LG BD690 Blu-ray 3D Player Page 2
The built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi found my home network. Like every piece of equipment I’ve tried in my home theater, the wireless signal is too weak to reliably stream video, so I chose to use an Ethernet connection for all of my testing. You can download firmware updates directly to the player over the Internet, or you can download them from LG’s Website to a flash drive and update via the player’s USB input. An update was available when I first set up the player, and it took about five minutes to complete.
Like most Blu-ray players on the market, the included remote isn’t very user-friendly. Every player should come with a backlit remote so you can actually see what you’re doing in a dark room. The most-used buttons do glow in the dark for a couple of minutes, but your best bet is to use a universal remote for both its back-light and the powerful macros you can program into it.
A Skip in Time
The BD690 performed very well in our Video Test Bench, with its only failure coming on the standard-definition 2:2 cadence test. The player’s upscaling is decent if you have a typical-size display, though not as good as my Oppo BDP-93 on my 76.5-inch- wide projection screen.
Unlike the BD590, I couldn’t get the home network functions to work with my Windows Home Server even though I have the required DLNA software. While the BD690 recognized my server, it refused to connect to my picture files. It displayed a “Media server access not permitted” message even though every other networked device I’ve used has connected without issue. To add insult to injury, when I tried to stream music files, the audio playback was corrupted and sounded like a skipping record (remember those?). I contacted LG, and they sent me a second player to try, but I encountered the exact same results. I even switched Ethernet cables to make sure it wasn’t the wire, but there was no difference in the outcome. I thought it may be a problem with my Windows Home Server, so I then tried to stream the same audio files to an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player, a Logitech Squeezebox Touch music player, and an Integra DTC-80.2 surround processor. These devices played back the audio files perfectly.
I wish these were the only problems I had with the player, but this wasn’t the case. Both units LG sent me initially suffered numerous audio dropouts when they played back both DVD and Blu-ray Discs. On DVDs, there was an audio dropout directly following most chapter breaks on every disc I ran through the player—and I could repeat this by rewinding and replaying the scene. On Blu-ray Discs, I experienced an audio dropout in The Company Men and The Terminator, although I couldn’t re-create these dropouts when I rewound the discs, as on the DVDs. And I wasn’t alone: The enthusiast Website AV Science Forum (avsforum.com) showed numerous postings of complaints of similar audio dropouts from current owners of BD690 and BD670 players running the same firmware version.
I also experienced some glitches with the internal hard drive on the second unit LG sent me. It failed to respond on two occasions. Without access to the hard drive, BD-Live titles won’t play properly since the disc won’t detect any storage in the player. Fortunately, after I rebooted the player, I regained disc access.
An interim firmware upgrade during our testing failed to correct these issues, most notably the ongoing audio dropouts with DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. But as we were going to press, about seven weeks after we had alerted LG to the problems that both we and other users were experiencing, a third firmware upgrade appeared to eliminate the audio dropouts, although it failed to resolve the streaming issues I was having with my Windows Home Server network drive. LG’s engineering team suggested I might be having trouble because I wasn’t running the Nero DLNA software they ship with the player, which is compatible with Windows PCs but not with Windows Home Server. Oddly, last year’s BD590 model worked fine with my current software as do all of my other DLNA devices.
The number of Blu-ray 3D discs on the market is quite small at this point, but after experiencing 3D in my home, I don’t think I’ll pay the premium in the movie theater ever again—yes folks, it looks that good. Tangled is the best-looking 3D presentation I own since I’m not willing to take out a second mortgage to buy a copy of Avatar off of eBay. The 3D effect is engrossing, with outstanding depth, exquisite detail, and absolutely no crosstalk or ghosting—and the movie is damn entertaining, too. The LG didn’t exhibit any problems in playing back this or any other 3D disc I threw at it.
Netflix streaming worked without a hitch, but I couldn’t consistently play back 3D movies from Vudu due to what proved to be a limitation of my JVC DLA-RS40 projector. Feature films such as Toy Story 3, Alice in Wonderland, and Tron: Legacy wouldn’t display properly; instead of the image being merged, I saw the left and right eye images images side by side on the screen. But I could get the proper image if I streamed The Enchanted Hill: Inside Hearst Castle and Special Report (WealthTV) 3D: Natural Wonders of the World. LG’s investigation confirmed that my projector won’t decode 1080p/24 side-by-side 3D, though it’ll happily play the 1080p/60 sideby-side signals coming off the video-based documentaries I streamed. The film-based sideby-side content did stream properly through my Sony PS3 with the Vudu app installed, thanks to internal conversion by the PS3, something the BD690 doesn’t do.
This is the second year in a row we’ve had firmware trouble with one of LG’s players. Last year’s BD590 finally received a firmware update about 30 days into my evaluation that addressed our issues and earned it a place in our Top Picks. I liked the player so much that I bought one for my mom.
Sadly, my experience with the BD690 has been frustrating, and although LG seems to have addressed its major performance issues at this writing, I can’t feel very comfortable recommending it. Home Theater waited nearly two months for a firmware fix after notifying LG, and although they were said to be hard at work on a solution that whole time, it was an awfully long time for us and other customers to live with unresolved issues of this magnitude. Despite an impressive list of features, stellar customer service is just as important when you’ll need firmware updates over the life of the product.