Even in a world bursting with streaming content, Blu-ray discs are still going strong. Technology has exploded over the past few years, bringing better and better picture options to the table. In this guide, we're going to break down this year's best Blu-ray players, for any budget, and any setup. By the time we're done, you'll know exactly which one you should choose, and why. For more background information on Blu-ray Players, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
What We Like: Excellent picture, superb value.
What We Don't: No display, no HDMI cable.
We don't think there's a better Blu-ray player currently available than the LG UBK90 - definitely not for under $300. The value this little wonder from LG offers is nothing short of staggering, beating out similarly-priced models from Sony, Phillips, and Yamaha. It's the picture quality that swung us: gorgeous 4K color and detail, with real depth and richness. It also upscales extremely well, taking 1080p content and giving it a real sheen. In addition, full Wi-Fi connectivity means you can access streaming services easily - we had no issues with this. For most people, the LG UBK90 is the only player they'll ever need.
We do wish there was a front display, and we don't think the remote is anything special. We also wish there was an HDMI cable included. However, for this price, it would be crazy to get too critical over such small things. LG have pulled off a miracle here, adding to their already ridiculously-good Blu-ray range. The UBK90 is a real winner.
See the LG UBK90
Best Budget Blu-ray Player
What We Like: HDR support, great picture.
What We Don't: Sound quality feels middling.
While we think the LG UBK90 is a better Blu-ray player overall, there's no question that the Sony UBP-X700 is the perfect player for anyone on a budget. You get a tremendous amount for under $200, including full Dolby Vision HDR (DVHDR). Other than LG, Sony are one of the very few companies to support this standard, which is a significant upgrade on the free-to-use HDR10 standard that most of the industry relies on. Another Sony model, the UBP-X800, doesn't have this. The DVHDR inclusion results in a stunning picture that far exceeds its price. Again, the UBK90 is a touch better, but this is still a solid choice.
In our opinion, we think the sound could be improved. We don't think the UBP-X700 really does justice to movie soundtracks, with audio quality that felt a bit weak and weedy. But it's a minor issue, and for the most part, the UBP-X700 is a satisfying player that delivers terrific value. Update: at the time of writing, we've noticed that the Amazon listing for the UBP-X700 claims there is a newer model available. We checked, and it isn't - it's just another listing for the same player at a higher price. Don't believe the hype, people. If you decide to buy, use the link above!
See the Sony UBP-X700
Best High-End Blu-ray Player
What We Like: Full native 4K, superb sound.
What We Don't: Not a ton of info displayed on the unit itself.
"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 CXUHD. But the British company, despite making its name with amplifiers and speakers, also has two Blu-ray players available - this is the better of the two. Unlike its standard CXU brethren, it offers full native 4K disc playback, and upscaling of non-4K content.
Hardly surprising, given the company's pedigree, but the sound is also just fantastic. Pair this with a good set of speakers, and you'll be laughing. One thing that we'd like to see improved is the amount of information that the front of the unit displays. This is something that a good app might help with, but for now, this remains a solid top five performer that we are very happy to include here. If nothing else, it's certainly got some of the best audio quality of the selections we've gone for!
See the Cambridge Audio CXUHD
Best 4K Blu-ray Player
What We Like: Unbelievable picture quality.
What We Don't: Can be tough to find in the US - you'll need to order from overseas.
We hesitated to include Panasonic on this list; they can be tough to find in the US, and although retailers like Amazon do offer them, the selection can be hit and miss. But in the end, we decided we'd be crazy not to include them on this list. This model, the DP-UB9000, offers truly unbelievable 4K picture, easily the best of any model on this list. The clarity, brightness, and detail have to be seen to be believed. Both 4K discs and non-4K sources are handled well. The DP-UB9000 may cost over a grand, but if you can find one, it's absolutely worth it.
That being said: we do understand if you decide to pass, thanks to fluctuating availability. A more commonly-available player that excels at 4K - albeit one that doesn't quite reach the heights the DP-UB9000 does - is the PlayStation 4 Pro, below. It also has the advantages of being able to play games, and costs a very reasonable $448 for the top model.
See the Panasonic DP-UB9000
Best Blu-ray Player for Netflix
What We Like: Decent upscaling to 4K, easy access to streaming services for under $100.
What We Don't: Poor design.
If you aren't particularly stressed about watching native 4K discs, and prefer to get your entertainment from streaming services like Netflix, the Sony BDP-S6700 is absolutely the best way to do it. For under $100, you get a competent Blu-ray player that lets you access a range of streaming services, including Netflix, Youtube, and Amazon Prime. The 4K upscaling is decent enough that you'll also see a real improvement in picture.
