Okay, I spent some time last night exploring my new BD670, with most of my exploration focused on the streaming features both local and external. I put the Avatar Blu-Ray in and watched the first few minutes and played a couple of DVDs, but have not watched any full length Blu-Ray presentation at this point.
Any information that I provide below pertains to the US model -- I'm sure that the streaming and app store configurations vary significantly by region. Also note that my televisions are both 60 Hz sets, so I cannot vouch to whether or not the 24 Hz issues with last year's models have been alleviated. Also, I am using a Wi-Fi connection for all of the streaming functions.
THE PHYSICAL UNIT
Form factor wise, I think the BD670 is about the same size as the BD570 with a relatively small footprint for a full width unit and not particularly heavy. The back side of the device features the standard connections that most any Blu-Ray player will have today (HDMI, Component video RCA jacks, Composite Video RCA jacks, stereo analog RCA audio outputs, optical audio output) without any extras (like 7.1 analog outputs). Like the BD570, there is a USB connection on the front, but not on the rear. The tinted plastic hinged door covering the entire front of the BD570 has been abandoned which gives the BD670 a more utilitarian look, but makes the front of the player a little easier to use. The USB jack has an attached plastic cover which needs to be removed to attach a flash drive or other storage device, it's connected to the player via a loop though to prevent it from getting lost. The buttons on the front of the player feel a lot firmer than those on my BD570 (which function fine but feel a bit cheap and unstable, at least on my 570).
NAVIGATION MENU CHANGES
One of the first things I noticed when powering up the player is that the navigation on the player has changed for the better. The new menus are much easier on the eyes and tasteful than last year's models (IMHO). Gone are the silly animated bouncing menu items and underwater theme, the icons are more colorful and just look more professional.
The layout of the home menu has also changed. The new menu has the following options:
Gone is the "Home Link" icon. That functionality has been rolled into the "Movie" menu item, which now allows access to media files on the network as well as optical media and USB drive's physically attached to the player.
The "Premium" icon replaces the "Netcast" icon on last year's models and provides access to the baked in streaming services, which are as follows:
I think the only new additions from last year's model are VTuner, Accedo and Viewster so I will discuss those first. VTuner is an Internet radio application. It seems to include localization (perhaps by IP address?) because it instantly showed me a number of different streams from local radio stations in my city. There are also some international programming options including several different BBC radio feeds. Accedo looks to be some sort of game service, likely aimed at very young children. I spent very little time with it, so I can't say more than that. Viewster looks to be a streaming outlet for independent films and television programs. They offer a monthly subscription option as well as pay per view options. It looks like their content is pretty limited at this point -- I didn't see anything that was at all familiar to me. Their Web site suggests the service is in beta.
I also explored DIVXTV and Vudu. The UI for each of those channels appears to be identical to that used on the previous generation of LG players.
In it's current state, there is no option for the Amazon streaming service, which was a disappointment for me because I am already an Amazon Prime member and somewhere I read that this player would have that. There is not an Amazon logo on the box of the player either Hopefully that service will get added in the future (anyone heard anything about that?) In addition to the services listed above, there is a "Coming Soon" icon. When selecting that, an incredibly informative dialog box that says "Coming Soon" with a 'close' button pops up. Thanks LG! I guess we'll have to wait and see, but at least this implies there is more to come.
The general UI for the "Premium" section of the device has also been improved over last years "NetCast." The channels are now displayed in two rows, which makes it easier to navigate to the service you want to use quickly. This screen also has as "Search" icon at the bottom, which seems to imply some sort of global searching function, but there is not functionality behind it at this point (selecting the Search option now brings up a "Coming Soon" dialog...) The lower row with the Search icon also contains a "TV Apps" icon and a "My Apps" icon which integrate with the LG App Store and apps that have been installed from the store respectively.
The LG APPS option from the main menu opens the LG App Store on the player. At this point there are not many apps on the store. The App store UI is designed to look like a bookshelf, with three rows with "Hot," "New," and "Top Paid" shelves. However, all of the "Top Paid" shelves are empty. Along the top there are category buttons with "All," "Game," "Entertainment," "Life," "Education," "News, Info" options.
