Today’s Blu-ray players cover a wide range of the price spectrum, from under $100 up to whopping $1,000 or more. You wouldn't think a simple player could cost that much, but they do - although the entry-level options are perfectly workable. Optical technology has matured to the point where image quality mostly is similar, so feature sets and audio capabilities are what set certain units apart. Support for WiFi connectivity and streaming media (a good player with built-in WiFi can replace a streaming media player entirely), 3D content, and 4K upscaling are some of the common features that delineate basic models from their premium siblings. And with physical media like discs, you don’t have to worry about gobbling up bandwidth or a slow connection to watch all your favorite movies in high definition. Below is all the information you need for buying one of these bad boys, along with our recommended models for this year.
We look closely at not only value-for-money (because face it, some of these can be pretty expensive) but at feature sets, ease-of-use, and image quality. We think you’ll agree that we’ve got some real winners here.
What We Like: Image quality
What We Don’t: No WiFi, remote could be better
Best For: Value for money
It might be a surprise to see the Pioneer BDP-LX58 up here, but for pure value-for-money and features, it can’t be beat. Other players may be technically better, but none offer what Pioneer do at this price range. The primary reason for buying one is the absolutely fantastic image quality, which takes a basic Blu-ray and makes it shine. Pioneer have really gone all in on performance here, and for once, we believe all the guff about “putting you in the picture". Upscaling is great, too, with even old school DVDs showing new life. Although it doesn't come with built-in WiFi connectivity, it still has a huge whack of features to play around with, including 3D compatibility. We do wish the remote was a little bit better, though - right now, it feels a little too cheap.
See the Pioneer BDP-LX58
What We Like: Terrific features, DAC
What We Don’t: Very expensive
Best For: Big budgets
The BDP-105 is double the price tag of the 103, which we feature below, with a top line SABRE32 DAC built-in for superb digital to analog sound conversion and a dual-core processor to improve loading speed for faster startup. In addition to ultra-high end internal components, the Oppos feature a sturdy metal build that should outlast virtually all of the other Blu-ray players above. It’s a unit that is built to impress and aimed at those with deep pockets. If anything, this knocks it down a peg, for while it’s a terrific model, that’s a hell of a lot to pay.
See the Oppo BDP-105
What We Like: Audio quality
What We Don’t: Price
Best For: Audiophiles
“What the hell is Cambridge Audio doing making a Blu-ray player?" That's what we asked when we first heard about the Cambridge Audio CXU. But the British company, despite making its name with amplifiers and speakers, also has two Blu-ray players available, and this is the better of the two. The CXU is outstanding. It offers fantastic digital playback, full 3D support, excellent upscaling and phenomenal performance. However, the real reason to buy the CXU as opposed to the Pioneer or OPPO models is the audio. It's hardly surprising, given the company's pedigree, but the sound is just fantastic. Pair this with a good set of speakers, and you'll be laughing.
See the Cambridge Audio CXU
What We Like: One of the best brands available
What We Don’t: Slightly too pricey?
Best For: Reliability
Oppo is the brand of choice for all of the videophiles and audiophiles out there. BDP-103 continues the company’s hallowed tradition, offering stellar image quality and a wealth of premium features (all of these features unfortunately will cost you around five hundred bucks). That said, the OPPO BDP-103 excels at the few and far between fringe cases that can trip a standard player up. Your five hundred dollars will also get you 4K upscaling, 1080p video upscaling from external HDMI sources, integrated WiFi with Netflix, Vudu and Pandora apps, support for high resolution audio discs, and an array of digital and analog audio outputs compatible with new and vintage HiFi equipment. If you don’t know if you need an Oppo, chances are you don’t. But for those who sweat the small things, you won’t find many Blu-ray players better than the BDP-103...
See the Oppo BDP-103
What We Like: Amazing audio quality
What We Don’t: Not a lot!
Best For: Sound
Blu-ray players don't always make a big deal out of their sound quality, but the Sony UHPH1 does. And with good reason: the high-resolution audio circuitry and DSEE HX technology (which helps deal with compressed music) means that you have the best possible source for your tunes - get a decent home theater system, and you'll immediately notice the difference. Visuals-wise, it works extremely well, too, with 4K upscaling (although no 3D) putting a real shine on the picture. One for the music heads - but it won't let you down if all you want to do is watch Lord Of The Rings.
