The BDX5300 is easy to use from the word go. Fire it up and the BDX5300 runs through a setup wizard, getting all the basic stuff out of the way like menu language, resolution and aspect ratio. It would have been helpful to run through Network setup too, but that’s done separately in the setup menu.
The menu system is where the Toshiba starts losing Brownie points – its onscreen presentation is basic compared to the slick, flashy GUIs found on Panasonic, Samsung and LG’s latest decks.
That’s most apparent when accessing internet content or USB-stored media. The Media Center menu is a grey box containing dull-looking lists and a dated folder-based layout, with details about the highlighted file or folder on the right. The fonts are easy to read and it’s all reasonably straightforward, but having grown used to advanced menus with full colour graphics this comes as a real let-down.
It’s also muddled and disjointed. For example, the internet services are called ‘Connection’ onscreen but ‘Connected’ on the remote, plus the Setup and Media Center menus are accessed separately rather then being part of a single menu. It’s a shame this player’s GUI doesn’t have more in common with its latest TVs and the more sophisticated Toshiba Places system.
The Media Center menu lists USB, Connection (which cryptically refers to the built-in internet services), Media Server Search and Playlist. The individual BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Picasa and Acetrax dryly listed without the usual logos is a shame, but we have no qualms with the individual interfaces, which look great and operate smoothly (although YouTube is a tad sluggish).
The setup menu shares the same look as Media Center, with icons running along the top and corresponding drop-down menus in the box below. It’s sensibly grouped into Video, Audio and General and covers all the relevant bases.
But it’s back to the bad news with the remote, which is a woeful effort. It’s small, stumpy and covered in similar looking buttons, with important keys like Media Center and Connected not given due prominence. They’re also too spongy and frequently failed to register presses, which became infuriating when trying to use the online services. If you can use the remote app on your smartphone we recommend you do so.
The deck doesn’t let us down on performance. It loads discs as quickly as its big name rivals (48 seconds to fire up Terminator Salvation) and produces dazzling picture quality in both two and three dimensions.
Starting with 3D, Thor looks absolutely resplendent through the tinted active shutter glasses of a Samsung D8000 Series TV – there’s a wonderful sense of depth and distance as the camera zooms into the hall where Thor is about to be crowned king. The crowds in the foreground look poised and focused, plus the image remains smooth and stable as the camera moves. There’s some crosstalk but that’s more likely caused by the TV. Detail reproduction is excellent throughout, from Odin’s wispy beard to the textures and patterns on the Nordic costumes. It’s utterly absorbing, and comfortable to watch.
In 2D you get more of the same dazzling picture quality. The 2D disc of Thor is beautifully presented, particularly the opulent detail and shiny colours of Asgard, while skin tones and other tricky hues are believable and natural. The opening shots of the scientists in the dark look clear thanks to the excellent contrast and shadow detailing. Brightly lit shots of the desert look jaw-droppingly sharp and punchy, and the action moves along without any judder. There’s a little noise in the picture but you have to look hard to see it – overall it’s a pleasing performance for the money.
We’re also impressed by the quality of streamed video, which is surprisingly sharp and punchy. Naturally there’s some noise but it never gets in the way of your enjoyment. We tried out some clips from The X Factor on YouTube and the images burst from the screen with crisp detail and bold colours.
If your Blu-ray player budget has a £100 ceiling then the Toshiba BDX5300 is definitely worth sticking on the shortlist. There aren’t many decks at this price that offer built-in Wi-Fi let alone access to BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Picasa and Acetrax, making it terrific value for money.
There are compromises to be made though – the basic operating system feels like it’s from another era, build quality isn’t the best, the remote is horrible and several formats are missing from the compatibility list. But focus on the fact that you’re getting a 3D-ready, network capable player for peanuts and these shortcomings suddenly don’t seem so bad.