With the format war safely behind us and Blu-ray named the victor, several manufacturers have gotten off the proverbial fence and begun manufacturing next-generation players, though few have been as affordable as the Sherwood BDP-5003 reviewed here. Retailing for $299, though I've found many instances where the BDP-5003 is listed closer to $199, the BDP-5003 is attempting to be a value leader among its HD disc playing peers.
The BDP-5003 is an attractive piece of kit, though it bears a striking resemblance to some Samsung Blu-ray players currently out there today. Measuring in at roughly the same size and shape as most other players, notably the Sony BDP-S350, the BDP-5003 looks more upscale than its asking price, though when you pick it up and/or use the remote, it's evident that this is a budget player. The front panel is smooth, almost mirror-like, with a few key manual controls like play, stop, chapter skip and open. All of these glow a pale blue, which is pleasing to the eye and allow the controls and small display window to be read from quite an impressive distance.
Around back are a host of connection options, led by a single HDMI 1.3 output, component video output, S-Video and composite video output. However, if you want to enjoy all that the BDP-5003 has to offer, i.e., 1080p/24 video with uncompressed audio, you'll have to use the HDMI out, as the component video out is capable of only 480p playback. There are also analog and digital audio outputs to go along with SD video outs.
The BDP-5003, unlike other Blu-ray players (ahem, Sony), will play almost every format of media out there today, such as CD, DVD, DVD+R, DVD-R, MP3 CD, MPEG files and, of course, Blu-ray discs. The BDP-5003 can also take advantage of, but not decode, the latest high-definition audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio (via the HDMI output in bitstream) as well as playing back Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-ES and DTS. The BDP-5003 will scale all video to 1080p, provided you use the HDMI output. Otherwise, you're stuck squarely in SD land.
Shockingly absent is an Ethernet port, which means this profile 1.1 player is non-upgradeable via an Ethernet or Internet connection and seemingly out of date the moment you take it out of the box. You can update the player via a firmware update on a DVD disc but that method is a bit outdated as many players near or even less than the Sherwood's asking price can update themselves via a wireless Internet connection. Also absent are the player's 5.1 analog outs, though no player in this price range has them. Couple that with the fact that the BDP-5003 has no internal audio decoding and it wouldn't be of much use here.
So far, the BDP-5003 has been a bit of a mixed bag, offering lots of nice features, yet missing the boat entirely on basic ones. Sadly, the remote doesn't do much to stay this trend, for it is ghastly. In fully-lit rooms, it looks the part, sleek, stylish and approachable. However, pick it up and you're sure it's going to break, for it is so lightweight that it doesn't feel like it has any mass at all. The buttons are not the most organized when it comes to layout and, if you turn the lights off, you'll be hard-pressed to operate the player at all, since the remote has zero backlighting. It doesn't even have glow-in-the-dark keys, which is the standard go to for cheap remotes.
I went ahead and installed the BDP-5003 in my bedroom system, where it replaced a Sony BDP-S350, which I consider to be a fabulous player. I connected it to my Samsung 120Hz 1080p LCD display via a single HDMI cable from UltraLink. The BDP-5003's onscreen menus are easy enough to navigate and with little effort, okay, no effort, I had the BDP-5003 up and running in no time.
I started my evaluation with the Peter Jackson epic King Kong on DVD (Universal Studios Home Video). I went ahead and let the BDP-5003 do all the upscaling (via its HDMI output) with the setting at 1080p. As an upscaling DVD player, the BDP-5003 does an admirable job, not great but far from the worst. The image quality was solid, possessing good black levels and highlight detail. The detail present in the image was on par with most budget upscaling DVD players. Color accuracy, especially in the warmer color values, was a bit off-kilter, seemingly over-producing, which no doubt added to the image's punch, but failed to be truly natural. I went ahead and switched between the various color spaces (RGB, Ycc and xvYcc) and saw that each did put their own spin on the primary color saturation issue, but none curbed it completely. Ycc and xvYcc did the most to lessen the effect but the image was still punchy in a slightly unnatural way. Still, for what it's worth, I wasn't really distracted by the BDP-5003's color rendering and enjoyed a good portion of the film before realizing I had a review to write. Digital artifacts were kept to a minimum, though never completely done away with, as I could detect a fair amount of compression in the waterfalls and some jaggies in the stark vertical lines of the forest trees. Overall, as a standard upscaling DVD player, the BDP-5003 was about average to slightly above average. One area where the BDP-5003 proved to be anything but average was in its audio quality. The BDP-5003's audio prowess is rich, full, dynamic and spacious, with wonderful detail and focus you're not likely to find in players around its price.
