Blu-Ray Buying Guide 2010

jvc-blu-ray-player

Owning a 1080p HDTV without a Blu-ray player is a lot like owning a Camaro without ever getting past half throttle. You’ll never really know what it’s capable of until you put the pedal to the metal (or connect the HDMI cable, as the case may be). With Blu-ray players now as cheap as $100, you don’t have much of an excuse not to see what she can do. But not all Blu-ray players are created equal. Before you go out and grab the cheapest you can find, check out our quick and dirty guide to picking the best for your needs.

bd-liveBlu-ray Profile Support

As little as a year ago, Blu-ray buyers had to worry about “player profiles.” If you bought a Blu-ray Profile 1.1 player, you couldn’t take advantage of features on Blu-ray Profile 2.0 discs, like watching additional content from the Web. Fortunately, those hellish days of compatibility are pretty much over. Almost any player you can buy today (including those $100 models) supports the latest Blu-ray Profile 2.0 standard, also known as BD-Live. Old models are still floating around, though, so make sure to look for BD-Live support before buying.

blu-ray-compatibilityCompatibility

All modern Blu-ray players will play DVDs and CDs. But what about photos burned onto a DVD? What about DivX rips on a USB thumb drive? What about streaming Netflix movies from the Web? All these features can make a huge difference if you plan to use your player as a digital media hub and not just a Blu-ray player. Carefully check the spec sheet on your Blu-ray player to make sure it will play the files and formats you intend to use it with.

You can find a list of players compatible with DivX, CinemaNow, Pandora, DLNA and Netflix on their respective Web sites.

One form of compatibility consumers seldom consider until it’s too late is CEC: Consumer Electronics Control. This rarely-discussed standard allows the remote for one piece of equipment – like your TV – to control another piece of equipment – like your Blu-ray player – via the HDMI connection between them. Unfortunately, every manufacturer has its own name for the same technology (Samsung Anynet, Sony Bravia Sync, Panasonic Viera Link, etc.) and most of them aren’t compatible with one another. Check your HDTV to see if it offers CEC, and consider buying a Blu-ray player of the same brand if it does. We’ve found using one remote for both devices – often with on-screen menus to make it even more intuitive – extremely convenient.

Home Theater

What are HDMI ARC and eARC? Here’s how they can simplify your home theater

HDMI ARC is one of the coolest TV features at your disposal. But if you're like most folks, you have no idea how it works, if you even know what it is at all. Here's our primer on HDMI ARC, as well as the next generation technology, eARC.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

How to know if you’ve got great Dolby Atmos sound

Dolby Atmos surround sound has become the holy grail for home theater lovers who want the best possible sound from their systems. But getting Dolby Atmos isn't as straightforward as you might think. Compatibility problems between components…
Computing

Why limit yourself to one OS? Try one of these great virtual machine apps

Buying a new computer just because you want to utilize another operating system isn't necessary. Just use the best virtual machine applications to emulate one OS inside another, no matter what your platform or budget is.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Outdoors

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Home Theater

OLED or LED? We pick the winner in the battle of competing TV tech

The acronyms OLED and LED sound and look very similar, but the two technologies are vastly different in terms of engineering, performance, and capabilities. Which technology wins when you pit OLED versus LED in a TV?
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Music

The best new music this week: Josh Homme, Domo Genesis, and more

Are you looking for the best new music? Each week, we scour the internet to find the most compelling new releases just for you. On tap this week: Josh Homme, Domo Genesis, Eddie Palmieri, and Jacob Collier.
1 of 2