The easiest way to upgrade to smart TV isn’t by getting a new screen, but a smart Blu-ray player.
LG’s flagship BP740 is just that, and it adds both 3D and 4K upscaling to boot. Able to spin all kinds of discs, stream video through various apps and play files from USB sticks and from NFC-enabled Android devices, this is about way more than Blu-ray.
A reasonably stylish metallic design houses a USB slot on the front and connections for a single HDMI, Ethernet LAN and digital optical audio.
The highlight is the BP740’s selection of apps within a great-looking user interface.
The premium page of the five-screen smart hub contains pre-installed shortcuts to Now TV, the BBC iPlayer, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, Blinkbox, Netflix and Knowhow Movies.
Click through and you get to two pages set against a bright and breezy grass theme, which adds further apps for YouTube, Dailymotion, CineTrailer, AccuWeather.com, Google Maps, Facebook, Crackle, iConcerts, Euronews, Deezer and Berliner Philharmoniker.
That’s a decent haul if you’re into on-demand films. A second page of apps called LG SmartWorld provides the same eight gaps for apps, though this time the choice is less must-have; I counted Red Bull TV, The Karaoke Channel, Angry Duckling, Jigsaw Puzzle, France TV Info and two 3D Pop-Up apps.
That’s just clutter. I’m also confused as to why LG thinks that its SmartWorld selection of bits ‘n’ bobs should take pride of place at the very centre of an otherwise streamlined user interface.
To the right of the LG Smart World tab is My Apps, which provides just three apps – Search, Internet (a basic browser) and one called LG Smart World. Despite the confusingly repetitive name, the latter leads to a separate page full of downloadable apps divided into genre and ‘hot’, ‘top paid’, ‘top free’ etc.
There’s not too much of interest inside, though I did find Napster, AOL On, Solar System Planets and The White House.
Anything you do download goes straight into the list as shortcuts within My Apps beside Search, Internet and LG Smart World; you won’t find more than five you want to download, so judged purely on convenience, this works pretty well.
However, the overall choice of apps on offer is sub-par. Where’s ITV Player? 4OD? What about Demand Five? That all three are missing is a bit of a shame, and there’s not even a video section within the LG Smart World app store.
Elsewhere in the five-screen user interface is SmartShare. The latter is normally the highlight on LG AV gear, but here it’s implemented with less grace than usual. On the home screen there are direct hover-links to Music, Photos, Video, USB and Miracast (for wirelessly mirroring an Android phone). Choose one of those and the BP740 then shows all of the files on a USB stick, not just the movies/music/video files, so it can all get a tad confusing.
For instance, it’s not possible to play a video and then look at some photos without first going back to the home screen and starting from scratch. However, that’s something you find out the hard way. If you’re in video mode, then you will be able to see all of your music and photos; it’s just that they won’t be clickable.
Though it’s far from the stodgiest deck available, the BP740 clearly has more on its plate than its single core processor can manage fluently.
Other than a lack of speed, navigation of these smart screens is a cinch, with the Magic Remote meaning that tabs are toggled through as the cursor hovers. By default the Magic Remote is too sensitive, but it’s simple enough to tone-down the speed in the settings menus. I also found that it takes a second or two to reconnect to the BP740 each time it’s picked-up, meaning a flick of the wrist is required far too often.
Apps take a long time to load, too, with YouTube taking a turgid 23 seconds. The internet browser is just as slow, and while typing-in URLs using the Magic Remote is much easier than on most smart TVs, there are no shortcuts for .com and .co.uk.
Actual file support is fine if judged by 2013 standards. The BP740’s inability to support 4K video resolutions from native uncompressed and HEVC-encoded MP4, MOV and MKV files means that it really isn’t a 4K deck. However, I did get the BP740 to play AVI, MP4, MPEG-2, AVC HD, MKV and WMV video files in up-to-HD resolutions as well as JPEG, PNG and GIF photos, and a host of music files including MP3, M4A and WMA alongside the lossless AIFF, WAV, FLAC and OGG formats.
The highlight of the BP740 is its picture quality. Test disc Gravity loaded in under 11 seconds and played reasonably quietly in both 2D and 3D, with the BP740 producing pin-sharp and well-contrasted images as good as any Blu-ray deck I’ve seen in 2014. However, it’s worth avoiding the movie mode, which tones down the brightness unnecessarily. It’s also worth noting that the Magic Remote’s cursor is deactivated during disc playback, so navigating disc menus is done only via its navigation buttons.
The BP740’s handling of soundtracks in Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio impress. It’s difficult to judge the quality of 4K upscaling since the 4K TV used also had its own automatic 4K upscaling circuitry. This is about as much as you need to know about the necessity for such a thing in a Blu-ray player.
Is this really a flagship smart 3D Blu-ray player worth £249? By my reckoning that’s poor value for a product that’s clearly under powered, sporting both basic and non-4K-proof digital media playback software with a distinct lack of UK catch-up TV apps. That’s a shame because its core 2D and 3D disc playback duties are performed with aplomb.
The look and design of the user interface is great – simple and colourful.
It’s great to have apps like Now TV, the BBC iPlayer, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, Blinkbox and Netflix included and quickly accessible.
However, the highlights have to be the almost fabulous Magic Remote and the BP740’s pin-sharp, very clean and involving pictures from both 2D and 3D Blu-ray. 4K upscaling – though largely pointless – can’t hurt if you’ve got a 4K telly.
Considering its position as a flagship product, the BP740 is poor value. It lacks the flexibility it should have (where’s the second USB, or second HDMI output?) and has no analogue audio connections, while catch-up TV apps for UK terrestrial channels are missing.
Can the presence of 4K upscaling really be justified? With all 4K TVs including their own upscaling circuitry, it’s repetition, at best, and its lack of support for 4K digital media files – though hardly a unique setback – further underlines that the BP740 is in no sense a 4K machine.
The Magic Remote doesn’t link back to the BP740 as quickly as it should, but the big issue is a general lack of processing power.
Despite a polished-looking smart TV interface and the presence of key apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant and the BBC iPlayer, the so-called flagship BP740 disappoints on processing power, software and flexibility. Picture quality, the Magic Remote, 4K upscaling and disc loading times impress, but are let down by some fussy digital file playback software and a lack of catch-up TV apps.
There are better value and quicker Blu-ray players around that offer more than this LG deck. Samsung decks like the flagship BD-H6500 and the Freeview HD and HDD-endowed BD-H8900 offer all UK-centric catch-up TV apps, with Sony’s BDP-S6200 adding a dual core processor and the Panasonic DMP-BDT460 much more suited to home cinema use.