Then again, this is a sub-$100 player, and you should expect a design and build quality to match. The Sony BDP-S6700 looks ugly, and its controls and build quality feel flimsy. Nevertheless, it remains one of the simplest ways to watch streaming services, and compared to our other budget-friendly pick, the $197 Sony UBP-X700, it does a better job of this. Despite a few issues, this is a very good player that remains a top budget pick.
See the Sony BDP-S6700
Best Console for Blu-ray
4K: Yes (Streaming)
What We Like: Great interface, slick 4K and upscaling, multi-use tech.
What We Don't: Can be overkill for those looking for a simple Blu-ray player, cant play 4K discs - only streaming.
There are only two game consoles really in contention for the Best Console prize: the XBox One X, and the PlayStation 4 Pro (PS4). The XBox One is a solid console, but it's had issues with Blu-ray playback in the past. The PS4 Pro continues to perform faultlessly. Full 4K games and Blu-rays may still be something of a rarity, but whatever source you're using, the PS4 Pro will make it look fantastic.
The experience here is different from a traditional Blu-ray player. Those who aren't interested in the gaming side will need to get used to the control pad, which may be overkill if all you want is to do is watch some movies. But the PS4 Pro does some remarkable things - web browsing, streaming services, music, plenty else - and we think it's a brilliant all-round machine. It certainly beats the XBox, and as a result, scores the top pick as best console for Blu-ray watching, even if its disc drive won't play native 4K. The model we've linked to here has a 1TB hard drive, too.
See the PlayStation 4 Pro
Best of the Rest
What We Like: Added support for Dolby Vision
What We Don't: Increased price doesn’t really match feature set.
Sony are one of the few companies who continue to regularly release new Blu-ray players. The UBP-X800M2 is an upgrade on the original X800, previously on this list. It’s an exceptional player that adds support for Dolby Vision and HDR, improving on what was already an excellent feature set. At $300, it happily takes on more expensive models from the likes of Yamaha and Pioneer, with excellent picture quality and audio.
We do have misgivings, however. Yes, Dolby Vision and HDR are worth having, but precious little else has been upgraded. This is despite the fact that the UBP-X800M2 costs $50 than its predecessor. It would have been nice to see some more tweaks, but either way, this is an excellent player. By the way, the Amazon listing we have linked here throws in two Blu-ray discs as a bonus to get you started. Given that you can buy the UBP-X800M2 on its own for the same price elsewhere online, that’s a sweet little perk.
See the Sony UBP-X800M2
What We Like: Great for those on a budget.
What We Don't: You definitely miss out on some options.
If you're looking to spend under $100, you'll still be able to get a solid Blu-ray player - even if you sacrifice some pricier options, like 4K and HDR. The Sony BDP-S3700 is the little brother of the excellent Sony BDP-S6700, which offers 4K upscaling. If you want to save some cash, and aren't interested in 4K viewing, you could easily go for the S3700.
So, what do you get with this option? Wireless access, 1080p functionality, 2D-to-3D conversion tech, decent load times, and solid picture quality. However, there's a little bit of clumsy implementation of the PlayStation Now app. If you're interested in using that app, we suggest going for the PS4. There are also a few issues with lag, particularly when inputting text. Regardless, these are minor inconveniences, and for those who want a simple and effective Blu-ray experience, we would recommend this player.
See the Sony BDP-S3700
What We Like: Perfect for audiophiles.
What We Don't: There are better options for less-demanding users.
Pioneer's Elite UDP-LX500 not only continues the tradition of naming Blu-ray players after dropped boxes of Scrabble tiles, but also occupies a particular niche. It's designed for those who demand the absolute best audio from their Blu-ray player, whether through listening to CDs, or through movie soundtracks. The circuitry here is designed to generate as little noise and distortion as possible, resulting in crystal clear sound. Things get even more interesting if you have a Pioneer A/V receiver. If you do, you can take advantage of the PQLS system (Precision Quartz Locking System) which boosts audio accuracy even more.
But the problem is, most people simply don't demand this level of audio precision from Blu-ray players. Nor, arguably, should they. Even if they did, shelling out for a player that costs over a thousand dollars (at the time of writing) is absurd. As good a player as this is, we can't justify putting it in the upper echelons of this list. For audiophiles, it's perfect. For the rest of us? Stick with the more affordable options up top.
See the Pioneer Elite UDP-LX500
What We Like: Solid colors and performance.
