.

Had Pioneer included BD Live capability and DTS HD Master Audio decoding from the box it could have been the Blu-ray bargain of the century, but as it stands these niggling omissions - along with the sluggish disc loading and boot-up times - prevent Pioneer from earning top marks.

As a result, those concerned with getting the most for their money might find that other players (like the BD Live-capable Panasonic DMP-BD55) offer better value, but if you want sublime pictures, couldn't care less about BD Live and own a receiver with DTS HD Master audio decoding, then this is definitely the player for you.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Performance 10
  • Value 9
  • Features 8
  • Design 8


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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