Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Insignia NS-WBRDVD Blu-ray Player With WiFi, Netflix, Ethernet, MKV and USB

For a couple of months, I have been using Netflix streaming by the means of my Nintendo Wii (using its built-in WiFi component cable connection to my Hitachi P50H401 1080p 50-inch Plasma HDTV). I used the Sherwood BDP-5003 Blu-Ray and DVD Player for Blu-ray playback. This arrangement had its drawbacks: the Wii took up space, its remote's batteries required frequent recharging, the picture quality was only 480p (if that).

Additionally, the player couldn't handle MKV file playback or anything with resolution above 480p/i. And there was no USB port. So I got a refurbished Insignia NS-WBRDVD.

What is Insignia NS-WBRDVD

The model number is a mouthful, but it signifies that this is a Blu-ray and DVD player with built-in WiFi (wireless internet access). The player can play movies over Netflix streaming using WiFi (or wired Ethernet connection, which it also features). It also has a USB port in the back and can play MKV files as well as other Internet-friendly formats, including 720p and 1080i/p mkv/wmv. How cool is that?

What isn't so cool is that the player cannot play DivX. Still, it plays most other video files flawlessly, including 1080p MKV files that only played on my desktop with hiccups.

This Insignia (which , BTW, is a Best Buy's in-house brand, but is built by Funai) also has an HDMI out and up to 1080p output, including standard DVD upconversion. In addition to BluRay, it plays DVD-Video, Audio CD, MP3, WMA, WMV, DVD /-R, DVD /-RW, CD-R/W. The player can scale/upconvert regular DVDs up to 1080p over its HDMI out as well.

The player can output lossless audio from Dolby and DTS through its HDMI out. The player has both optical (Toslink) and coaxial digital audio outs as well as an analog stereo audio out. It can downmix audio to two channels if needed. It also has a component video out and composite view outs.

It supports DTS, DTS-HD, DTS-ES, Dolby TruHD, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Digital audio formats. The power consumption at 25W is lower than Sherwood's 35W.

First Impressions

The player was refurbished and therefore arrived in a generic box. The manual was rather small. I didn't have to read it all though. The player also comes with the remote control, analog audio and composite video RCA cables. Refurbished players don't include batteries, but I assume brand new ones include AAA batteries for the remote.

I connected the player to my Panasonic SA- XR57 receiver with an HDMI cable I had. The non-detachable power cord was connected to the surge protector. The receiver is connected to my Hitachi P50H401 50-inch plasma TV with an HDMI cable. The speakers are Athena AS-F1 towers in front left and right positions, Athena C.5 in center and Athena S.5 as left/right surrounds. The subwoofer is Athena AS-P400.

Using the player's intuitive menus, I set up the wireless Internet connection to my wireless router and it offered me to download the latest firmware update (the offer, which I graciously accepted) and updated itself.

The player's front panel has a sturdy disc tray and an informative display, along with the control buttons. The rear panel has the usual connections plus the Ethernet jack and a small box, that says that it is a WiFi antenna, that protrudes outward a bit. The player itself is hefty enough to create a feel of solid construction. The front panel buttons and the rear panel jacks are all clearly marked.

In Use

The player is easy to use, including its WiFi and Netflix streaming features (I didn't try its Pandora implementation). The menus are self-explanatory. The menu response speed is good. They look good, are easy to understand, feature fast navigation (which I cannot say about my TV's menus) and provide basic adjustment functionality. I wish there was more tweakability however. I couldn't find the way to adjust sharpness or contrast, but I guess I can adjust that on my TV. I set the output to 1080i since, even though my TV can accept 1080p signal, my receiver is designed for up to 1080i.

The Blu-Ray playback was excellent and the startup and disc load times were noticeably shorter than with the Sherwood. On an occasion where I tried to play a very scratched disc, the player stalled, but I was able to stop the playback and eject the disc without having to reset the player.

With Blu-ray playback, the images and sound were excellent. The video was sharp and detailed, the motion was fluid.