The Games, like the new "Accedo" channel look to be aimed at young children. There are a handful of different games to choose from (5-7 maybe?) Outside the games there are only four apps available at the time of writing:
-Revision3 (Entertainment category)
-Boing Boing Video (Entertainment category)
-Mars Hill Church (Life category)
-White House (News, Info category)
I installed Revision3, Boing Boing and White House. To install any apps from the app store you must register for an account. You can register directly through the player using the remote for "free" apps. The instructions say that you must visit LGTVAPP.COM in order to download paid apps. However, that URL currently redirects to what appears to be a Korean language version of the site and at this point no Paid apps are listed on the App store through the device, so I registered via the device. To set up the account, you only need to enter a user name and type a password twice (no name or email address, etc.) This process went fairly smooth, except that they require a password which has both letters and numbers without explicitly stating so (I got a generic error about my password when I tried to use one without numbers).
Of the three apps, I couldn't get any of them to work under the out of box configuration (without firmware update). Only Revision 3 would give me a list of content, but attempts to play media failed, the others just gave me empty lists. After upgrading the firmware, I have been able to get all three to play content, but results are inconsistent. Each of the apps, seemed buggy (or perhaps an issue with the app that runs the channel plugins since they all seem to have similar issues). I have been frequently getting a "406" error which says something like "PlugIn Suspended" when attempting to browse content directories and/or open apps. Subsequent attempts down the same navigation path have been successful, but it seems to come and go. There also seem to be some buffering issues playing back the content from the installed apps. Each time I play a video I get the first 10 seconds or so, then it chokes for a few seconds, then resumes playing the rest of the media and seems to be okay from there.
Once the glitches get worked out, I will probably use the Revision3 app regularly. The UI is simplified relative to the DIVX TV version. The program names are in a text menu, so they can be browsed through more quickly than the images on the DIVX TV channel.
Boing Boing seems to carry content with an indie news/politics spin on it. For example, one of the top listings was a story about WikiLeaks. (They also have a Web site where you can learn more.)
So that's about it for the App Store. Content is king, and there's very little new content here that's not duplicated from DIVX TV at this point, pretty underwhelming. One last observation about the app store I will add is that the "My Apps" screen shows an indicator for used storage space. It will tell you how much storage your apps are using out of 450 MB. The Apps I looked at were each a couple megabytes in size, so it looks like there should be plenty of room to have a good selection of channels installed once there are more offerings.
The local streaming options seem to be mostly the same as the previous generation of players (with most current firmware). Here are some examples of files I tested and the results.
These files all played fine for me:
-MKV file: 720P, 3297 Kpbs 23.976 fps, AVC video, 384 Kbps 6 channel AC-3 audio
-AVI file: 624x352, 1017 Kbps 23.97 fps, MPEG-4 (XviD) video, 120 Kpbs 2 channel MP3 audio
-MPG file: 720x480, 4782 Kbps 29.97 fps ,MPEG-2 video, 256 Kbps 2 channel AC-3 audio
-M4A file: 256 Kbps 2 Channel AAC audio
These files gave me difficulty (video would stop to buffer, audio drop outs, etc.)
-TS file: 1080i, 11.3 Mbps 29.97 fps, MPEG-2 Video, 384 Kbps 6 channel AC-3 audio
-TS file: 720P, 12.3 Mbps 50 fps, AVC 50 fps Video, 448 Kbps 2 Channel AC-3 audio
Playback of these files was rejected by the player:
- .VOB files in VIDEO_TS folder structure (720x480, MPEG-2, AC-3 2 Channel audio)
- .M2TS files: 8744 Kpbs 1920x1080 AVC (High@L4.1), 23.976 fps, 640 Kpbs 48.0 Khz 6 Channel AC-3 audio
In all cases, these results were pretty much the same experience I have had with my BD570, with the exception of the .M2TS files. These files were from a collection of DTS, THX and Dolby Trailers that I downloaded. My BD570 will play those files just fine (though it will not play the versions with lossless audio). The BD670 rejects these files with a "Video resolution unsupported" error. I don't have a BD-ROM drive for my computer and I don't have much interest in ripping Blu-Ray discs to play them from a network or hard drive connected to the machine, but this might be a warning for those who do. The error I'm getting with these files makes it sounds like they're blocking 1080P versions of AVC codec files (perhaps out of copyright infringement concerns, much like the players will not play .VOB files), at least when using the .M2TS wrapper.
