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. It’s worth noting a couple of things before we dive in: first, it’s actually quite rare for companies to come out with a completely new model, and far more common for them to iterate on existing ones, and second, we deliberately left games consoles out of our roundup, as we think they are their own category (although we go into why you might want to investigate them in our Buying Advice section below).
What We Like: Image quality, value-for-money.
What We Don’t: No WiFi, remote could be better.
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, and out of keeping with the player that retails for just short of $1000. It’s definitely not enough to knock it off the list, however, and we think it’s going to take something truly extraordinary to beat it. This really is a pretty amazing piece of kit.
See the Pioneer BDP-LX58
What We Like: Terrific features, superb 4K functionality.
What We Don’t: A touch pricey.
It’s hardly a surprise that OPPO are on this list. They’ve certainly been on it before, when we featured the excellent BDP-105. This is an upgrade in every way: a future proof Blu-ray player that, while a little overpriced, offers an absolutely stunning range of features.
Chief among these is its 4K functionality – some of the best we’ve seen in this product category, supported at up to 60p resolution. It also makes short work of the audio side of things, with twin analogue outputs and a fantastic digital-to-analogue conversion chipset, courtesy of ESS Technology. Add this to the fact that it looks fantastic, and you’ve got a real winner. The price may be enough to keep it off the top spot, but there’s nothing to say that this won’t be discounted in the future – and if that’s the case, then you should snap it up. It doesn’t quite beat the Pioneer for value, but it’s still absolutely superb.
See the OPPO UDP-205
What We Like: Audio quality.
What We Don’t: Price - and no 4K.
“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 just 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. one thing that we’d like to see improved is the amount of information that the front of the unit displays, something that a good app might help with, but for now, this remains a solid top five performer but 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 CXU
What We Like: OPPO’s tech at a reasonable price.
What We Don’t: Nothing much.
We’re always a little bit nervous to put two variations of the same model on the same list. After all, surely they are simply iterations of each other? We decided to do so here, because OPPO’s technology and simplified player line are just brilliant.
There are minimal differences between the two in terms of spec sheets – the principal one is that you lose out on the twin analogue inputs from the 205. Somewhat more fundamentally, we thought the 205 offered slightly better and crisper picture when we tested it, although the difference is minimal. Ultimately, you could go for the 203 quite happily, and get just about everything that you’d choose an OPPO for. That includes a full smorgasbord of features, including good 4K capability and WiFi, as well as access to OPPO’s fantastic user interface. It’s well worth a look.
See the OPPO UDP-203
What We Like: Amazing audio quality.
What We Don’t: Not a lot!
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.
One of the things we really liked about it is a fairly unusual feature: a Bluetooth out, which means it’s entirely compatible with Bluetooth headphones. Visuals-wise, it works extremely well, too, with 4K upscaling putting a real shine on the picture. It’s got real energy in life, with an excellent treatment of colours that will flatter any TV you hook it up to. While it’s not going to measure up to the quality of the OPPO or Pioneer models, it’s still an excellent machine – and, as a bonus, the build quality is superb. 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 UHP-H1
What We Like: Terrific price and solid functionality.
What We Don’t: Samsung have better players, but they are harder to find - see below.
Samsung are something of an oddball here. They make some excellent players, but they can often be difficult to find new online - meaning we struggle to justify ranking them higher. All the same, the twin models on this list (the UBD-K8500 is below) are more than worth your time. This unit might not have 4K and 1080p, but it more than makes up for it with some excellent functionality.
There's full 3D capability and WiFi streaming, and it upscales beautifully. It also has 7.1 Dolby encoding, and full streaming access that allows you to get Netflix and the like on the fly. Ultimately, this is the ideal player to get if you have a Samsung smart TV, as they integrate beautifully. Despite being tough to find, and despite Samsung's lacklustre promotion, it's still worth a spot on this list - along with its cousin below.
See the Samsung BD-J7500
What We Like: Quick loading times, well priced.
What We Don’t: Annoying remote.
Although the UBD-K8500 has a somewhat annoying remote and no display to speak of, 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. We also really like the curved design - curvy TVs might be passé, but this still looks terrific.
