Exceptional image quality, a generous selection of streaming Internet services, bookmarking features, and 3D make the LG BD670 Blu-ray Disc player a standout. Its menus and interface are a little rough around the edges, so it's clumsier to use than some competitors, but its many virtues make the price seem reasonable.
Let's get the disappointing stuff out of the way: The BD670 lacks a handful of modest features, common in Blu-ray players, that make them easier to use. For instance, when you first turn on the player, you won't get a friendly first-time wizard to walk you through setup--you'll have to search the menus and figure things out yourself. And although you'll find on-screen explanations for menu settings, they're not always helpful. For example, when you're setting Audio options, nothing on the screen will tell you what 'DTS Re-Encode' or 'Primary Pass-Thru' means.
You will find decent explanations in the online manual, but that brings up another problem. The 23-page printed manual is skimpy and lacks detail. The full, 63-page PDF manual comes on the included CD-ROM, and is also available on LG's website.
On the other hand, the BD670 does something rare and wonderful. Any Blu-ray player can bookmark a disc so that you can return to the same spot later--provided it's a Blu-ray Disc that specifically supports bookmarking (most don't). But the BD670 can save up to nine bookmarks for any Blu-ray Disc or DVD. Unfortunately, the bookmarks disappear when you change discs.
A related feature: If you remove a disc (Blu-ray or DVD) in the middle of a movie, and then reinsert the disc--even days later with other discs played in between--the BD670 will ask whether you want to start at the beginning go back to where you were.
See also: Digital Home Advisor
Whether you watch a movie in one sitting or ten, the BD670 sends exceptional images to an HDTV. It beat our reference player, a Sony PlayStation 3 with the latest firmware updates, in almost every test involving a Blu-ray Disc--and the PS3's images were nothing to complain about. In our black-and-white Good Night and Good Luck test (chapter 1), the PS3's pictures looked muddy by comparison. In The Searchers (chapters 4 and 20), I felt as if I could count the stubble on John Wayne's face. The BD670 made the Blu-ray of Phantom of the Opera (2004 version, chapter 3) look simply spectacular.
The only Blu-ray test where it didn't stand out was on the animated Cars (chapter 1). Here the results looked identical between the two players.
Playing a standard-definition DVD proved a bigger challenge, since doing so involves the complex job of upconverting an image to six times its size. In this test the BD670 didn't quite measure up to the PS3, although it came very close. In Phantom of the Opera (same movie, same chapter, but this time on DVD), its results were slightly blurrier, and it had trouble managing one dissolve.
PCWorld doesn't formally test 3D image quality on Blu-ray players, but I tried chapter 7 of Avatar. The 3D looked great.
The BD670 offers a cornucopia of Internet-based entertainment. These items include Hulu Plus, Netflix, YouTube, three pay-per-view services (Amazon, CinemaNow, and Vudu), Google Maps, MLB.tv, Pandora, and Picasa. In an area called LG Apps, you can download streaming apps, many of them child-oriented, with names such as Horror Party and Stephanie's Image. LG has built in the capability to add more services in the future.
Unfortunately, the BD670 uses an ugly, difficult, and annoying YouTube interface (which happens to be YouTube's own). When you select YouTube, it immediately starts playing a video, and not necessarily the one you want to see. The video is always full-screen, too, despite the fact that many YouTube videos look horrible that way.
If you'd rather not watch YouTube, you can enjoy your own music, photos, and videos via USB storage devices (such as flash drives) or over your local network. The BD670 can play MP3 and WMA music. If you don't want to bore your friends too much with your vacation photos, the BD670 has some decent slideshow capabilities, but they're not exceptional; for instance, it offers only three transitions. The player also supports a limited number of video formats, which you'll find listed on page 10 of the electronic manual.
In addition to that manual, the bundled CD offers Nero MediaHome 4 Essentials, a DLNA server program that you can use to stream content from your PC to the player. You don't need it, though, since Windows Media Player can do the same job just fine. I had no trouble viewing and listening to media on my computer via the network.
The BD670's remote feels good in the hand, with a comfortable grip and well-placed buttons. But it's neither backlit or programmable.
You can download free BD670-compatible remote-control apps from the Apple App Store and the Android Market--but they're really not worth the bother. Mobile remote-control apps have two advantages over a conventional remote control. The first is the "Oh, wow!" factor, but that lasts for about 5 minutes, tops. The other is text entry, since entering text on a smartphone's QWERTY keyboard is much easier than doing so with the arrow or number buttons on a conventional remote control. Unfortunately, the LG Remote Control app doesn't support QWERTY text entry.