LG's 2015 Blu-ray lineup includes three models: the BP225, BP350, and BP550. All three include a smart Web platform, giving you access to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and Spotify, as well as the ability to stream personal media files over DLNA or USB. The basic BP225 (MSRP $79.99) offers only a wired Internet connection, while the step-up BP350 ($84.99) adds built-in Wi-Fi. At a $99.99 MSRP, the top-of-the-line BP550 has everything found in the lower-tier models and adds 3D playback capability. That's the model I recently picked up at my local Best Buy for $89.99.
The BP550 is a small, simple black box, measuring 10.6 inches wide by 7.7 deep by 1.7 high and weighing just 1.9 pounds. The only unique element about its appearance are the small diamond-shaped etchings all over the black cabinet. The front panel has a slide-out disc tray to the left; to the right are eject and power buttons, plus a Type A USB port for media playback. Around back, you'll find one HDMI 1.4 output, a coaxial digital audio output, and an Ethernet port.
The supplied remote lacks backlighting but has a clean, logical button arrangement, and it includes TV controls like power, input, and volume. The Home button is easy to find, thanks to its bright blue color. The remote lacks dedicated buttons to launch Netflix or other streaming services, but you can find those buttons in the LG AV Remote Control app for iOS and Android, which also includes a Private Sound mode that allows you to listen to the BP550's audio through your phone's headphone output. The control app offers the full complement of remote buttons and a direct SmartShare screen to cue up personal media files. The BP550 does not include Miracast or another technology for sharing content between your smartphone/tablet and the Blu-ray player.
The BP550 is set to "quick start" by default, which allows the unit to power up and get you to the Home page in less than two seconds. I like the clean layout of the Home page. It puts everything you need right there on one screen. In the center of the screen are icons for Movie, Photo, Music, Premium, and Settings. Below that, you can see what sources are available within the Movie, Photo, and Music categories, as well as the most popular streaming apps listed under the Premium category. If a disc is inserted in the drive, for instance, you'll see a Blu-ray/DVD icon down there. If you've set up the network connection and you've got a DLNA media server, it will show up down there, too. Ditto if you plug in a USB drive with media content. The interface makes it easy to quickly navigate to any desired content.
I experimented with personal file playback using both DLNA and USB sources. Again, the BP550's menu system is cleanly laid out and easy to navigate. Compatible formats include MPEG2, MPEG4 AVC, VC1, MKV, AVCHD, MOV, M4V, WMV, WMA, MP3, AAC, WAV, and AIFF. Via DLNA, longer movies were very slow to load (via a wired or wireless connection), and many of the movie files on my Seagate server just didn't appear in the LG menu, even though they were in compatible formats. The same was true when I used PLEX to stream from my Mac; many of my movies weren't available to play. Via USB, playback started much more quickly, and everything played smoothly and reliably.
For music playback, the inclusion of a dedicated Repeat button on the remote makes it easy to control the repeat and shuffle functions; and, through a press of the G (green) button, you can easily send your music to external LG Music Flow speakers, if you own them.
The Home page's Premium menu is where you'll find the streaming services: as of this writing, the list includes VUDU, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video, YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, CinemaNow, Pandora, MLB.TV, Rhapsody, vTuner, AP, Viewster, and spot for "coming soon." Apps like Netflix, VUDU, and YouTube were slower to load than they are through dedicated players like the Amazon Fire TV and NVidia Shield, but playback was generally smooth and glitch-free
As for disc playback, the BP550 loads DVD and Blu-ray discs very quickly. You can enable 24p playback via the Settings menu if you want to output Blu-ray films at their native 1080p/24 resolution. The player was a bit finicky with some of my most well-worn discs; I encountered some skipping issues that I don't experience with my Oppo players. However, for the most part, playback was clean, and detail was good, even DVD upconversion to 1080p.
The player passed the 480i and 1080i processing tests on my HQV and Spear & Munsil test discs, and it cleanly rendered my favorite 480i torture-test scenes from the Gladiator and Bourne Identity DVDs, producing no blatant moire or jaggies. 3D playback went off without a hitch, as well.
During disc playback, you can press the remote's Info/Menu button and access Options to quickly change soundtracks, skip/jump to specific chapters, turn on subtitles, adjust aspect ratio, and choose between standard, vivid, movie, and user-adjustable picture modes.
• The BP550 powers up and loads discs very quickly, and it responds quickly to remote commands.
• The menu system is well designed and easy to navigate. So is the remote.
• This "smart" player includes access to big-name apps like Netflix, YouTube, VUDU, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Spotify, and Pandora. It has built-in Wi-Fi for a wireless network connection.
• You can stream personal media files via USB or DLNA.
• The LG AV Remote app includes a Private Sound mode to listen to the player's audio through your smartphone's headphone output.
• The BP550 includes LG's Music Flow technology to stream audio to network-connected Music Flow speakers.
• File playback over DLNA was slow and finicky, especially over Wi-Fi but also using a wired connection.
• Apps like Netflix and YouTube don't load as quickly as they do through the best dedicated streaming media players. Neither the LG remote nor the control app includes a keyboard for faster text entry.
• The player lacks an "auto resume" function to remember a disc's previous stopping point the next time you insert the disc.
• The disc tray is a bit loud, and the player sometimes struggled with skipping issues with my older, well-worn DVD and Blu-ray discs.
Competition and Comparison
Samsung's comparable 2015 Blu-ray player would be the $100 BD-J5900, which is also a 3D-capable smart player with built-in Wi-Fi and Miracast to stream content directly from compatible phones/tablets. Sony's comparable 2015 model is the $100 BDP-S5500, also a 3D-capable smart player with built-in Wi-Fi and Miracast from your phone/tablet. Panasonic's DMP-BDT270M is another $100 player with a similar assortment of features, but it adds 4K upscaling.
As a disc player, LG's BP550 is a solid entry to the category, offering great speed/response time, a well-designed interface and remote, and good processing. From a streaming media standpoint, however, LG's app lineup isn't as extensive as some of its competitors, you can't share content from a phone/tablet, and its DLNA streaming could be a lot faster and more reliable. If you're in the market for a 3D-capable disc player that happens to have a few big-name smart apps built in, then the LG BP550 is worth a look. But if you're in the market for a true hybrid disc/streaming player, you probably want to look elsewhere.
• LG Expands OLED Line with New, Flat 4K TVs at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• LG Expands Audio Lineup with Bluetooth Speakers and an HT System at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Check out our Blu-ray category page for similar reviews.