What We Don't: Limited streaming options.
The Philips BDP7502 is the perfect alternative if you can't find the LG UBK90. It does virtually the same things, at roughly the same price, with just enough difference in the picture to make it an alternative. We think that the colors the BDP7502 offers aren't quite as bright as the UBK90's, despite the presence of HDR, but we did feel like there was a touch more definition and detail to the picture. Ultimately, these two players are perhaps two sides of the same coin.
One thing it doesn't have that the UP970 does is 3D capability - bear this in mind before you buy. Beyond that, you get a fairly standard sub-$200 player. Philips can't really compete with the functionality and build quality of brands like Sony and LG, but they've always done a pretty good job. We also like the design here, which has a bevelled front end and looks terrific.
See the Philips BDP7502
What We Like: A great overall console, good features, decent 4K.
What We Don't: Has had hitches playing Blu-ray, isn't the easiest to operate.
The XBox One X is a superb console, with a huge range of games and great interface. It does well with Blu-rays, too. The picture quality is stellar, especially with 4K gaming. It has an unrivalled crispness, which easily matches Blu-ray players that are far more expensive. Put against the $900-plus Cambridge Audio CXUHD, and it holds its own - not bad for a console at nearly half the price. And as with the PlayStation 4 Pro, above, you can both watch movies and play games, as well as get full access to streaming services.
However, as good as it is, it's not the best console for Blu-ray. The PlayStation 4 Pro easily surpasses it, thanks to the its ease of playing 4K content. Not only is it more tricky for the XBox to play 4K, but you will need to download a separate app to play any Blu-ray discs at all. It's a needlessly complicated process, and as good as the XBox is as a console, we think the cheaper PlayStation 4 Pro is a better option.
See the XBox One X
What We Like: Ideal for custom home theater installations.
What We Don't: Definitely not for the average viewer.
Custom installations aren't for everyone, but if you're looking for advanced control over your Blu-ray player, then you need the Sony UBP-X1000ES. It offers a variety of advanced features to sink your teeth into, including IP Control (over either CAT 5 cable or Wi-Fi), RS232C two-way control, and IR-IN. No idea what those are? No worries - we had to look them up ourselves. Custom Blu-ray installation is a bit beyond our scope, but this is the model the pros swear by.
Of course, its specialization means it simply isn't the best option for most people. Those who don't need or want IP Control etcetera will be much happier with the less-expensive and more effective LG UBK90 or Sony UBP-X700, which both do a phenomenal job. They offer much better value, and come with many of the features the UBP-X1000ES has, including 4K, HDR and Wi-Fi. If you want fine-grained control, however, then we'd strongly recommend the UBP-X1000ES.
See the Sony UBP-X1000ES
What We Like: Incredible audio and picture.
What We Don't: Highly technical, streaming options don’t have 4K or HDR.
Were not for a few issues – which we’ll get to – the Panasonic DP-UB820 would be much higher on this list. It offers incredible picture – not just for the price, but any price. Super clean and clear images match clean and clear audio, delivering one of the best Blu-ray experiences we’ve come across. This is easily one of the best players that Panasonic have produced yet. It doesn’t quite beat the amazing DP-UB9000, but it remains a killer option.
The downside? You have to be willing to put in the time. Getting the very best out of this player requires a little bit of technical know-how, and the patience and skill to navigate various options. Our Buying Advice below can help with some of this, but it’s a shame that Panasonic didn’t make the DP-UB820 a little less intimidating. It’s also crazy to us that there are no 4K or HDR options for streaming, which really should come as standard.
See the Panasonic DP-UB820
What We Like: Good picture quality, balanced audio outs.
What We Don't: Way too pricey for what you get.
Audio is an underrated part of the Blu-ray experience. The Yamaha AVENTAGE BD-A1060 has an advantage – one might say an AVENTAGE – that other players do not have. It contains balanced audio outputs, which are a superior form of getting the soundtrack from the player to the playback device. It's brilliant for Blu-rays, but it's even better if you use the player for music. The BD-A1060 matches this feature with solid picture quality, too.
The problem is, for $500 we expected a little bit more here than just good audio. Although there's upscaling, there isn't native 4K or HDR, which we really would expect for this price. The much cheaper LG UBK90 may not have the audio chops, but it is a better player overall, and for nearly half the price. We would suggest getting the AVENTAGE BD-A1060 if you have the need for great sound quality, but there are better options for watching movies and series.
See the Yamaha AVENTAGE BD-A1060
What We Like: Solid picture with good detail.
What We Don't: Lacks advanced features.