See the Sony UHPH1
What We Like: 4K capability at a great price
What We Don’t: Very little
Best For: 4K TV owners
Odds are you don’t have a 4K TV (yet). If you’re one of the few who do, you’re probably well aware of the lack of content out there to take advantage of your new television’s Ultra-High Definition (UHD) resolution. Netflix is streaming some programming in 4K Ultra HD, and the 4K Blu-ray spec has also been announced, but neither does much for your panel full of pixels right now. In the meantime, a player capable of 4K upscaling is a viable means of getting UHD content on your UHD TV today. As the name implies, upscaling players don’t actually play 4K discs to their full resolution. Instead, they process standard 1080p video to fill out the Full UHD resolution (which is four times as high as 1080p). This puts you a step closer to properly using your 4K TV. Samsung’s BD-F7500 gets the nod as a full-featured player that handles 4K upscaling alongside a host of streaming content and apps, 3D content, and smartphone/tablet compatibility. Samsung’s Smart Hub interface is better looking and more intuitive than past versions, and it supports Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu Plus and dozens of other content sources as well as Web browsing. The F7500 - which is from 2013, but still a killer - also features dual HDMI outputs and full 7.1 analog audio out for supreme flexibility with various home theater rigs.
See the Samsung BD-F5700
What We Like: Quick loading times, well priced
What We Don’t: Annoying remote
Best For: When you have limited patience
Samsung are on the companies dominating this particular product category, and it isn't hard to see why. Although the UBD-K8500 has a somewhat annoying remote, it makes up for it by not only offering a smorgasbord of features at a very reasonable price, but also by being fleet with its loading times. Sometimes, all you need is a system that gets up and running fast, and that doesn't leave you waiting around while it thinks about things for a little while. If that's you, and if you're looking for things like 3D and 4K compatibility, then go for this one.
See the Samsung UBD-K8500
What We Like: Region-free!
What We Don’t: No streaming media
Best For: Foreign movie fiends
World travelers or foreign film buffs might want to check out Orei’s region free Blu-ray player. The BDP-M2 can play Blu-rays from zones A, B and C as well as DVDs from all of the world’s regions right out of the box. Essentially, with this one player you’re good to go no matter where on Earth your movies are coming from. There are some significant downsides, however, as this player doesn’t offer any streaming media or apps capabilities. It does feature 1080p upscaling, 3D support, and a USB port for playback of audio, video and JPEG files from flash media and hard drives. An integrated Ethernet port provides wired connectivity for downloading firmware updates from Orei’s servers. A slightly cheaper, 2D-only version, the BDP-A3, is another good region-free option still on the market.
See the Orei BDP-M2
What We Like: Sound
What We Don’t: Outdated operating system
Best For: Entry-level
Then there's the Panasonic DMP-BDT370. Similar to the Sony below, we featured the company's DMP-BDT230 last year, and this is a significant upgrade. it's a slim, brushed metal package that gets all the basics right without offering too many extraneous features. While some may miss the apps that characterise the Sony model, the Panasonic really does do what it's supposed to very well indeed. It upscales content well, and handled 3D like a pro. Interestingly, we noticed significant improvement in sound while playing Blu-ray discs, which is a testament to the engineering that's gone into this upgrade. While it is high time that Panasonic consider updating the operating system, there is still very little to complain about here, and we think it's in the top three entry-level players available right now.
See the Panasonic DMP-BDT370
What We Like: Great features for the price
What We Don’t: Not exactly premium
Best For: When you just need something to get your home entertainment moving
One of our picks last year was the Sony BDP-S3200, which we thought ticked every box for entry-level player. It had great image quality, 1080p upscaling, and solid WiFi performance with support for every streaming service you could imagine. The BDP-S6700 is the latest iteration, and Sony have improved on an already fantastic package. It's got an absolutely phenomenal range of features for the money you pay, including 1080P, WiFi, 4K upscaling and 3D compatibility. Sony has always impressed in this arena, and while this doesn't match the levels of more elite players, it's an excellent entry-level mode.
See the Sony BDP-S6700
11. LG BP550 ($92)
What We Like: Good interface
What We Don’t: Lacks quite a few features
Best For: Budget use
although it's not nearly as fully featured as the other models on this list, the LG BP550 still impresses. It lacks 3D and 4K, but gives you Wi-Fi capability and streaming apps, an excellent user interface that is a pleasure to use. It's quite surprising that the company doesn't have more models on this list, as traditionally they been very good, but this 2015 model has barely been updated since its release, and that knocks it back a few steps. Still, if you want one for less than $100, this is what you should go for. It will get the job done.
See the LG BP550
And When Money Is No Object:
What We Like: Probably the best on the planet
What We Don’t: You'll need to sell a kidney to get one
Best For: Dictators
Hand-made in Geneva. Only fifty units ever produced. Boy, we never thought we'd need to spend this much money to get our copy of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas playing. But hey, if we had $135K lying around, this is where we'd put it. The Eidos Reference Blue is made of damped brass and aluminum, balanced on four dedicated pylons for skip-free playing - plus, it has its own power supply. It might seem expensive, but hey, it also comes with its own display table. Good luck finding one, though.
