Best 2011 Blu-ray Player for Netflix

May 5, 2011

It’s time for round two of the Netflix player shootout and review. In this round, the Hub is going to focus on the new crop of Blu-ray players. Tech of the Hub has looked at the 2011 models from LG, Panasonic and Samsung. At minimum, each model had to have built-in wireless capability. In particular, we looked at:

  • LG BD670
  • Panasonic DMP-BDT210
  • Samsung BD-D5700
Best 2011 Netflix Blu-ray players compared
Our three Netflix Blu-ray contenders say “Hello”

Each costing under $200, all three players have a plethora of features. In addition to Netflix, all of them have a different mix of other streaming options such as VUDU, Amazon Instant, CinemaNow, Youtube and Major League Baseball. The LG and Panasonic players have 3D capabilities while the Samsung has its own app store. This post will focus only on their Netflix experience.

The other Blu-ray player that was previously reviewed was Sony’s Playstation3. To save yourself time, the PS3 is the only Netflix player that offers 1080P video (not anymore! see note below). In the audio department, other players now offer Dolby Digital surround sound like the PS3. Given all of the problems with the Playstation Network, you may want to look at some of the other options for Netflix.

Navigation / Interface
All three players offer very similar flavors of Netflix’s HTML5 interface. This particular flavor used to be featured on the PS3. With the HTML5 interface, what you experience on one player could just as easily appear on another. For example, the LG and Samsung players had the same interface but the Panasonic had some nuanced differences. What happens is that Netflix sets up different sample groups of customers and sometimes you are selected to test changes to the UI. It can change at any time. The only exception here are the interface elements that are tied to features only available on certain players (e.g. subtitles, Dolby Digital). At the end of the day, there’s not much difference between the three players.
LG and Samsung Player Opening Netflix screen
LG and Samsung Player Opening Screen: 5 titles across
Panasonic Blu-ray Opening Netflix screen
Panasonic’s Opening Screen. Notice only 4 titles are shown on a row. You could get either screen on any of these players.
On all three players, there is no way to pull up an on-screen status or overlay like you can on the PS3, (which shows streaming quality).  Nor is there a way to display the title and summary like you can on Apple TV.
Video and Sound Quality
All three players have the ability to play Netflix content in 720P high definition (HD). While they cannot stream in 1080P, the image quality is great, as long as you have enough bandwidth.
The stand-out in the group is the Panasonic player. It joins a small group of Netflix players (Apple TV, PS3, Roku 2, WD TV Live) that can stream Dolby Digital surround sound. The LG and Samsung are limited to stereo for the time being (you can simulate surround if your receiver supports Dolby PL II). The Panasonic player also supports subtitles as well. Below you can see the additions to the Panasonic interface that show the available audio and subtitle options.
Audio and Subtitle options on the Panasonic Netflix Player
Audio and Subtitle Options for Netflix on the Panasonic DMP-BDT210 Blu-ray Player
In-Show Navigation and Remotes
Both the Panasonic and Samsung players sport dedicated Netflix buttons on their remote controls. This is very convenient and lets you avoid the maze of menus on the players.
The in-show navigation was pretty much the same on all three players: three fast forward and reverse speeds as well as the ability to browse scene by scene and pause.
Samsung Blu-ray remote with Netflix button
Samsung Remote with Netflix Button
Panasonic Blu-ray remote with Netflix button
Panasonic Remote with Netflix Button
Panasonic, LG and Samsung Blu-ray remote controls
LG, Panasonic and Samsung Remotes
Unlike the other two players, the LG player went through a 37 second boot up sequence when it was plugged in. After that, the LG would turn on in three or four seconds; quicker than the other players (the Panasonic also has a quick start mode that can be enabled). All three devices had acceptable start up times for the Netflix player. When starting the Netflix player: 20 seconds to start on the LG, 30 seconds on the Panasonic and 48 seconds on the Samsung. All three were responsive within the Netflix app.
All of the players performed well using both wired and wireless connections. Each of the them supports 802.11N wireless. None of the players skipped or buffered during wireless testing.
For the green-minded folks out there, the Panasonic draws the least amount of power at 9.9 watts. The LG is next at 13 watts and the Samsung takes 19 watts. All three Blu-ray players have similar physical footprints, with the Panasonic being the smallest with the least depth. The Panasonic is also the only player with a detachable power cord.
The search interface was identical on all three players. Samsung does have an interesting search feature built into its Smart Hub but it does not appear to search the Netflix catalog.
Netflix search screen
Netflix HTML5 Search Screen
The only drawback to this year’s players is the exclusion of dedicated multi-channel audio outputs for older receivers. As long as you have a receiver with HDMI, it won’t matter. The only new player released this year with dedicated multi-channel outputs is the Oppo 93. We didn’t review it here since its Netflix interface is basic. It only lets you play titles in your instant queue.

With no further adieu, the winner of our Blu-ray Netflix player competition is the Panasonic DMP-BDT210. Panasonic also offers the entry-level DMP-BDT110 (no WiFi) and the soon-to-be-released DMP-BDT310, which adds a second HDMI output. While the LG and Samsung are solid Netflix players, the Panasonic’s addition of Dolby Digital surround sound and subtitles puts it ahead of the pack. Add to this its lower power consumption and dedicated Netflix button on the remote, and it makes a great addition to your home entertainment system. Oh, by the way, did I mention that all three devices can also play Blu-rays!

Keep on streaming!

Update (11/12/2011) : The 2011 LG Blu-ray players have received an update to enable surround sound and closed captions. An additional update is due out this month (Nov 2011) to also enable 1080P video (LG has revised their previous statement). Panasonic will not comment if 1080P is coming to their 2011 Blu-ray players. Samsung is supposed to be supplying an update for their 2011 players but no timeline has been supplied. Here’s the latest news on which Blu-ray players and other connected devices are receiving Netflix updates. Here’s our list of what Netflix players have 1080P, surround sound and closed captions.

Items in this post can be purchased at Amazon:
Panasonic DMP-BDT210DMP-BDT110
LG BD670
Samsung BD-D5700

Related Posts
Roku 2: The Best Netflix Player?
What’s the Best Netflix Player? (Feb 2011)
Netflix Tip: How to Get Surround Sound with Netflix
Netflix Opens 1080P Floodgates

Tags: LG, Netflix, Panasonic, Playstation3, PS3, review, Samsung, streaming

4 Responses to Best 2011 Blu-ray Player for Netflix

  1. what is the best blu ray to get on January 12, 2012 at 12:24 am

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  2. [...] new line-up of Blu-ray players, building on their successful line up from last year. Last year, the Panasonic DMP-BDT210 was one of Tech of the Hub’s favorite Blu-ray players given its quick load times and excellent Netflix [...]

  3. [...] of the Hub got their hands on a trio of 2011 Blu-ray players and set about determining what model provides the best Netflix experience. Which works out well, as I’m in the market for a new, connected Blu-ray player. On the [...]

  4. Scarlett on November 4, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Great article Gabe. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix and similar media stations on your Samsung Smart TV by using UnoTelly or similar tools.

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