Toshiba BDX5300 £119
18th May 2012 | 09:00
BBC iPlayer, Wi-Fi and 3D Blu-ray support in a budget chassis
Ease of use increasingly makes or breaks electronic products, but with the Toshiba BDX5300 Blu-ray player, Toshiba is hoping there are shoppers out there who still put core features and a low price at the top of their wish lists.
With built-in Wi-Fi, smart TV services and support for 3D Blu-ray, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Toshiba BDX5300 is the equal of its more expensive competitors.
All core, must-have features of the modern age are here - and for a price of £119 in the UK and $139.99 in the US. The Toshiba BDX5300 is all about getting ticks next to your shopping list, with Wi-Fi and 3D playback both deftly integrated.
Best TV 2012
The smart dimension is a bit more of a fudge, with a rather limited collection. Currently it's just a four-spiked service in the UK, with BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Acetrax and Picasa, while US customers get Netflix, VUDU, Hulu Plus, Pandora and YouTube.
Toshiba probably takes the view that these services = smart TV in most consumers' heads, so why bother complicating matters? It's a good call, since the Toshiba BDX5300 makes up in simplicity what it lacks in choice (or any semblance of a pleasant operating system, as we'll see).
Since the US version of the Toshiba BDX5300 boasts Netflix, it's a shame that the UK version has only Acetrax for movie streaming; all such media streaming services are in their first generation, and sadly lacking in must-watch titles, so it's wise to have access to as many as possible if you like your films streamed.
What you don't get on this so-called 'smart' Blu-ray player, which are found on most of the other mid-market decks, is a wide choice of internet widgets or apps, or any notion of an app store.
Nor is there a web browser, but since we often criticise such software we're can hardly bemoan their collective no-show. It that respect at least, less is certainly more.
It's not all bare bones and Blu-ray; Toshiba does offer a smartphone app - the Toshiba TV Remote App - for both iOS and Android handsets, while that Wi-Fi module aids some nifty networking.
12 best Blu-ray players in the UK 2012
Anything DLNA-compliant - such as a PC, netbook or a Mac running Twonkymedia - is recognised by the Toshiba BDX5300 and included in its source list. There's also some digital file support from a docked USB stick, too, although we're not expecting wonders.
We do like the super-slim, compact (just 430 x 200 x 36mm) Toshiba BDX5300's design; a silver arrow stretches across the entire fascia, pointing downwards and nicely lightening an otherwise heavy gloss black appearance. For the money it's actually a remarkably attractive finish.
That slim 'Wide Chassis Aero Cosmetic' hull contains outputs for just HDMI and coaxial digital audio (optical would have been nice), with an Ethernet LAN slot nearby for more reliable, wired internet, and a USB slot up-front.
As well as playing purchased discs and BD-R and BD-ROM discs, the Toshiba BDX5300's pop-put disc tray also supports CD, CD-R/-RW, DVD, DVD+R/+RW, DVD-R, SVCD and VCD.
The Toshiba BDX5300 is one of six in Toshiba's Blu-ray line-up for 2012. Sitting above the 2D-only Toshiba BDX3300, which also sports smart TV functions, it's a notch or two above the Toshiba BDX1300 - a basic 2D deck with no smart functions. It's also above the smart-less, but 3D-ready Toshiba BDX4300. There's something for everyone, then.
The Toshiba BDX5300's user interface is old school. In fact, we've not seen this kind of unpolished approach to smart TV features thus far.
Given the low price, we're prepared (at least partly) to forgive its rather long-winded menus and handling of all sources in an old-fashioned list format if it means a cheap 3D Blu-ray player. Not all users will agree, and if you're the kind that puts a high premium on fast, swish UIs on iPads and the like, look away now.
Another huge cut corner surrounds the remote control. Although it's positioned relatively centrally on the remote, close to the directional keys, the Media Center (MC) button is far too small, given its importance as the main arbiter of media sources and smart content.
Then again, all the buttons are too tiny, with even the navigational commands bunched up and difficult to use. Luckily there's a free Toshiba TV Remote app for iPhone and remote for Android smartphones and tablets, a 4.7MB download that requires a dive into the External Control Settings area of the Setup menu's Network section to link it all up (there's zero guidance on this).
Flick Mode is a completely gesture-controlled blank screen, with a full explanation of possible gestures. It all works fine and we managed to skip around fairly easily, but kept on having to disengage flick mode to get to the other screens. These include simple virtual Direct Key representations of areas of the hard-button remote such as playback, cursor keypad and number pad.
Some sparkling HD action brings us back on the Toshiba BDX5300's side. With Tahiti: Ultimate Wave in the disc tray, the Full HD detail in a sweeping shot of Tahiti's coral reefs and, later, the island's mountain peaks, is consistently stunning, and the video is smooth with no trace of judder or blur.
Texture is created through bold colours rich in contrast, with the merest whiff of picture noise only on extreme close-ups.
Switch to 3D mode and, viewed on a brand new Panasonic 3D LED TV, it features plenty of cleanly defined depth effects and significant separation. That is, except from the usual caveats around the frankly baffling directorial decisions of 3D films (depth of field shots that have their focal point in the background - such as a surfer from afar as waves lap against the camera - are often a confusing and disorientating mess).
This isn't Toshiba's fault, and the 3D effects the Toshiba BDX5300 is given are reproduced accurately and free of crosstalk aberrations.
As well as handling 2D and 3D Blu-ray content well, the Toshiba BDX5300 proved adept with standard definition sources. Our test DVD In Time displayed a clean image that only occasionally appeared obviously low-res on our 46-inch test screen.
A couple of DivX files remained perfectly watchable, as did - just about - Planet Earth Live on the BBC iPlayer, though we're sure the soft and blocky-looking YouTube videos we tried aren't being given any special treatment.
It's tricky to put a price - or in this case, a discount - on a polished user interface, since nice-looking icons and extra features can easily translate into meaningless clutter.
That's not a criticism that can be directed at the basic Toshiba BDX5300, but we do worry that the rather manual approach to smart TV will mean these features just won't get used as often as they should.
Aside from its excellent treatment of 2D and 3D Blu-ray discs, the presence of both BBC iPlayer on the UK version and Netflix on the US version, and Wi-Fi connectivity, have to be the standout features of the Toshiba BDX5300.
Digital file support is also much more comprehensive that we'd imagined (even stretching to playback of lossless FLAC music files) on this good-looking, slim 3D Blu-ray player. As the initial price drops online, this is bound to become an even more attractive proposition.
While we can't argue with its core features count, the Toshiba BDX5300 doesn't behave like a thoroughly modern home hub as many Blu-ray players now do.
It's the icon and app-less user interface that's to blame, but the remote control doesn't help get rid of the impression that Toshiba has cut a few too many corners to reach its low price.
Although the Toshiba BDX5300 puts in a fine effort in terms of core features, the presence of the BBC iPlayer/Netflix, Wi-Fi and 3D Blu-ray support, there are more polished, easier to use and smarter 3D decks around. But those on a tight budget should look no further for a 3D quick fix.
With Wi-Fi-powered smart TV services and universal disc playback that includes 3D Blu-ray discs, Toshiba has produced perhaps the lowest priced such Blu-ray player. However, a user interface that recalls the 1980s and a frankly terrible remote control are the flip-sides.
Sony makes a few budget 3D Blu-rays decks, which have more smart TV options than the Toshiba BDX5300. However, choose the Sony BDP-S590 over the BDP-S490 or BDP-S390 if you favour built-in Wi-Fi.