We are including the Yamaha BD-S681 as an alternative option to the Yamaha AVENTAGE BD-A1060, for those who don't require balanced audio outs. It's around $170 cheaper, and manages to deliver excellent picture quality for the price – easily comparable to its more expensive sibling. The level of detail is superb, and we really felt the rich colors made it worth the asking price.
However, just like it's bigger brother, the Yamaha BD-S681 lacks advanced features. There's no 4K - although you do get the ability to upscale - and there's no HDR playback. If you already own a Yamaha A/V receiver, this will dovetail nicely with it, but you should be prepared for a relatively basic experience. It's still worth the money for the picture alone, but it's not the best Blu-ray player here.
See the Yamaha BD-S681
16. LG UBK80 ($150)
What We Like: Many of the UBK90's features at a knockdown price.
What We Don't: No Wi-Fi compatibility means no streaming services.
The LG UBK80 is the little brother of our top pick, the LG UBK90. The two players are virtually identical in feature set, with the difference that the larger player costs $247, compared to $119 for the UBK80. Why the difference? Because of one simple reason: connectivity. With no Wi-Fi, there's no way for the UBK80 to access streaming services, like Netflix or Hulu. This means that, while it's a great Blu-ray player with a good range of features, it's definitely not worth getting for the majority of people.
If you're a Blu-ray fanatic, however, and do all your movie watching simply through physical media, then this is an excellent choice. Considering that the only other difference between it and the more-expensive UBK90 is the Wi-Fi, and the presence of a few less digital outputs, this player actually offers fantastic value for money. It's definitely not the best or most forward-thinking player on this list, but for those who just want to watch a few discs, it's an excellent choice.
See the LG UBK80
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.
At The Master Switch, we spend a lot of time looking at product specs. They aren't always easy to find, but we are usually pretty confident that, at the very least, we can tell you how much something costs. We can't do that here. The Swiss-made Goldmund Eidos 36U 4K is on sale, but nowhere will you find a price tag. We had to contact them to ask, and got back a price quoted in Swiss Francs. Put this in the category of "if you have to ask, you can't afford it." We definitely can't...
There's no question that this is one of the finest Blu-ray players on the planet, with incredible picture quality. That being said, we were surprised to find out that there's no Wi-Fi connectivity, meaning that the most expensive player on this list shares something with one the cheapest: the LG UBK80, above. Then again, if you have the money to buy one of these, our guess is that you probably have a spare room just to house your Blu-ray collection.
See the Goldmund Eidos 36U 4K
New Blu-ray Players Coming Soon
At the time of our latest update, new Blu-ray players on the horizon are scarce. Panasonic have some new models on the way, though they are more incremental updates to existing products. The DP-UB150, and the more expensive DP-UB450, also offer HDR10+, and the DP-UB450 even supports Dolby Vision, which is essentially HDR picture jacked up on anabolic steroids. Plus, both of them will support Dolby Atmos surround sound, making them perfect for home theater junkies. No word on price yet, though...
|Cambridge Audio CXUHD||$918||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||11lbs|
|PlayStation 4 Pro||$400||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||7.3lbs|
|Pioneer Elite UDP-LX500||$979||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||22.7lbs|
|XBox One X||$500||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||8.4lbs|
|Yamaha AVENTAGE BD-A1060||$500||No||Yes||No||Yes||8.4lbs|
|Goldmund Eidos 36U 4K||$40,000||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||26.46lbs|
- How We Chose our List of Blu-ray Players
- Blu-ray vs. DVD
- How Much Should I Spend On A Blu-ray Player?
- Blu-ray vs. Streaming
- Blu-ray Players vs. PlayStation 4 vs XBox
- Blu-ray Disc Types and Profiles Explained
- 4K Explained: Native vs. Upscaling
- UHD vs. HDR
- Aspect Ratios Explained
- Region Coding Explained
- Blu-ray Setup Explained
- Blu-ray Player Disc Noise Explained
- Are Blu-ray Players Dying Out?
While Blu-ray tech has advanced over the years, it doesn't improve at the lightning speed that other products do. Older models are still relevant, and it can often make sense to buy one if you don't need additional features found in more expensive options. That means we won't shy away from recommending models that aren't brand new. We've broken down the list into categories, with Blu-ray player choices awarded for best overall, best budget, and so on. To get these picks, we look closely at not only value-for-money - because let's 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. Whether you're looking for the best budget player, or the best one for 4K, we've got something for you.