Also, just like with my BD570 some file formats prohibit the use of the FF and REW transport controls when streaming. I noticed this specifically when playing MPG/MPEG and TS files. I was able to use the FF/REW controls when streaming .AVI (XVid mp4) files that I tested, and of course when physical media was in the player.
I think the playback troubles with the high bitrate files were likely due to my use of a WiFi connection, though it seemed like the player could have handled the bandwidth issues more gracefully. For what it's worth, the Vudu speed test said my player supported the highest resolution "HDX" format (up to 9 Mbps) and played back the 2 minute preview of "Salt" flawlessly.)
PAL DVD SUPPORT
As with my BD570, I am able to successfully play PAL format region free DVDs (720x576, 25 FPS MPEG-2) through my 60Hz Samsung 40" television. This is a nice feature that none of my previous Samsung or Panasonic players have supported. My assumption is that it will not play DVDs other than Region 1 or Region Free, but I don't have any discs from other regions to test that out.
Someone on this forum inquired about support for 5 GHz Wi-Fi. I did notice that the name of my Wi-Fi network was listed as two separate connection options when I set up the connection on the player. I have an Apple Airport Extreme basestation (current generation, dual band). It's possible that it's allowing me to connect to either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands of my router, but if so, there was nothing to tell me which one was which. I didn't see any performance differences based on which of the two connections I chose.
There is also a "Wi-Fi Direct" setting in the Settings menu. Supposedly, this allows you to connect directly to other Wi-Fi devices without a router? Not sure exactly how this works or what it can be used for.
COMPANION MOBILE APPS
One of the features touted in the CES blurbs about this player was the ability to use an iPhone/Android remote app to control the player and enter text. The US version of the Apple App store does not have any new apps advertised to work with this series of players at this time. The existing LG remote app for iPhone designed for last year's BD550/570/590 players will also control this player over a Wi-Fi connection. However, this app does not have the text entry functionality that was talked about in articles related to the CES rollout. As with my BD570, I don't expect to be using this app much until it's upgraded. It basically mimics the physical remote that comes with the player, but the controls are spread across more than one panel, so it's less convenient to use. The one feature in this app that my remote cannot do (display movie metadata) seems to be broken (I've tried many discs and none of them have worked even though the player itself is able to get Gracenote data on screen). Anyway, it would be great if we can eventually use iOS/Android keyboards to do text searches on YouTube and other streaming services as advertised, but that doesn't seem to be available now. The fact that the old app is compatible with the new player is promising though -- hopefully the new app will also work with last year's models.
If you have a 3D set, the capability to play 3D Blu-Rays is the main upgrade feature from the previous generation that you can actually use today. I don't have much interest in 3D, nor do I have a compatible set, so I can't speak to that functionality. Beyond the inclusion of 3D support, you're basically getting a nicer UI and the promise of the LG App Store offering additional entertainment options in the future.
I usually try not to be an earlier adopter, but the Blu-Ray player for one of my sets from another manufacturer suddenly stopped recognizing discs so I had an immediate need. I mainly bought the player so that I can play discs from my Blu-Ray collection. However, I also love the ability that LG players offer to interface with a variety of file formats either over the Wi-Fi network or on USB. Just the fact that it will play PAL discs is huge for me because I've come across quite of music DVDs recorded off of European television over the years.
Overall, I'm satisfied with the purchase at this point (barely 48 hours after acquiring the player). Granted, I haven't done much as far as actually playing Blu Rays (which will be the most significant use here). I was hoping for more in the way of enhancements to the streaming services, but I think overall the variety of streaming and flexibility in media options make this player one of the best players in its class, though others may disagree depending on their preferred streaming outlets. Specifically, there is no support for Amazon, Hulu Plus or Blockbuster streaming services at this time, but I don't think any of the player manufacturers offer *everything* at this point. More importantly, at the end of the day I wanted a player that will play full 1080P Blu Ray discs with lossless surround sound and the ability to play other media that I've collected over the years and this player seems to fit the bill.