I switched gears to some Blu-ray material and the Warner Brothers box-office bomb Speed Racer (Warner Home Video). With the BDP-5003 set for 1080p, the image quality was far superior to its DVD playback, which is to be expected. What perplexed me was that the overly saturated primary color space was still present, especially in the red hues, which bled and vibrated against the surrounding colors at times. Greens too were exceedingly vibrant and at times would vibrate, especially in the scene where Speed and his girlfriend meet as children where Speed is riding a soapbox racer across the lawn. Regardless of which color space that I chose, though I found RGB to be the most vile of the three, Ycc and xvYcc were a bit better and tamer of the bunch so I toggled between the two for the duration of my review. While Speed Racer is a punchy film in terms of color, the BDP-5003 was clearly putting a bit of its own spin on things. Elsewhere in the image, the player's black levels and low light detail were on par with other affordable Blu-ray spinners. Motion was smooth and I couldn't detect any compression and/or motion artifacts, which are less of an issue with Blu-ray discs, though some budget players will still present them. The BDP-5003 did not, so points to Sherwood for that. Again, the most surprising thing about the BDP-5003's performance wasn't its image, but rather its sound quality. The BDP-5003 is a remarkably capable audio device, far superior to the competition in many regards, which I just had to explore further.
I ended my evaluation of the BDP-5003 with the Blu-ray version of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Radio City (BMG). I went ahead and connected the BDP-5003 to my reference theater downstairs, which features a full 5.1 Meridian speaker system mated to McIntosh amps, fed by an Integra processor, which can decode the latest uncompressed audio formats. For this test, I also ran a pair of interconnects out of the BDP-5003's analog audio outs. Starting with all things HDMI, the image wasn't overtly oversaturated or skewed warm, though the image itself features a lot of blue and cool hues, which no doubt countered the BDP-5003's tendency to go red and warm. Motion and compression artifacts weren't so much an issue at all, since the image itself is largely stationary. From a video standpoint, this particular demo proved to be the most natural and pleasing from top to bottom for the BDP-5003. Switching my attention to the audio playback, the BDP-5003 just killed it, in a good way. The richness in the midrange was palpable and the definition and spaciousness was just so sweet that it was hard to imagine it was coming from a relatively affordable player. Vocals were clear, well-defined and hung in space in such a natural and right way, the only giveaway that this was a recorded event was the absence of the artists themselves in my living room. While I wish I could give all the credit to the BDP-5003 for decoding the signal and presenting in its true form, I cannot, but what this player is able to extract and send down the pipe is amazing, provided you have a processor or receiver that knows what to do with the signal once it arrives. Listening to the stereo down-mix of the same disc via the BDP-5003's analog outs was more of the same. While not as enveloping as the surround sound performance, the two-channel performance was wonderful, illustrating Sherwood's long-standing audiophile heritage. Every strum of the strings, every breath and following vocal rang true in near-perfect harmony to my ears. I enjoyed the BDP-5003's audio performance far more than I did its picture quality. For some consumers, this may be a godsend, as many Blu-ray players have been less than stellar on this front.
Overall, the BDP-5003 is simply average when it comes to picture quality, both in the DVD and Blu-ray realms. However, on the audio side of things, it is shockingly fantastic. Another thing I would like to point out is that the BDP-5003 loads Blu-ray discs faster than any player I've come across, besting my personal reference, the Sony PS3, by a substantial margin. I don't know if this is because it doesn't mess with loading additional BD Live content or what, but it is a remarkably agile machine.
Read more about the BDP-5003 on Page 2.