Although Pioneer's Home Electronics Division did not have a presence at this year's CES, the company did release a trio of Blu-ray players shortly before the show. All three players--two Elite models and one standard Pioneer-branded model--are 3D-capable and include a Web platform that features Netflix, Pandora, and YouTube. We have not performed a hands-on review of the top-shelf Elite BDP-43FD ($499), but here is an overview of its features. This player supports a wired or optional wireless network connection (via an add-on USB adapter) for BD-Live and Web services, and a future firmware update is supposed to enable DLNA media streaming. The iControlAV app allows you to control the player using your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. The BDP-43FD offers higher-grade construction than the two step-down models; it has an armored chassis with a bottom-insulating plate, drive-mechanism shock absorbers, a gold-plated HDMI terminal, and a higher-grade power cable.
In terms of video connections, the BDP-43FD offers a single HDMI output, as well as component and composite video outputs. (Players released after January 1, 2011, are no longer allowed to have HD-capable component video outputs, due to copy-protection restrictions; the Pioneer models got in just under the wire with their December release.) The player supports 1080p/60 and 1080p/24 output resolutions via HDMI, but it does not include a Source Direct mode that outputs all sources at their native resolution--a feature that formerly appeared on many Pioneer models.
On the audio side, outputs include HDMI, optical digital (no coaxial), and stereo analog. The BDP-43FD has onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, and it also passes these high-resolution audio formats in bitstream form over HDMI, for your A/V receiver to decode. The player lacks multichannel analog audio outputs, so the only way to pass decoded high-resolution audio formats is via HDMI. The BDP-43FD features Pioneer's PQLS technology to eliminate jitter in both stereo and multichannel sources when you mate the player with certain Pioneer receivers.
The BDP-43FD supports BD, DVD, CD audio, AVCHD, Divx, WMV, MKV, MP3, WMA, and JPEG playback. You can add the player to your home network either by using the back-panel Ethernet port or by attaching the optional AS-WL200 wireless LAN adapter ($99) to the back-panel USB port. This USB port also supports the addition of a USB drive to store BD-Live content; the player does not have internal memory for BD-Live storage. A second, front-panel USB port also supports BD-Live storage and media playback. The BDP-43FD does offer an RS-232 port for integration into an advanced control system.
Read about the high points and the low points of the BDP-43FD on Page 2.
• The BDP-43FD supports 3D playback.
• It supports BD-Live and BonusView/PIP.
• It has internal decoding and bitstream output of high-resolution audio sources.
• The player is wireless-ready.
• The Web platform includes Netflix, Pandora, and YouTube.
• RS-232 is included.
• This model does not include dual HDMI outputs to send separate signals to your 3D TV and A/V receiver.
• It also lacks multichannel analog audio outputs, so it's not the best
choice for someone who owns an older, non-HDMI A/V receiver.
• Web services are currently limited, compared with mainstream manufacturers like Panasonic and Samsung.
• The BDP-43FD doesn't offer 2D-to-3D conversion or any advanced adjustment options for the 3D image.
• The USB WiFi adapter is sold separately.
• The player lacks internal memory.
Competition and Comparison
Compare the Pioneer Elite BDP-43FD with its competition by reading the
reviews for the Sharp BD-HP80U,
and Samsung BD-C6900.
Learn more about 3D-capable Blu-ray Players by visiting our Blu-ray
The Pioneer Elite BDP-43FD has the primary
features we like to see in a new Blu-ray player, such as 3D capability,
Netflix VOD, DLNA streaming, and WiFi-readiness. However, it lacks
features that you can find on other players in this price range--options
like dual HDMI outputs, SACD/DVD-Audio playback, internal storage,
multichannel analog outputs, and integrated WiFi (or at least a
supplied adapter). The Elite BDP-43FD's features list is comparable to
that of the step-down Elite BDP-41FD ($399) and BDP-430 ($299); since
we didn't do a hands-on review, we can't speak to whether or not this
player's higher-grade construction merits the price increase. If
possible, we recommend that you compare the products yourself before
choosing this higher-priced model.