Unlike a lot of old formats, DVDs are still around, and are still viable competitors to Blu-ray. Both take the form of physical discs that you need to slot into the player to work. The main difference between the two is one of storage. Put simply, a Blu-ray can store a little over five times the amount of data that a DVD can store - 25GB to around 4.7GB. What that translates to is the ability to not only deliver better picture and sound, but also to offer much smoother menus, higher resolutions, newfangled picture enhancements like 3D, and additional features. Of course, the downsides are that Blu-ray discs are a little more expensive, and that it's been around for slightly less time, meaning that there are fewer titles available.
Our take? Blu-ray all the way. It's just better, and more titles are becoming available each day. It's fastly becoming the standard. Besides, nearly every manufacturer includes the ability to play standard-definition DVDs in Blu-ray players - even upscaling them for better quality, which we'll get into below. It may also be worth investing in additional equipment to enhance your experience. Why not invest in a home theater system to kickstart your sound?
Probably not nearly as much as you'd think. You can spend over $1,000 on a player, but you can also get a very capable model for under $200. Image quality is obviously a factor. While a 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 details like ease-of-use, extra features, and 3D compatibility would only appear in the more expensive bracket. But you'd be wrong. High-end technology can often appear on entry-level systems. Case in point: the Sony UBP-X800M2 features a whole host of brilliant features that you'd expect to pay much more for, and which will easily be enough for most people. There's 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. If 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.
One of the most frequent questions we get asked: is there even any point in owning Blu-ray discs, when things like Netflix exist? Our take: absolutely. What you have to understand is that they offer completely different things. Players like the $81 Sony BDP-S6700 offers a vast library of content from hundreds of different producers and studios, all available on demand through services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. There are some things that discs do that streaming media simply can't.
The first and most obvious one is that streaming services, as good as they are, are susceptible to Internet outages and buffering. No Wi-Fi signal? Dodgy connection? Kiss your movie night goodbye. It's not a problem you're ever going to have with a Blu-ray disc, unless you damage the disk itself. Secondly, streaming services are fantastic, but they don't offer the wealth of extra content that Blu-ray discs do. They are more suited to casual nights in, where Blu-ray discs – which often come in sets, if we're talking about a TV series – better suit someone who really wants to immerse themselves in a particular world. It allows you to soak up every bit of extra content they can, including outtakes, deleted scenes, and director interviews. Then, of course, there's the pleasure of actually owning physical media. Don't knock it until you've tried it! And there are plenty of players, like the LG UBK80 ($119), which don't even bother with Wi-Fi at all.
Games consoles are a fantastic Blu-ray option. Let's talk about the three main systems currently on the market – the newest ones, at the time of writing – and give you a brief rundown of what they all offer. Very obviously, all of the ones we're about to mention play games, and allow you access to online streaming content. But they all differ slightly in the way they handle Blu-ray discs. Those differences come down to what is known as 4K, an enhanced picture standard that we'll go into in a little bit more detail below.
To start, we present the $400 PlayStation 4 Pro. Sony's flagship PlayStation console is a monster, and easily one of the better options for Blu-ray, despite its inability to play full 4K discs (although it's quite comfortable streaming 4K material from another source). It's also slightly cheaper than the $500 XBox One X, which is Microsoft's option for both gaming and Blu-ray. The XBox has had issues with Blu-ray in the past, and you'll still need to download an app to actually play these discs.
The main difference between these consoles and standalone Blu-ray players is, obviously, that they have the capability to play games, browse the Internet, stream music, and more. In other words, if you don't need any of these things, you'll be paying a premium for services you won't use. They also have controls which, while perfect for games, tend to be overkill for just watching Blu-ray discs. Our take? Unless you're going to be gaming too, you'll be able to save money and have a better experience just by buying a regular Blu-ray player. You'll notice, by the way, that we haven't included the Nintendo Switch on our list. That's deliberate: if you want to play Blu-ray discs, forget this one. It doesn't even have a disc drive. Sorry!
When you're researching Blu-ray players, you often see a long list of disc types and file types that they will accept and play. Of course, it's very rare for manufacturers to actually explain what any of these are, or what they mean. Fortunately, we're here to save the day. Or rather, partly save the day. The reality is that there are many different types of files and disks. It would not only take an age to explain what every single one of them does, but some of them are obscure enough that such information would only be useful to a handful of people. What we can do is explain the main ones you'll need to know about, and give a list of the ones each of the players that we've picked are compatible with.
