Toshiba's 2013 Blu-ray player line-up has a lot in common with the company's TVs. Both have undergone a major design overhaul, giving each model a much more modern appearance to better separates them from supermarket specials and less well-known brands. The Toshiba BDX5400KB a good looking and compact Blu-ray player that lets ou is a compactlooks highno exception, looking sleek at first glance with rounded corners, a brushed metal finish and glowing green power LED. It's also half the width of most conventional Blu-ray players.
On closer inspection, it's clear that the BDX5400KB isn't as high end as it appears. It's built from plastic, the single USB port is awkwardly placed at the side of the player and there's a bare minimum of ports at the back, with just HDMI for video and digital coaxial for audio. There's also Ethernet, plus integrated Wi-Fi for connecting the player to your local network. Miracast is also on board to let you pair a laptop, smartphone or tablet for playback on your TV.
Of course, you're going to spend more time looking at the screen than the player itself, but things don't improve much once you turn the player on. The main menu is incredibly basic and squeezed to the very edge of the screen, wasting lots of space. The settings menus are rather Spartan, with only brightness, contrast, sharpness, colour hue and saturation controls. You'll have to use your TV to do any major picture tweaks, which is a pain if you can't save settings to individual inputs.
At least the menus easy to navigate, with large text descriptions underneath each icon. It's easy to jump straight into multimedia playback from a USB flash drive or external hard disk, and file format support was excellent. The 5400 could play almost all our test videos and only refused to load the slightly obscure native DivX format.
When it comes to online content, however, the 5400 isn't very well equipped. We were impressed with Toshiba's much improved Home smart TV portal when we saw it at CES in January, but it now feels like an unfinished addition in the 5400. The interface is attractive enough, with large images, weather widgets, multimedia shortcuts and room for plenty of apps, but much of it simply doesn't work. You can't change the space-filling centre image with your own photo, change which city the weather widget looks up or download extra apps. There was no new firmware available at the time of writing, either directly through the player of from the Toshiba website, so this is most likely what customers will receive. You do get BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Acetrax, YouTube and Picasa, but this is a meagre selection at best.
Picture quality makes or breaks a Blu-ray player, and thankfully the 5400 delivers, in both 2D and 3D modes. Full HD video looks crisp and clean, having preserved the film grain from our Star Trek Blu-ray and matching our reference player for colour accuracy. Darker scenes were slightly lighter than we would like to see, so you might want to adjust the contrast on your TV for the best experience. Fast motion stayed true to the disc, which should be good news to fans of 24p playback. All the standard HD audio formats are supported, so you'll be able to watch Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD discs through a compatible amplifier.
Colour accuracy and film grain were well preserved in Blu-ray playback ...
... though we weren't quite so impressed by its DVD upscaling
DVD upscaling wasn't quite so impressive, with a lot more jagged edges and less detail than our reference player. Colour accuracy at least remained constant, but on a Full HD TV standard definition discs will pale in comparison to Blu-ray. You can rescue the picture somewhat using your TV's image quality settings, but only more expensive sets will have the noise reduction settings to deal with DVDs.
For a £90 player, we expected a little more from the BDX5400KB. Competing products have more comprehensive smart TV systems, more advanced image processing options or a significantly lower price. If 3D video isn't a priority, Panasonic's 2D-only DMP-BD79EB-K is £30 less, and if you want it all LG's BP630 includes NFC for £10 more. If you already own a Smart TV and just want a simple 3D Blu-ray player, the BDX5400KB is still worth considering, but there's better value to be found elsewhere.