Connecting the BD550's Ethernet port is the only way to access its streaming-media services. Though we would have liked a second USB — as is available on both the Samsung BD-C5500 and the Sony BDP-S370 — it's more of a bonus than a missing feature.
Overall, we were impressed with the BD550's Blu-ray image quality, especially for an entry-level player. It passed all of the most important test patterns and program material tests, putting it in the top tier of Blu-ray players we've reviewed this year. As usual, the most dedicated videophiles will still prefer the very slightly better Blu-ray picture produced by the Oppo BDP-83, but the vast majority of high-definition movie fans will be perfectly satisfied with the BD550's Blu-ray image quality.
All our testing was conducted via HDMI at 1080p/60, with the Samsung PN58B650 display and Oppo BDP-83 and Sony BDP-S570 for comparison. If your display supports and correctly handles 24 frames per second output (also known as 1080p/24), you can largely ignore these tests as we find all players to have virtually identical 1080p/24 performance. Home theatre enthusiasts can also see more-detailed testing results in our 2010 Blu-ray players comparison chart.
The BD550's performance on test patterns was largely solid. First off, it passed the two most important tests — the film and video resolution tests — that generally indicate the player will have no issues on the vast majority of Blu-ray titles. We did notice that the BD550 slipped a bit on the film resolution test, showing moire for a second, which is something we didn't see on our reference Oppo BDP-83. However, we didn't notice any issues in actual program material. The tests the BD550 failed — text overlay and the majority of the cadence tests — are comparatively minor tests that don't have an impact on image quality with the vast majority of movies.
The BD550 passed all our Blu-ray program material tests, which gives it an edge over some other players we've tested, like the Sony BDP-S570, which had some trouble with the video-based titles. However, the image quality difference between the players isn't that large, as most movies are film-based and look nearly identical. We felt the difference between the BD550 and the Oppo BDP-83 was even smaller.
The BD550 is the fastest entry-level player we've tested so far and, surprisingly, is even a little quicker than LG's step-up models. The speed difference between LG's players could be because of small manufacturing differences that occur between any two products, but the bottom line is the BD550 is reasonably quick, coming close to our reference BDP-83 in speed. Yes, the BD550 lacks a quick start mode, so it can't compete with the boot up times of the Panasonic DMP-BD85 and Sony BDP-S570, although it boots up relatively quickly compared with other models that lack a quick start mode. Load times were particularly good on movies with complex, BD-Java menus, with the BD550 loading titles like Spider-Man 3 over 10 seconds faster than the Samsung BD-C5500. If speedy playback is a priority for you, the BD550 is a good entry-level choice.
The BD550 failed some of our standard test patterns, but we didn't notice major issues in any of our program material tests. It's worth pointing out that though the BD550 did technically pass the 2:2 resolution test, it took much longer than the Oppo for its processing to kick in and eliminate the moire. Again, we'd give it a slight nod over the Sony BDP-S570 for doing a better job handling niche video content, and pure videophiles will prefer the Oppo BDP-83 if DVD image quality is a high priority.
As with most devices, we saw no major issues with video-on-demand streaming on the BD550. That gives the BD550 an edge over the Sony BDP-S570, which suffers from some streaming-image quality issues.
The BD550 lacks a quick start mode and therefore by default uses very little power in standby mode. The downside with the BD550 is that you don't have the option of faster load times if you're willing to pay the extra cost. Though the BD550 is a relatively faster player overall, we would have liked a quick start option for those willing to use more energy to cut down on the initial boot up time.