There are four main disc types you need to know about: Blu-ray, DVD, CD, and DTS-CD. The first two play both movies and sound, with the Blu-ray being of much higher quality, thanks to its ability to transmit a lot more data (you can read more about that difference here). A CD plays music – obviously – while the far-less-common DTS-CD plays surround sound mix, usually 5.1. You won't be able to play this using an ordinary CD player, and will require a Blu-ray or DVD player to get it working.
In addition, you will often see the suffixes ROM, R, and RE. So, for example, you might see that in the specs for the top-ranked LG UBK90, you'll be able to play BD-ROM, BD-R, and BD-RE discs. BD-ROM (Blu-Ray Disc, Read Only Memory) means that you can play the content on the disc, but can't record onto it; a BD-R (Blu-ray Disc Recordable) disc can be written over once; and a BD-RE (Blu-ray Disc Recordable Erasable) can have data copied onto it multiple times. It's very rare to encounter the latter two, but it does mean that you'll be able to tell if a player can handle home-made Blu-ray discs. By the way: sometimes you'll see DVD+R, and DVD-R. What's the difference? The position of the laser in relation to the disc. For all intents and purposes, they mean the same thing. We've used the ± symbol on the table below, where relevant. On a side-note: good God, DVD was a confusing format.
You'll often see Blu-ray players labelled as Profile 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 5.0 and so on. It's a way of classifying the amount of data a player can take, and its capabilities. All Blu-ray players will be able to play all Blu-ray discs, but if you have a disc that offers 5.0 content, with a player that can only read up 3.0, then you may not be able to access some of that content. We'll try explain this as briefly as possible:
- Profile 1.0 is the most basic level, with no picture-in-picture embedded content or web content.
- Profile 1.1 allows embedded content up to 256MB, and means the player can download firmware updates via the Internet
- Profile 2.0 - also known as BD Live - adds up to 1GB more of additional content features, accessible during playback. Think commentary, alternate angles, and the like.
- Profile 3.0 is an audio-only format, and isn't very common.
- Profile 5.0 - no, we don't know why there was no 4.0 - allows for playback of 3D Blu-ray discs
- Profile 6.0 allows even more data, and allows the inclusion of even more advanced features.
It's also worth noting that there are different types of movie files and formats contained on the discs a player will accept. Each player has a long list of these in its manufacturer specs. We aren't going to list them all here, as we'd be here all day, but you can check the manufacturer pages for each player if you need them - they will always be listed. Meanwhile, here's a list of our players, and what disc formats and profiles they take.
|Blu-ray Player||Price||BD Profile||Discs Accepted|
|LG UBK90||$247||6.0, 5.0, 2.0, 1.1||BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW, DTS-CD|
|Sony UBP-X700||$167||Unknown||BD-R, BD-ROM, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW SA-CD|
|Cambridge Audio CXUHD||$918||6.0, 5.0, 2.5||BD-ROM, BD-R, BD-RE, Blu-ray 3D, DVD±ROM, DVD±RW, DVD±R, AVCHD, SACD, CD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R, CD-RW|
|Panasonic DP-UB9000||$1,180||Unknown||BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW|
|Sony BDP-S6700||$81||2.0, 1.1||BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW|
|PlayStation 4 Pro||$400||Unknown||BD-ROM, DVD±ROM|
|Sony UBP-X800M2||$300||Unknown||BD-ROM, CD (CD-DA), SA-CD (SA-CD / CD), DVD, DVD±R, DVD±RW, DVD-R Dual Layer, DVD+R Double Layer, CD±R, CD±RW|
|Sony BDP-S3700||$110||Unknown||BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW|
|Pioneer Elite UDP-LX500||$979||Unknown||BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW|
|Philips BDP7502||$177||Unknown||BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW|
|XBox One X||$500||Unknown||BD-ROM, DVD±ROM|
|Sony UBP-X1000ES||$598||Unknown||BD-ROM, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW, SA-CD|
|Panasonic DP-UB820||$450||Unknown||BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD, DVD±R, DVD±RW|
|Yamaha AVENTAGE BD-A1060||$500||Unknown||BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW, SA-CD|
|Yamaha BD-S681||$330||Unknown||BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW, SA-CD, CD-DA, CD-R|
|LG UBK80||$150||6.0, 5.0, 2.0, 1.1||BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW, DTS-CD|
|Goldmund Eidos 36U 4K||$40,000||6.0, 5.0||BD-ROM, Blu-ray 3D, BD-RE, BD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD±ROM, DVD±R, DVD±RW, SACD, Kodak Picture CD|
Without getting too technical, 4K picture a picture of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels. Really, that's all it is: a bigger picture size, designed to give the most detail possible. This is in contrast to 1080p - literally, 1,080 pixels – which is the current standard for most non-4K TVs.