See the Goldmund Eidos Reference Blue
|LG BP550||$92||1.9lbs||10.6" x 7.7" x 1.7"||No||No||Yes||No|
|Sony BDP-S6700||$118||3 lbs||11.9" x 10.9" x 2.8"||No||No||Yes||No|
|Panasonic DMP-BDT370||$108||2.65lbs||17" x 16.3" x 7"||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Orei BDP-M2||$250||4.3lbs||14" x 7.3" x 1.8"||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Samsung BD-F7500||$200||2lbs||16.9" x 7.9" x 1.8"||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Samsung UBD-K8500||$246||4.19lbs||16" x 9" x 2"||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Sony UHPH1||$298||7.5lbs||16" x 13.8" x 3/5"||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Oppo BDP-103||$436||10.8lbs||16.8" x 12.2" x 3.1"||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Pioneer BDP-LX58||$958||21.8lbs||17.1" x 13.3" x 4.7"||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Oppo BDP-105||$2899||15.4lbs||14.6" x 8.7" x 4.3"||No||Yes||No||No|
|Cambridge Audio CXU||$999||14.6lbs||20.5" x 15.7" x 6.2"||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Goldmund Eido Ref. Blue||$135K||180lbs||29.5" x 23.2" x 21.6"||Yes||No||No||Yes|
- What Do I Get When I Buy One Of These?
- Do I Have To Use Discs, Or Can I Stream?
- What If I Own A Games Console?
- How Much Money Do I Need To Spend?
- 4K Explained
- Any Jargon I Need To Know?
Blu-ray players play high-definition video from Blu-Ray discs. Much like VHS vs. Betamax before it, Blu-ray won out over the HD DVD format in the fight to bring 1080p video to your living room. In addition to Blu-ray discs and streaming media, some players also offer USB ports to play media stored on a thumb drive, including audio, movies and photos. Nearly every manufacturer includes the ability to play standard-definition DVDs in Blu-ray players (even upscaling them for better quality), but if you’re looking to the future of media you’ll want some other features too.
Most of the time, you can definitely stream.
These are players that are, obviously, built to handle physical media in the form of discs. But that doesn't mean that just because you've got one, you have to go out and buy all five seasons of Game Of Thrones. Most units come with streaming services and WiFi built in. While the interfaces can be clunky on some players, and others are missing HBO Go or Amazon Prime, the ability to stream content is a must if you don’t have a streaming media player or smart TV. But if your budget is tight (most new Blu-ray discs cost as much as two months of Netflix) and your internet is fast, you’d be better served by a streaming media player.
Great question. They aren't on the list above, but we're just gonna say it: if you’re looking for a multitasker, consider getting a game console instead. Both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 have Blu-ray capability, in addition to playing the latest blockbuster games. While the focus isn’t on playing movies, both systems have an available media remote for controlling streaming or Blu-ray media playback. Xbox One also offers voice control through the optional Kinect motion tracker (when you can get it to work) and the ability to control your cable box through the console. PS4 owners can control their console with both the optional camera and the included gaming headset. While these might be more expensive than the other options in this section, you are getting a lot more bang for your buck. Plus, they, you know, actually play games. Which is a thing.
Probably not nearly as much as you’d think. You can spend over $1000 on a player, but you can also get a very capable model for under $200.
That being said, things vary with price. Image quality is obviously a factor. While large portion of this is handled by the TV, it's still up to the Blu-ray player to translate the data on the disk into a workable picture. Pricier players will handle this more effectively than cheaper ones will, although you can rely on all the players on our list to produce stellar quality (we wouldn't have featured them otherwise).
You would think that things like ease-of-use, extra features and 3D compatibility would only be things that appeared in the more expensive bracket. You'd be wrong. Today's Blu-ray players are quite surprising, in that high-end technology often appears on entry-level systems. Case in point: support for streaming services, which appears on the very first player in our list, the Sony BDPS5500.
There is no hard and fast rule for this, as individual players will vary. What we can say is that audio and video quality significantly increases the more money you shell out, and that's important to you, you should think hard about putting down some extra cash for a slightly more expensive player. Trust us, it's worth it.
4K is, as far as TV goes, the ultimate. It’s the highest resolution available, so far ahead of its time that many studios still don’t make movie content for it. Without getting too technical, it’s a picture 3840 by 2160 pixels. You can see a few TVs that carry it right here.
If you already have a 4K TV you might think Blu-ray is where you’ll get your content. However, today’s units don’t read 4K discs as the standards haven’t been finalized. Upscaling — a pretty impressive process where the TV uses an algorithm to fill in the remaining pixels — isn’t a bad option until 4K Blu-ray players and discs become more readily available. To learn more about upscaling and 4K in general, see our guide to 4K TVs. Even if you have a 4K TV, streaming currently is a better option: Netflix is offering 4K content for shows like House of Cards and Breaking Bad for a monthly charge. Blu-ray can’t provide that yet.
Codec: A shorthand for coder-decoder, the little program that helps translate data from the disc into digital picture. A good codec will give you a good picture, although most players include pretty solid codecs.
Upscaling: the act of taking inferior media, such as a DVD, and making it appear in a suitable format for a modern TV. The better the player's upscaling technology, the less likely it is you will notice the blurred edges, rough lines and sketchy colours of the outdated media