Yamaha currently offers three Blu-ray players to complement the brand's range of home audio and home theater electronics. Of the three, The BD-S473 is the least expensive, but still offers enough functionality to meet the needs of most average consumers. When considering a "budget" player (often with a shorter list of features) performance, reliability, and value become the most critical points of interest. The Yamaha unit faces quite a bit of competition in the sub-$300 Blu-ray player market simply because of the vast amount of players available in this range. Therefore, it is important to take a close look at its overall quality and performance to see if it can set itself apart from the crowd. I have owned a few pieces of Yamaha home audio/video gear over the years and have always been satisfied. I consider them to be a good value, and expect this budget Blu-ray player to leave me with the same impression. Regardless of my expectations, what you really want to know is: Is it worth buying? Hopefully I can help you make that decision.
Design, Build Quality, and Aesthetics
At this price point, one should not expect groundbreaking technology, mind-blowing performance, or even a lot of the latest features common to Blu-ray players. This unit is a very basic single disc player, with a single HDMI output, an ethernet port, and two USB ports. A remote with essential playback and navigation functions is included, as expected.
The BD-S473 looks and feels like most other off-the-shelf, low cost, mass-produced Blu-ray players. It is very lightweight, and built with the typical stamped sheet metal chassis and plastic face plate. There is not a whole lot more to say here. This falls into the category of high production volume of electronics, and probably shares components with lots of other similar players. The goal here is cost savings, although nothing about this player makes it feel extraordinarily cheap or flimsy. Buttons, moving parts, connections, and materials all feel plenty sturdy and responsive, but certainly not premium. The same can be said of the included remote control. It works well, and I have no complaints about it in terms of operation or ergonomics. Back-lit buttons would be nice though.
This player deviates aesthetically from most of the rest of Yamaha's lineup of Blu-ray players and Receivers. It has a smooth, sleek face, as opposed to the two-tone style faces with multiple textures common to many of the company's current A/V products. The LCD is embedded behind the glossy black surface, and the disc tray is neatly concealed by a door on the left side of the unit. It is simple, yet tasteful, and will blend in well with just about any home theater environment. Even on an exposed shelf below or near your display, the Yamaha is something you will not get tired of looking at (although it is small enough that you may rarely even notice it is there).
Setup and Operation
Connection and setup of this Blu-ray player could not be easier. Plug it in, connect an HDMI cable (which you will need to supply) and a network cable (if desired) and turn it on. The first time you power it on you will be prompted with a few basic setup options (language, etc.). From the home screen you can navigate to more settings, the Netflix app, Youtube app, and disc playback.
The menus are intuitive and navigation is snappy and responsive under the control of the included remote. On a few occasions I noticed what seemed like a longer than usual pause, either while loading a Blu-ray or going between different menu screens. Tapping the “Home” button on the remote usually solved this but it was a bit annoying. One nice feature on the BD-S473 is the network control option. The AV Controller app will turn your iOS or Android device into a wifi remote control with all the functions of the IR remote included with the player. I tested the app on my iPhone with good results. It located the BD-S473 right away and functioned without issues. The user interface is well designed, and the layout is intuitive. It is a nifty feature, and probably better suited for owners of multiple pieces of Yamaha gear, as it does not offer anything beyond the function of the standard remote. The exception would be better visibility in the dark, as the stock remote buttons are not back-lit.
The wired network connection (this player does not have built-in wifi) was fast and reliable, and did not require any setup or configuration. I did not test the Netflix app as I am not currently a subscriber, but I was able to use the Youtube app to gauge the player's streaming capability. Navigation of the app was intuitive with the standard remote. The search feature was a bit slow to display results, but I found what I was looking for on the first attempt. HD audio and video quality were good, and playback was very smooth with no annoying skips or buffering.