To get a movie, series, or a game that is truly in 4K resolution, you need a few things. You need a TV capable of displaying 4K – which, to be fair, is most of them these days. You need a player that can actually read a 4K Blu-ray disc, commonly called a 4K Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) disc. The best one on our list is currently the Panasonic DP-UB9000 ($1,180). And, of course, you actually need a 4K disc – as in, a disc with content on it that has been specifically designed for 4K resolution at source. The first two aren't that complex, but it's the last one – 4K content – that proves the sticking point. At the time of writing, there simply isn't that much pure 4K content out there. Although it's clearly a superior way of viewing movies and series, the actual number of productions that deliver their content in native 4K is still quite small. So, what's an enterprising Blu-ray player manufacturer to do?
Easy: Upscale. Upscaling is the process of taking content that is not 4K and altering it so that it can be displayed at 4K resolution. Some players do this better than others, but generally speaking, it works quite well. Obviously, it's never going to touch native 4K content for resolution and clarity, but there's nothing wrong with it, and it will still give you an incredible picture. Most of the players on our list offer upscaling, and you can safely buy any of them to enjoy your content in 4K - even if the content itself is not produced in 4K. If you do plan on buying 4K discs, then we recommend going with a slightly more expensive player that can handle them natively. The one to go for here is the top-rated, $247 LG UBK90, which gobbles up 4K content like a pro, as well as upscaling anything that isn't up to scratch.
It's worth noting that 5K content does exist, but at the time of writing, it is extremely rare. There are a few monitors and TVs that support it, but we haven't seen any 5K Blu-rays yet. If you have, please let us know in the comments below.
This is a weird one. The two acronyms actually describe something completely different – but since Blu-ray is a world of confusing acronyms, they are frequently mistaken for one another, or switched. Let's see if we can clear up that confusion.
Let's start with UHD. It stands for Ultra High Definition, and is a picture that is 3,840 pixels wide, as opposed to the standard 2,160. In that sense, it's something different from 4K, and yet confusingly, many manufacturers will use the term 4K Ultra HD or 4K Ultra High Definition as if the two of them mean different things. It is, as far as we can tell, the result of a pissing contest between Sony and the Consumer Electronics Show as to which term to use, with the result that everybody now uses two terms that mean the same thing. Yes, we know - it makes no sense to us either. But if you look at the specs of the $197 Sony UBP-X700, and see it say 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, that's what it means.
HDR, on the other hand, is something genuinely different. It stands for High Dynamic Range, and it's got nothing to do with the amount of pixels on screen. It's a technology that essentially takes each of those pixels and increases the brightness. Now normally, the brighter you make a particular image pixel, the closer it would get to blinding white. But the genius of HDR is that uses a combination of the pixel's red, green, and blue color spectrum to make sure this doesn't happen, with the result that every pixel on screen is brighter, sharper and more clear.
Of course, it's not as simple as a particular player saying it supports HDR, because there are multiple types of HDR. Yes, we know, it's as annoying as it sounds. The latest and most impressive is HDR10+, a Samsung-made technology that adds dynamic metadata to the picture. In practice, that means the player can intelligently adjust things like brightness and color on the fly, giving you the absolute best picture on any given movie scene. Nice, right? It's not widely available yet, but it will be soon. Upcoming players, like the Sony X800M2, will use it.
Forget about pixel numbers for a second. Let's talk about shape. Aspect ratio literally refers to the shape of your picture – as in, is it a square (like an old school TV) or is it a rectangle (like a widescreen TV)? Obviously, you need to get the right shape for your TV before you can appreciate your picture, or things will either be squashed or stretched. The easiest way to do this is by using the remote that comes with your Blu-ray player, and navigating through its on-screen menu. You need to tell the player which aspect ratio to send to the TV. The idea is to have an image that fills the maximum amount of space on the TV possible, without any nasty black bars at the top or bottom. You can read more about aspect ratio here.
Although manufacturers vary, the most common aspect ratios you'll see are 16:9 and 4:3. The easiest way to find the correct one is simply to navigate through them until the picture is the shape you prefer. Really, without getting too complex, that's all you need to do. Most TVs and most Blu-ray players have reached a standard now where they will play nicely together - so you shouldn't have to do much messing around with menus to get this to work.
