LG announced its new Blu-ray lineup just over a month ago at CES 2010, so we were shocked to hear we'd be getting review units in early February. The BD590 took home the Best of CES 2010 award in the home theater category for its built-in 250GB hard drive and CD-ripping functionality, and the BD570 is the more direct successor to the popular (and well-reviewed) BD390. LG says the BD570 and the BD590 will be coming in mid-March with list prices of $280 and $380, respectively. We'll be doing in-depth reviews with both of these products over the next few weeks, but we wrote up our initial impressions of the BD590's exterior design and revamped user interface.
The BD590 takes its design cues from its predecessor, but it's a slightly slimmer, less bulky unit, despite the fact that it includes a hard drive. The front is dominated by a long glossy panel that automatically flips down when the disc tray is ejected. We're not big fans of flip-down panels--they seem like one more thing that can break down the road--but it does keep the unit looking sleek.
Under the front panel reveals a few playback buttons (including handy chapter forward/backward buttons) and a USB port. Of course, if you plan on keeping a USB drive in the port, you'll have to leave the front panel down, which is considerably less slick-looking. The power and eject buttons are toward the top and are always accessible.
The included remote is a complete redesign of last year's clicker. The main surface is glossy black, which looks sleek coming out of the box but, being a remote, naturally accumulates fingerprints quickly. Button layout is mostly straightforward. Playback controls have a "hill" that runs underneath, making it easy to find by feel; there are also nubs on the rewind/fast-forward button. The main directional pad is surrounded by six buttons, which is a little more cluttered than most Blu-ray remotes we use, but we didn't find it that troublesome in use. Along the bottom are a few buttons for controlling a TV.
We loved the dead-simple user interface on last year's BD390, so we were a little dismayed to see that LG has done a complete overhaul. Gone are the simple squares with straightforward labels like "My Media" and "Netflix," replaced by floating ice cubes with more ambiguous titles like "Home Link" and "Netcast." We really don't get the point of new interface and how it makes the BD590 easier to use; it doesn't look cool to us and it seems to slow down navigation. That being said, the new interface isn't bad, we just preferred the old one.
Netcast is the name of LG's suite of media-streaming services and luckily once you enter the Netcast section, you're greeted by large tiles with the names of services. LG's lineup of services is impressive, including Netflix, Vudu, CinemaNow, YouTube, Pandora, Picasa, and AccuWeather. Another advantage of the BD590's built-in hard drive is that it enables Vudu high-def HDX files to download to the hard drive, like on the standalone Vudu box. We haven't tested this yet (we will for the full review), but our prior experience with HDX has been very positive.
The most interesting new feature on the BD590 is its ability to rip CDs directly to the hard drive. Our initial tests with about 20 CDs so far has been really satisfying. Pop in a CD and the BD590 starts playing it right away and immediately downloads metadata from the Gracenote service. Pressing the info button brings up the option to "archive" the CD, then you select your tracks, your bit rate (128, 192, 320Kbps, or Lossless). Even better, the BD590 lets you to continue to listen to the CD while it rips, which takes a lot of the pain out of the process of ripping your music collection. Sure, you can stream your music off your computer with a network-music-streaming device like a Squeezebox, but this seems an even more hassle-free solution, especially for those who aren't tech-savvy.
One last design quibble: unlike nearly every other Blu-ray player we review, LG's players come in 1080i mode by default. That's unfortunate because many users won't realize this and change to 1080p, which means they'll be relying on their HDTV to handle much of the video processing.
Full reviews coming soon
We'll be doing full reviews of both products over next few weeks, including Blu-ray image quality and disc-loading tests. In the meantime, be sure to check out our initial CES blogs for more information both the BD590 and the BD570, and the entry-level BD550. And if you've got any specific questions about the BD590 or the BD570, leave a comment and we'll try and address it in the review.