Home Theater/blu ray/usb
Whenever you read reviews on standalone blu ray players the reviews namely discusss how the players perform in terms of image quality. I know that most all blu ray players are very close to one another in terms of image quality, but sometimes these reviews go into much depth where they look at stuff like chroma processing, 3:2 pullown, cadence, smoothing, artifacts, etc. I know all this stuff applies to a blu ray disk playing in the blu ray player, but I was wondering if all this stuff also applies to if you have an external USB drive hooked up to the player. Like say for instance, if you are playing a movie that is in a format like MKV or M2TS, etc. Do all these image quality features of the blu ray player apply to a file played off a USB drive to? Does it differ any if you are playing a blu ray disk? I am guessing that since everything (disk or usb drive) has to go through the internal hardware of the blu ray player that it treats everything the same, and whatever reviews say in terms of image quality apply to discs or files played off usb drives. Is this correct to assume this? Thanks.
The easy answer is "yes and no" - HDMI output quality between players should be assumed to be equivalent (larger differences will be found between displays and display configuration - often the differences between digital sources can only be demonstrated with measurement equipment), however analog output quality may not be (however in recent years, analog output quality is generally very good for most devices). In general the higher-end players provide higher-quality analog connectivity options, in addition to their digital outputs (for example the Oppo players). Playback from USB devices may not result in the same quality as playback from Blu-ray however, due to differences in compression and encoding between whatever storage format and Blu-ray (it may be more aggressively compressed, for example). The player's support for the container may also factor in - if the player doesn't support a very high bitrate for a given container, it may only be compatible with fairly low quality encodes. Video scaling/conversion/processing features may or may not be available in the same manner for all sources as well - for example there are certain features that are only available for Blu-ray (like deep color), which may lead to improved image quality. Generally the owner's manual for a specific machine will illuminate this issue.
Overall a higher-spec player is generally worth consideration if either you need the advanced connectivity features they often offer (e.g. multiple video outputs, video inputs, etc), or if you need high analog quality. If you're connecting via digital, I wouldn't worry as much as long as the device supports everything you need it to support.