The BD-S473 has two USB ports available (one front, one rear) for streaming media from a local storage device. I tossed some photos, music and a video on a FAT32 formatted thumb drive and plugged it into the front USB port to take a quick look at this feature. From the player's home menu, simply select the "Media" icon and it will display a list of any USB and/or network devices it has located. Once you have selected your device, navigation is as simple as pointing to a folder and file name. I had no issues viewing photos and video, and playing music files. Yamaha advertises that this unit can stream content from a DLNA server, however I was not able to find a way to make this feature work. It was not able to locate and display a temporary server running on a laptop on my network (which my OPPO BDP-103 had no trouble with). Now, network sharing can be very finicky, to say the least. It is certainly possible that a minor communication or setup glitch caused the problem here, rather than a flaw in the Yamaha player itself.
Overall, the BD-S473 was easy to operate and performed reliably, with the exception of the few pauses I mentioned earlier in this section. Consumers looking for just the essentials without a bunch of extra (potentially confusing or problematic) features and settings will find this player very easy to live with.
Audio and Video Performance
It does not matter how great your speaker system and display are, if you do not have a good quality source, you may never be able to enjoy the full capability of your system. A good action movie (James Bond anyone?) can make this clear very quickly. Skyfall is packed with fast-paced action and epic sound effects. Skips, glitches, or choppiness in the video would have thoroughly ruined the experience for me, but the video performance of the BD-S473 allowed us to focus on the action and the story from start to finish. Color, lighting, and contrast all appeared detailed and lifelike. Even in the darker scenes nothing was missing from the picture. The music and sound effects were balanced but full of impact just as you would expect.
Tim Burton's 9 is a beautifully animated movie, with a stellar soundtrack. Once again, the Yamaha player delivered excellent audio and video performance throughout the whole film. The movie has a pretty dark overall feel, but the BD-S473 produced the amazingly lifelike colors and textures very nicely. Motion was always very smooth - never choppy or blurry and the DTS-HD audio sounded incredible. I did not find myself looking/listening extra hard for playback issues, but rather just enjoying the movie. The Yamaha did its job well enough for me to forget it was there most of the time.
Planet Earth (Blu-ray)
The Planet Earth series is a really stunning experience in a good quality theater environment. There are not many fast action scenes, in fact much of the "action" is rather slow. What I find most remarkable about these videos are the aerial views of our planet's different regions. As BBC's cameras pan slowly across deserts, oceans, and forests, I have noticed an annoying amount of choppiness during playback on some devices. The BD-S473 was not flawless here but pretty smooth overall. The narration and sound effects were very well balanced. Colors and lighting were very lifelike and detailed.
Batman Begins (DVD)
If you are like me, most of your movie purchases or rentals are Blu-ray format, but your collection still has a small stack of favorites on DVD. Although the differences between DVD and Blu-ray picture quality can be quite drastic, DVDs can still look great on your HD display with the right player. The video (upconverted to 1080p by the BD-S473) was nice and clear on my 60" display. Playback was pretty smooth, but with a hint of choppiness in some scenes. Once I stopped looking critically for it though, it was not enough to be distracting. Overall, the audio and video playback from a standard DVD was very good.
As satisfied as I have been with the BD-S473, I have not noticed any differences in audio/video performance compared to other players in this price range. If there are any, they have been too subtle for me to detect. My point is that in general the value of a Blu-ray player in this class will come from the features (streaming services, compatible media formats, etc.) and connectivity options (HDMI, Wifi, support for older style A/V connections, etc.). Having said that, the Yamaha does not have much to offer beyond the essential functionality of an internet connected Blu-ray player. Although I do not find the BD-S473 to be flawed or problematic, some of its competitors do more for the money.
Conclusion and Recommendations
I cannot say I was shocked in either a positive or negative way at the performance of the BD-S473. I like this player (and Yamaha A/V products in general). It met my expectations based on the features and specs listed on the product website. Aside from 3D video (which I did not test), and DLNA streaming (which could still be a fault of my setup), all of the player's functions operated as I had anticipated. The unit basically disappears once you have it set up, which is really the ultimate goal of any good home theater component. This type of no-frills, stress-free operation is perfect for the average consumer simply looking to watch a movie on an HDTV now and then. For loyal Yamaha customers and fans, or even enthusiasts with better than average HT gear, the BD-S473 is not a bad purchase for just under $200 at several online retailers. If you are looking for the most bang (read: bells and whistles) for your buck, there are better options but most viewers will not notice any differences between the audio/video performance of this player and others costing significantly more.
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