Sony PS3 Super Slim ($205)
We know the PlayStation 4 has already launched, as has the Xbox One, but Sony’s third incarnation of its popular video-game console will still reign supreme in the living room until the next-gen consoles catch up in terms of available content. Aside from being a formidable tool for playing heralded games such as Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us, among others, the console remains equally-capable device for playing Blu-ray discs nearly a decade after its initial debut. Although the Super Slim version of the console is noticeably more bulky than standalone Blu-ray players, it’s warranted given the coupled feature set. The device packs a notable lineup of quality programming —standouts include Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and EPIX to name a few — and avid football fanatics who posses a DirecTV subscription and NFL Sunday Ticket can even opt for the NFL Sunday Ticket app. Regardless of the media input, audio-visual performance remains high, and the newest incarnations of the software tout storage capacity toppling 500GB should in case you worry about the sheer amount of downloadable content at your disposal.
Content looks terrific in glorious 1080p, whether its natively HD or simply upsacaled from standard-def, and the device also supports a myriad of video formats to reduce transcoding video when using the Java-enabled PS3 Media Server on your Mac or PC. Aside from limited video contenders, the crux of streaming on the PS3 still lies within the navigational woes inflicting those who’d rather stick with the gaming control instead of purchasing a dedicated remote. It’s not incredibly difficult to use the bundled controller, especially if you’re an avid gamer, but a traditional remote is always welcome if you plan to primarily use the device strictly for its Blu-ray capabilities. Alas, there will always be more proficient Blu-ray players and media streamers on the market, but the PS3 remains a catch-all if you have the slightest inclination to game on a modest budget.
The best part: Price and gaming capabilities.
LG BP730 ($200)
The LG BP730 doesn’t flaunt dual HDMI ports, analog audio outputs, steel chassis, or other high-end home theater components, but it does still give high-end players a run for their money in terms of loading times and overall performance speeds. Aside from the standard ability to play Blu-ray discs, upscale DVD content, and accurately showcase 3D movies, the gloss-black device comes equipped with an NFC sticker for connecting the player to an NFC-enable smartphone with a single tap. Once properly synced with LG’s AV smartphone app, users can quickly share videos and music from the compatible device, use it as a remote control, or even activate wireless, headphone-based playback for listening to audio content without disturbing those around you. NFC support is by no means necessary, especially considering the player provides full DLNA functionality for remotely accessing your PC or network drive, but we can’t help applaud the addition either way.
As far are as BP730’s innate streaming-media library goes, LG’s bundled list of apps is fairly exhaustive and nearly unparalleled by other players on our list. Premium services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLB.tv, and Spotify are readily accessible from within the cluttered interface, as is Facebook, Twitter, Dailymotion, Google Maps, Accuweather, and a swath of other lesser-known apps. Performance speeds are superb, specifically when referring to disc-load times, but it does tend to falter in execution when it comes to loading certain apps such as Netflix. That’s not to say it doesn’t load the app, it can just take longer than expected. Overall, the BP730 is a streamlined device, built with a healthy selection of apps and unique features setting it apart from the competition — even if do fall shy of the mark on occasion.
The best part: Performance speed and hard-to-find apps.
Samsung BD-F5900 ($130)
Clad in a gloss-black exterior and semi-rounded design, the Samsung BD-F5900 remains one of the most affordable — and downright terrific — Blu-ray players to ever make our best-of list. The device supports full-HD 1080p playback and 3D capabilities, and comes equipped with a robust smart hub for instantly accessing your favorite apps, photos, video, and other Web content from directly within the main interface. Performance is remarkably quick, whether powering up a melange of disc-based media for the first time or using the device’s screen-mirroring capabilities (aka AllShare Cast) to share smartphone or tablet content on the big screen, and the player even touts tailored recommendations and a CD-ripping option for duplicating your favorite MP3s from a USB stick. The latter feature often proves to be more trouble than it’s worth given its clunky execution and rather slow speed, but it’s a welcome addition all the same.