Welcome to the most annoying part of physical media: region codes. It started with movies. Different movies have different release dates in different parts of the world, because studios are stupid. Those release dates trickle down to when the films were actually released on DVD – for this is a problem that started back when DVD was a thing, and has endured with Blu-ray. Obviously, because they are greedy and again, stupid, those movie studios didn't want people watching the movie before they were good and ready. So, they introduced a little bit of code onto each DVD to make sure that it could only be played in a specific region.
- Region A covers the Americas and Southeast Asia.
- Region B is Europe, Africa, Middle East.
- Region C is everywhere else - China, Russia, other bits of Asia.
A Blu-ray player from one region will not be able to play a disc from another. You can change the region of your Blu-ray player, if you happen to land up with the disc from outside of your home region, but you can usually only do this a certain number of times before the option gets greyed out on the menu. For that reason, we recommend that you only ever buy discs from your home region. Yes, we know it's annoying.
Let's do this using an example: the $918 high-end Cambridge Audio CXUHD player. Connecting this up is actually relatively simple, and involves fewer cables than you'd think. Very obviously, we need to get this player sending its signals to the right places – the visuals to the TV, and the sound to whatever system you have hooked up. For our first example, let's assume that you have a TV, and a soundbar.
Using an HDMI cable, you would connect the HDMI-out of the player to the HDMI-in of the TV. That handles the picture. Of course, we still need to handle the sound, and for that, we're going to need either an HDMI or an optical cable, running from the TV to the bar. If we use the HDMI cable, we need to make sure that the TV port it's plugged into reads ARC (Audio Return Channel). That way, the TV knows to send the sound signal it's getting from the Blu-ray player to the speakers in the soundbar.
Now for something more complicated – although, to be honest, it actually ends up being easier. Let's say you have a full surround sound system, with an A/V receiver. In that case, all you need to do is connect the Blu-ray player, via HDMI again, to the HDMI-in on the receiver itself. Presumably, you've already got your speakers wired up, and your receiver connected to the TV. All you need to do after that is make sure that your receiver has the correct input selected, then get watching!
There is a third example - although it is much less common. In some cases, you can directly connect speakers to the player itself. However, you will need to make sure the speakers are individually powered – as in, they have their own built-in amplifiers, or discrete ones attached externally. The reason for this is that Blu-ray players will not have enough juice to power individual speakers. That's not what they are designed to do. Make sure you take this into account, if this is the route you want to go down.
Here's the thing about Blu-ray discs. They can spin fast - sometimes very fast. If you have a 4K disc, you can see speeds of up to 5,000 revolutions per minute. What that speed means is noise - occasionally lots of noise. It's a common complaint about Blu-ray players, and while we'd love to say that there's an easy fix, we're afraid this is usually a feature, not a bug. There aren't many things you can do to fix a Blu-ray player that you deem too noisy. Fortunately, for the players on this we list, it's not really an issue - we never encountered noise that disrupted our Blu-ray experience, and we don't think you will, either. Furthermore, Blu-ray player manufacturers are aware of the problem, and frequently add in features to mitigate it. The Pioneer Elite UDP-LX500, for example, which is a $999 player, has a specially-designed chassis to help eliminate vibrations from the spinning disc. If you are concerned about noisy Blu-rays, it may be worth investing in a player like that one.
It’s our job to be honest with you, even if we have bad news to deliver. While all the pics on our list are worth buying, and all the buying advice we have here holds true, there’s no doubt that as a product category, Blu-ray players are in trouble. More than one company has pulled out of the market, and while disc sales are still healthy, the quality of streaming media on services like Netflix is catching up fast.
The first to go was OPPO, who used to be one of the biggest brands in Blu-ray. Their two flagship players - the UDP-203 and UDP-205 - are still huge favorites among the Blu-ray crowd. But you won't find them on our list. OPPO stopped making Blu-ray players entirely in 2018, preferring to focus on the cellphone business. Prices for used UDP-203s and 205s are absolutely insane: the going rate for a like-new UDP-203? That'll be $2,000, please. No, seriously. The UDP-203 is amazing; it once topped our list, and we'd definitely recommend it. But...damn. That's out of control. The prices are so high because of low supply - OPPO made one last batch of roughly 10,000 units before calling it quits and it's clearly a seller's market right now. Let's hope the company changes its mind, because they make excellent gear.
Unfortunately, may soon have to say the same of another giant in the Blu-ray world: Samsung. They recently announced that they have decided to stop making new Blu-ray players. While they will continue to support legacy products, you won’t be seeing any new models from them – and that meant, regrettably, we had to leave them off our list. We have no idea if this is only the beginning, or if other companies like Sony and Panasonic will keep the Blu-ray flag held high. Watch this space…