DVD Upconversion and MKV/AVI/WMV

The DVD upconversion of this model is surprisingly good, seemingly better than my Pioneer Elite DV-48AV Universal Upconverting DVD Player's. The fast forward at 2x speed is fluid (ditto for compressed video files, e.g. MKV, AVI and WMV). There are multiple fast scan speeds, up to 128x (ditto for compressed video files, e.g. MKV, AVI and WMV).

The player makes some scraping mechanical noises during fast scan though. Not too loud, but I wish it didn't. It didn't have any issues with AVI/MKV/WMV files, even with 1080p material. Some clips that stuttered on my computer and/or on Philips DVP642, Philips DVP5990 DVD Player and Pioneer Elite DV-48AV Universal Upconverting DVD Player played perfectly on it. But not DivX.

AVCHD Playback

The player played AVCHD discs (discs made using ImgBurn from folders muxed with tsMuxeR) from 1080p HD footage from my camcorder well.

USB Port

I would like to meet a genius who thought it is such a great idea to put the USB port on the back panel. Since I have the player in the entertainment center, right under the receiver, I have no access to it. Therefore, I can use my Pioneer Elite DV-48AV Universal Upconverting DVD Player for music playback (it has a front-panel USB), but to play MKV files or other video files of high-def resolution, I have to burn them onto DVDs.

Netflix Streaming

The streaming works perfectly. The quality is noticeably better than Nintendo Wii's and the interface is similar. The wireless (WiFi) connection is less stable though (but the player is surrounded with electronic components, whereas the Wii is just freestanding).

Remote Control

The player's remote control is decently-looking, light and has a decent, but not perfect button layout. Major buttons are easy to find, but some others will take getting used to. There is no backlight. You have to point the remote more precisely than most of my other gear, but I can live with that.

Audio

The player produced excellent sound quality (output through HDMI as PCM since my receiver doesn't decode most advanced HD audio formats). It refused to play DVD-Audio discs, as was expected. I wish it did though, but this is what I have my Pioneer Elite DV-48AV for. And having both coaxial and optical digital outs is a plus for those who intend to use a digital audio connection (I use HDMI and therefore don't care).

Update After 2 Weeks

After 2 weeks of use, the player no longer connects to my WiFi network. Furthermore, when I turn it off, its front panel display blinks sporadically until the TV is turned off. It also periodically freezes in menus. I tried resetting it to no avail. There are presistent complaints on the Best Buy's web site by people who have this same issue.

My Wii connects to WiFi and Netflix from the same room with no issues.

Although it plays Blu-ray discs well and plays MKV, etc., the fact that it is unstable, makes loud scrapping sounds and has very poor WiFi connectivity (and even when it is supposedly connected to WiFi, it cannot connect to Netflix) makes it barely suitable for me. I tried a firmware update (for which I had to plug the USB drive into the port on the back panel), but the update didn't fix the issues.

While trying to resolve the above issues, I spend some time online and learned that the unit is actually made by Funai. That explains some of it, since Funai (a Japanese company) usually produces low-priced electronics.

Pros: WiFi, Ethernet, Netflix streaming, USB, MKV/AVI/WMV/MP3/WMA playback, good video and sound, AVCHD
Cons: USB port is in back, no DivX playback, remote needs pointed directly, poor WiFi

Bottom Line

With the built-in WiFi, Ethernet, Netflix streaming, MKV, WMV and AVI playback of up to 1080p and good DVD upconversion (up to 1080p), this player would be excellent, if it worked as it is supposed to. I was very happy with it for 2 weeks, until it started acting up. I no longer recommend it.

Update 11/2011: I replaced this player with Panasonic DMP-BDT210 Blu-Ray Player with 3D, Skype, Built-In WiFi, Netflix and Amazon Streaming, which has better WiFi performance, Netflix streaming and has Amazon video streaming. I still used this Insignia for playing MKV files, etc.

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