The BD-F5900’s tiled, on-screen interface is attractive and easy to navigate, while offering options for accessing apps like Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Facebook and a wealth of other content available through the device’s main interface panel. Image quality is superb and on par with that of similarly-equipped devices, while showcasing an image relatively free of digital noise and distractions. The device is also lightweight and compact, weighing at just over a pound and measuring 14.2” x 7.7″, and comes with a convenient, shortcut-lined remote for accessing all your favorite content sans the equipped circular control panel located on top of the box. The device requires a bit more power than most Blu-ray players at times, especially when utilizing the 0.5-second Quick Start mode, but it’s difficult to argue with the device’s sterling speed and accompanying app suite.
The best part: Performance speed and app selection.
Samsung BD-F7500 ($250)
Samsung’s BD-F7500 may straddle the line between high-end performance and low-end functionality, albeit while making several compromises in the process, but sometimes moderation is the key to success. Outfitted with a silver-coated metal band and a gloss-black exterior, the device features Blu-ray playback, 4K upscaling, and 3D capabilities on par with similarly-equipped offerings on our roundup. It touts dual HDMI outputs akin to Oppo’s BDP-103 and 105, along with an Ethernet port, USB port, and a 7.1-channel analog audio outputs, and features the company’s patented AllShare Play for wirelessly mirroring media content from your PC, Samsung smartphone or otherwise compatible device. The bundled app collection includes freemium offerings from Facebook and Twitter, as well as those from the usual premium services such as LOVEFiLM, Netflix, and YouTube.
Like other Samsung offerings, the BD-F7500 also exhibits the company’s S Recommendation feature, a tool that makes personal content recommendations exclusively based on various metadata components gathered from your viewing habits. Loading times are average, whether launching an app or playing a disc, but the device’s Quick Start Mode is capable of booting up the player in less than half a second. Moreover, the device also revels in excellent DLNA capabilities for linking the player with your PC or another networked drive, with pin-sharp image quality showcasing well-saturated colors and high contrast levels. Unfortunately, the player is is known to draw more power than most Blu-ray players, but it’s nothing compared with a refrigerator or other home appliance. In a nutshell, the BD-F7500 is a well-rounded device, loaded with features and few extra high-end components only typically found on models twice as expensive.
The best part: Input, output, and app selection.
Microsoft Xbox One ($500)
The next-gen console wars are upon on us. The PS3 is a fantastic Blu-ray player in its own right, as is the recently-launched PlayStation 4, but Microsoft’s latest gaming rig takes the crown as the ultimate media hub given its robust cable box interconnectivity, innate Blu-ray functionality, and intuitive navigation. It’s a bulky device, designed with a sleek mix of matte and gloss black, and equipped with hefty power brick and touch-sensitive buttons. The player handles mastered Blu-Ray discs with relative ease once users download the required, freemium software, and navigating the device is as simple as saying one of the many Kinect-approved command or picking up the bundled controller. As with most streaming devices on our list, the Xbox One features select media content from Netflix, Vudu, and Hulu Plus, along with access to Amazon Prime, Twitch, Machinima, Red Box Instant, and an assortment of other desirable content (assuming you’ve opted for the premium services).
The Xbox One is, first and foremost, a gaming console, despite it’s terrific media features. Soon-to-be blockbuster titles like Titanfall and the forthcoming Destiny may still be on the horizon, but there remains a handful of quality launch titles to choose from at launch (i.e. Forza Motorsport 5 and Dead Rising 3). Additional system perks include unparalleled access to NFL content, seamless multitasking, and the device’s overall smooth performance. Blu-ray functionality is one the console’s many features, and though the box is currently a costly investment, it’s only poised to become better given time and a little breathing room. Check out our in-depth Xbox One review for a closer look at Microsoft’s new foray into your living, or alternatively, take a gander at our equally-laudable PlayStation 4 review for some insight on the competition.
The best part: Gaming capabilities, cable integration, and multitasking performance.
What do you think of our picks for the best Blu-ray players? Which device do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments below.