Yamaha BD-S473 Blu-ray player

The Yamaha BD-S473 is a low- to mid-priced player that is great for playing discs but could do more with its smart features.


7.5
CNET Rating

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The BD-S473 is Yamaha's entry-level Blu-ray player. It is a stripped-down model, offering all the important stuff but nothing unnecessary. For example, the only signal output is HDMI. Got only an analog system? Well, it's time to upgrade. (Extra outputs aren't of much use anyway — the Blu-ray rules now forbid high-definition analog video outputs in modern players.)

The styling is unremarkable, although the build is reasonably solid at 2 kilograms.

So while there are few inessentials, the important stuff is there. For network connectivity to support BD-Live, you will have to plug a USB stick (1GB or more) into the back, although to be fair, few Blu-ray discs these days take advantage of this advanced functionality.

There is no Wi-Fi built in. If you are coupling this unit with certain Yamaha receivers, which are provided with Wi-Fi adaptors, these have a spare Ethernet socket that can be used for the Blu-ray. I prefer wired where possible — so that's what I used.

Playing discs

The unit starts up first time with a wizard that looks after a couple of basics, such as output resolution.

It loaded DVDs quite quickly but Blu-ray discs a touch slowly (typically, 30 seconds). Overall, the unit was nicely responsive to the remote, acting on key presses instantly. Control of playback was strange, though. It had plenty of fast-forward and fast-rewind speeds, and you can pause and search for a specific time. But what you can't do is step frame by frame in either direction nor slow motion either way. That's a first in my experience. If you're inclined to closely examine scenes, this is probably not the player for you.

On the other hand, if you have a bunch of Australian DVDs and 1080i50 Blu-ray discs, you're going to get a great picture from this player. Set its output to 1080p and let it do the progressive scan conversion. Even in Automatic mode, it got it right almost all the time, even with my difficult test clips. There was a brief touch of picture instability at one point with the Miss Potter Blu-ray disc but so little that this player would be bested by few. Likewise with the DVD, just a couple of slight slip-ups in the most difficult clip.

But if you know that the disc is based on film, as 90 per cent of them are, then you can select Film, under De-interlacing Mode in Video Process in the set-up menu and get absolutely perfect progressive scan conversion, delivering full detail.

If you have a display or external video processor that you particularly trust, then you can set the output resolution for this player to Disc Native, in which case the original disc resolution will be delivered to your processor.

The unit supports 3D discs, of course, but offers no capability for upscaling to 4K, which is rather pointless anyway. If you have a 4K display, it can do the upscaling quite well itself.

Smart features

There are Android and iOS control apps for the unit. They are pretty basic, offering a subset of the keys available on the remote. If you're using a Yamaha receiver, then the app can be set to control both devices at the same time.

The Home screen only offers access to YouTube videos and playback of media from USB or the network.

The digital media audio support was good and bad simultaneously. The bad: the great majority of content from my Synology NAS drive wouldn't show up on this unit's lists. In the dozen or so different folder and artist access paths I perused, I found a total of four tracks. It didn't seem capable of finding any music at all served up as DLNA by my Windows 8.1 computer. It just seized up until I hit the Home key to get it out of the network access interface.

However, when put on a USB stick and plugged into the unit, all those tracks played nicely. Very nicely. The unit even supports full 24-bit, 192kHz stereo FLAC files and 24-bit, 96kHz multichannel ones. Th last is rare.

The capability is there. I imagine Yamaha will issue firmware upgrades to improve those weaknesses. Certainly Yamaha's receivers happily support streaming media from both those sources on my system.

Conclusion

The Yamaha BD-S473 isn't the cheapest Blu-ray player, but it is one of the cheapest ones that will allow the fine control over the video output than underpins the very best performance

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