Design, performance and picture quality
One of the cheapest Blu-ray players around, we spotted the BDX1500 selling as little as for UK£49 (only in the UK). For that kind of money, you don’t get much.
What you do get is a disc spinner that only plays, err, discs, which is increasingly unheard of. There’s not a single nod to the modern age of ‘smart’ Blu-ray machines, save for a less-than-sophisticated media player that plays digital music, video and photo files from a USB stick.
Measuring 270 x 39 x 200mm and weighing in at 930g, the BDX1500 is a truly tiny Blu-ray deck. The front hosts a pop-out tray in its left-hand half, while the rest of the gloss black plastic front panel is taken up by a USB slot and buttons for disc eject, stop, pause/play and a great big standby switch. It glows as a red ring when the BDX1500 is in standby, and in green when it’s on.
It’s a nice, flat, simple, traditional design that is compact and easy to slot into any home entertainment scenario. The majority of the product is finished in matte plastic, so it doesn’t soak-up quite as many fingerprints as rival decks so often do.
Around the rear is a sole HDMI slot and a coaxial digital audio output, which is a nice bonus for anyone with a slightly older AV amplifier or home cinema system that doesn’t include HDMI inputs.
The basic menus are easy to live with, but the way they’re controlled is not. The remote control, which runs off a single AAA battery, is a flimsy affair and its buttons are both too small and in many cases don’t depress properly. The result is that some commands need to be repeated, so much so that we wondered whether the (brand new) battery was dead.
It goes without saying on a £49 Blu-ray player that the BDX1500 doesn’t spin 3D Blu-ray discs, though it can handle – and upscale at least to a basic level – DVDs.
It also plays CD, while Blu-ray-grade surround sound codecs cover only Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, and the rumbly DTS Master Audio codec.
The BDX1500 is one of three Toshiba Blu-ray decks in the UK market in 2014. Just above the BDX1500 sits the BDX2500, which sells for around UK£76 (US$ 58, about $ 62) and adds the basic Toshiba Smart service. With apps including YouTube, BBC iPlayer and Netflix, the BDX2500 gets online – and even trades files with smartphones and tablets – but doesn’t have Wi-Fi.
For that you’ll have to head for the BDX5500 (UK£150, US$ 169.99), which also includes touch-sensitive controls and 3D disc playback, though it’s more notable for its unique square design. Looking more like a router than a Blu-ray player, the light silver BDX2500 has a slot-in drive for discs and the choice of either horizontal or vertical positioning.
With no apps or online dimension, the BDX1500’s user interface is bare bones indeed. Set against a blue screen with a carousel of icons, options include just photo, music, video, disc and settings menus. This is simple stuff indeed.
Though it’s built around rudimentary software that necessitates choosing either the photo, music or video options from the main menu before selecting a source (disc or USB), file support is good. PNG, GIF and JPEG photos are displayed – including the option for a simple slideshow – as well as MP3, M4A, WMA and WAV music files, which ought to be OK for most users. Video files played by the BDX1500 include MKV, AVI, Xvid, AVC HD, MPEG, MP4 and MOV.
For all of its basic build and lack of apps, the BDX1500 provides mostly impressive images from Blu-ray discs. Images from our test disc The Wolf of Wall Street on 2D Blu-ray are highly detailed with an overall very clean presentation. There’s no suggestion of picture noise or polarisation in block of colours, while skin tones are natural-looking with a colour palette that’s a touch on the warm side.
However, there are slight issues with image quality. As Belfort drives away from his estate during the The Wolf of Wall Street the trees in the background visibly judder, and another sequence sees a yellow taxi streak through a shot. These are giveaways that BDX1500 lacks a dedicated 1080p/24p playback mode.
Digital files suffer from the same slight issues in an otherwise good all-round treatment that sees DVDs upscaled reasonably well – and certainly enough to fit a bigscreen TV.
Without 3D, apps or an online dimension, the BDX1500 is about as simple as it gets in the world of Blu-ray. Is there a place for a Blu-ray that does nothing except spin discs and play files from a USB stick? Yes, there is – and the BDX1500 manages a respectable performance for a small spend.
Perhaps the most simple Blu-ray player of all – and so cheap that there now doesn’t seem any point investing in a DVD player – Toshiba’s BDX1500’s no-fuss design is one we like; its compact size is practical and its matte black finish sensible. Picture quality, too, is pretty reasonably and certainly good enough for most living rooms. The BDX1500 plays myriad files from a USB stick, too, including AVI, MKV, JPEG and MP3.
The remote control is a little flimsy, with very small buttons that don’t depress properly. This results in having to repeatedly press commands, leaving you wondering about whether the battery is dead.
Sadly, there’s no way around that problem because there’s no virtual version available on an app.
Without support for 3D Blu-ray discs and lacking nay kind of online dimension, there’s little to get excited about on the BDX1500.
Can a 2D-only Blu-ray player with no hint of streaming video apps really cut it in the ‘smart’ market? It has no apps, no networking, the remote is poor and it can’t play 3D Blu-ray discs, yet there’s something about Toshiba’s bare bones BDX1500 – other than its low price – that we like. It’s not for avid streamers nor videophiles after the perfect picture, but as a small and easy to house disc spinner for a bedroom, the BDX1500 won’t disappoint.