Blu-ray players have come well past the “new technology” or “early adopter” phase and now it seems that everyone and their grandma has one. With the proliferation of Blu-ray players, the average consumer is now left to dig through a wide variety of players and price points from $50 to $500 and well beyond. We’ve assembled a guide to help you sift through the choices and find the Blu-ray player that fits you best. But first, it might help to take a look at what today’s Blu-ray player does.
Be sure to check our Blu-ray player reviews when you’re finished to help solidify your choice.
Why do I need a Blu-ray Player?
Let’s start by addressing the most common misconception about Blu-ray players. A Blu-ray player WILL play all of your old DVDs and CDs in addition to playing new Blu-ray discs. In fact, it will often provide better picture quality when watching DVDs than a basic DVD player. Blu-ray discs also have over 6 times the resolution of a DVD, meaning they will allow you to take full advantage of your HDTV. And Blu-ray discs are getting to be pretty inexpensive – you can easily find non-new release titles for less than $10. Finally, many new Blu-ray players have built-in internet apps such as Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, and Facebook. The bottom line is that Blu-ray discs look and sound better than DVDs, Blu-ray players have many built-in features that DVD players lack (we’ll get to that later), and DVDs are quickly going the way of the VHS and the dinosaurs.
How about this one? It’s such a great price!
Now that you have decided to buy a Blu-ray player (we hope), you need to choose which player suits you best. Don’t be fooled into thinking the $49 player works as well as the $99 player because the features on the side of the box are the same. Not surprisingly, we have noticed a direct correlation between price and quality. Bargain barrel players tend to load discs slower, have poor wireless cards, start up slower, have remotes that only work when directly in-front of the unit, and/or break more often. That doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a really expensive unit. For most people, that just means you don’t buy the cheapest one you can find. Have a read through our list below to see what features are available so you know what to look for.
What to look for in a Blu-ray Player
- WiFi – Most Blu-ray players selling for $100 (or more), should have WiFi adapters built into them. This is the easiest way to connect your player to the Internet and can work great for streaming video, so long as you have a good wireless connection. Ideally, the player will have “built-in wireless” as opposed to “wireless adapter included”. Wireless adapters take up a USB port on the player and can break off easily if they attach to the front of the player.
- iPhone/Android Control – Lost the remote? No problem. Many new players can be controlled via a smart phone or tablet. This is more of a “cool” feature rather than a “must have”, but there is one big benefit: Control via a phone or tablet uses the wireless network in your home; this means a Blu-ray player can be hidden inside a cabinet or out of sight if desired.
- Internet Apps – Almost every Blu-ray player that connects to the internet will have at least a few internet apps. The most common apps are Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, and Vudu. If you want to use other apps, like CinemaNow or Amazon Instant Video, you need to be more careful when buying a player because fewer models support these apps. Samsung, for instance, has a pretty sizable app selection because it provides an entire app store, just like your smart phone.
- Media Streaming/DLNA – DLNA compliant units can stream photos, music, or videos that are stored on a computer or network attached storage (NAS) device in your home. Some players will also include proprietary media sharing system as well. For instance, most Samsung Blu-ray players support “All-Share”, which allows you to stream content directly from a Samsung smart phone or tablet.
- 3D – Only Blu-ray players marked as “3D” will play 3D Blu-ray discs, so check for this feature if your TV is 3D compatible. Even if your current TV isn’t 3D capable, you may want to consider this feature if you think you might buy a new TV in the next few years.
- Various Audio Outputs – Don’t assume every player has analog, optical, and digital coax audio outputs. This consideration is most important for folks with sound systems that lack HDMI compatibility. You don’t need to worry about additional audio outputs if you plan to hook up your player directly to a TV. But, if you have an older AV receiver that lacks HDMI inputs, then you will want to make sure the Blu-ray player has audio connections that match up with the available inputs your older receiver. Additionally, some high-end players have great-sounding analog outputs for use with CDs, SACDs, and DVD-Audio discs.
- Dual HDMI Outputs – Dual HDMI outputs are a great feature for a few reasons. First, if you have a 3D TV, but your AV Receiver isn’t 3D compatible (but does support HDMI) then you can still enjoy 3D content by connecting one of the players two HDMI outputs directly to your TV, and connect the other to your A/V receiver to enjoy lossless surround sound. Second, should you want to connect two TVs to your Blu-ray player – perhaps send a signal to a TV in a bar or pool area – the availability of an additional HDMI output will make it possible to watch content on both your main TV and remote TV simultaneously.
- HDMI Inputs – HDMI inputs are only found on high-end Blu-ray players, but are an important consideration for some people. You will need to look closely to see exactly what the Blu-ray player can do with an HDMI input as models vary in this regard. Some offer this input simply as a convenient way to display content from a smart phone or video camera on your TV. Other units, like the Oppo BD-P105, can actually convert 2D signals to 3D so you can enjoy simulated 3D content on your TV or projector (the TV still needs to support 3D in this situation).
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge you need to make an informed Blu-ray player purchase, we have two final pieces of advice. 1) Try to stick to a reputable brand. 2) Plan to buy HDMI cables because they are rarely included with the player.
For even more help, check out our Blu-ray player reviews.