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. It’s one of the cheapest Ultra High Definition players available, and we’ve seen it fluctuate in price, too, so don’t worry if it’s a little too expensive for your liking right now.
See the Samsung UBD-K8500
What We Like: Superlative build quality and design.
What We Don’t: 4K loads slowly, needs a little tuning to get the best out of.
This is certainly one of the best-looking players on the list. The black, monolith-like design is impressive, and we really like the subtle design highlights. It’s also built like a tank. That being said, we don’t think the quality is enough to punch it into the upper echelons of this list, although it still deserves a place on it.
One of the unfortunate realities of the Blu-ray business is that it's dominated by a few companies – a fact but you only need to move up and down this list to confirm. What that means is that there are several features the standard throughout the industry, and you definitely get most of them here. 3D functionality, WiFi streaming, Bluetooth, even 4K – although it loads crazy slowly, so be warned. You’ll also need to spend a little bit of time calibrating and tuning the system to your liking. Essentially, this is far from the easiest or most effective player on the list – but we still think it does a good job, and at a relatively good price.
See the Sony UDP-X800
What We Like: Sound quality, good range of features.
What We Don’t: Outdated operating system.
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 handles 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 a sure lock on this list for the foreseeable. We’ll be quite interested to see if Panasonic manage to get more models onto here; they know what they’re about when it comes to Blu-ray, and we think they got more than enough engineering know-how to challenge the other companies on this list. Watch this space.
See the Panasonic DMP-BDT370
What We Like: Great features for the price.
What We Don’t: Not exactly premium.
One of our picks last year was the Sony BDP-S3200, which we thought ticked every box for entry-level players. 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. 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.
It's got an absolutely phenomenal range of features for the money you pay, including 1080P, WiFi, 4K upscaling and 3D compatibility. It’s unlikely that this is going to trouble the really big dogs on this list, but if you have a simple need for a good Blu-ray player but offers a lot of features at a good price, then we’d suggest taking a very long look at the S6700. Will be curious to see where Sony goes from here – Blu-ray’s future is a little bit uncertain, thanks to the advent of streaming, and it will be up to big companies to figure out where they want to go, and to innovate.
See the Sony BDP-S6700
11. LG BP550 ($112)
What We Like: Good interface.
What We Don’t: Lacks quite a few features.
Despite its low price, this is at the top of the range of LG’s BP series, and is surprisingly fully featured for the money you pay. This includes WiFi, and 3D capability, which is a pretty cool addition for something that costs less than $100. Paired with a decent TV, this should do you nicely.
We love the streaming functionality, which gives you access to Netflix and Hulu, among others, and it has 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, and will give you a wealth of features that we know you’ll get a lot of use out of. In addition, it’s got a surprisingly small form factor, unlike some of the beasts at the top of this list.
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.
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 will play just about any format you care to put through it, although the technical specifications on the product page don’t list things like 3D, and the company didn’t respond to our queries about this. Still, who cares? Something tells us that if you got the money to spend on a player like this, you probably are going to be watching the 3D version of Smurfs. And yes, 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||$112||1.9lbs||10.6" x 7.7" x 1.7"||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Sony BDP-S6700||$100||3 lbs||11.9" x 10.9" x 2.8"||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Panasonic DMP-BDT370||$107||2.65lbs||17" x 16.3" x 7"||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Sony UDP-X800||$298||8.7lbs||14" x 7.3" x 1.8"||No||Yes||No||No|
|Samsung BD-J7500||$205||3.75lbs||17" x 8" x 1.8"||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Samsung UBD-K8500||$246||4.19lbs||16" x 9" x 2"||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Sony UHP-H1||$298||7.5lbs||16" x 13.8" x 3/5"||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|OPPO UDP-203||$549||16lbs||16.9" x 12.2" x 3.1"||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Pioneer BDP-LX58||$987||21.8lbs||17.1" x 13.3" x 4.7"||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|OPPO UDP-205||$1,299||30lbs||22" x 19" x 9.5"||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Cambridge Audio CXU||$800||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.
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.