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Pioneer BDP-51FD Blu-ray Player - Pioneer BDP-51FD
Like most Pioneer products, the BDP-51FD sports extensive picture calibration tools. Hit the Video Adjust button on the remote and a pop-up menu appears, offering a clutch of picture presets that cater for different display types, as well as a detailed range of user-defined settings that can be stored in three memory positions.
The sophisticated onscreen presentation makes the Pioneer a real pleasure to setup and install. The main Home menu screen, for example, is all black with crisp white text and flashy graphics, plus the icons along the bottom helpfully correspond with those on the remote. The setup menu is packed with options but never feels intimidating, and newcomers to Blu-ray may find the Setup Navigator useful.
The separate Tools menu presents you with a handful of options during playback (including the BonusView secondary video and audio settings), and its inclusion is useful because you can't access the setup menu without stopping disc playback, and most Blu-ray discs don't let you resume where you left off. Our only operational gripe is that the deck is a real slowcoach when it comes to booting up from standby or loading discs - The Dark Knight took 1 minute and 40 seconds to start up, which feels particularly cumbersome when compared with the lightning-quick LG BD300.
The deck comes with a slim remote that's comfortable to hold, and despite the buttons being slightly on the small side, the clever, intuitive arrangement lets you control the deck without having to gawp at it for ages searching for the right key. Thanks to the KURO Link option, the deck can also be controlled with the remote from a Pioneer TV or receiver connected to the deck's HDMI output.
Downgrading the high-definition video DAC from the LX71's 297MHz/12-bit chip to a 148.5MHz/12-bit version hasn't made a huge difference to the BDP-51FD's picture quality, which is, in short, phenomenal. Having tested most of the budget Blu-ray decks on the market, we can safely say that few of them come close to the Pioneer, making this by far the best performer in its class.
The Dark Knight on Blu-ray has rarely looked better. The BDP-51FD paints the film's epic visuals with cinematic richness, presenting Batman's black suit with unparalleled depth and making the contrasts between light and dark on Gotham City's streets look bold and distinct. It all contributes to a dense, punchy image that shows what the Blu-ray format is really capable of.