Blu-ray players

Blu-ray Player Buying Guide
Blu-ray Player Buying Guide
How to Be the Ultimate Player

Streaming movies and TV shows has become an increasingly popular pastime, but there are still good reasons to consider a regular or Ultra HD (4K) Blu-ray player. Standard Blu-ray players often cost less than $100, and most models now include the ability to stream from several popular online services, such as Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. Ultra HD players are still a bit pricey—about $400 or so—but more 4K content is becoming available.

Regular Blu-ray players are a good match for high-definition TVs, offering the best 1080p picture quality available. Most have built-in WiFi for connecting to your network. Some models still offer 3D capability if that is still of interest to you. For movies on the go, there are portable models that have rechargeable batteries. Some models come with AC and car battery adapters.

Consider a new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player if you have–or are thinking about–a 4K TV. An Ultra Blu-ray player—paired with a high-performing UHD TV—will provide the best picture quality available today. The models we’ve seen so far all support high dynamic range (HDR) content, which can greatly enhance contrast and provide specular highlights, such as the glint of sunlight off a metallic object.

All types of Blu-ray players can also play standard DVDs and CDs, so you can use one player for all your discs. Some models may support other types of specialized discs, such as audiophile SACDs.

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Shades of Blu

There are now two types of Blu-ray players, regular and Ultra. Here's how to choose.

Blu-ray Players

If you have an HDTV, we strongly recommend that you buy a Blu-ray player rather than a standard DVD player. You'll only pay a little bit more, and you'll get the improved picture quality that Blu-ray players offer. (And Blu-ray players also play DVDs and CDs.) You'll see the benefits of a Blu-ray player most on a 1080p HDTV, which can display all the pixels in an image, but you can appreciate the added detail on a 720p TV.

Some models include a feature called 4K upscaling, which means the player will take 1080i and 1080p content and upconvet it to quasi-4K resolution when used with a 4K UHD TV. (All UHD TVs will also perform this up-conversion, so it’s not an essential feature, but the Blu-ray player may do a better job.) However, there are now 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players that can present true 4K images with 4K TVs.

Blu-ray Player Ratings

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Players

A 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player is the way to go if you have, or plan to buy, a 4K UHD TV. These new players offer the best picture quality you can get today, with 4K (3840x2160) resolution—four times that of a standard Blu-ray player. These newer players also support a wider range of color, and high dynamic range (HDR) capability, which can greatly improve contrast between the brightest and darkest images. In addition to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, Ultra HD players will also play regular Blu-rays, as well as DVDs and CDs, and they can connect to streaming video services, such as Amazon Prime and Neflix, that offer 4K content. So far all the models we've seen support the HDR10 high dynamic range format, but it's possible we'll see models that also suport another type of HDR, Dolby Vision, in the future.

In addition to playing 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, all Ultra Blu-ray players will also up-convert standard HD Blu-rays to quasi-4K resolution, something the TV can also do.

Blu-ray Player Ratings
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Blu-Ribbon Features

Getting a Blu-ray player with all the right features will increase your long-term satisfaction and enjoyment.

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Playing Nice: Audio + Video

Audio/Video Connections
All Blu-ray players have HDMI outputs, which carry audio and video on a single cable to your TV or A/V receiver, simplifying connections. Regular Blu-ray players have HDMI 1.4 outputs, but newer 4K Ultra HD models have HDMI 2.0 outputs. Those that support HDR require HDMI 2.0a connections. Some players also have component-video outputs, which you might need for an older HDTV that doesn't have HDMI inputs. But players no longer send high-def signals from a Blu-ray disc through a component connection; they transmit HD only via HDMI. Some Blu-ray players may have composite (yellow, red and white) RCA connections for use with older gear.

In addition to HDMI outputs, many players also have digital optical or digital coaxial audio connections, or both. These support multichannel audio, as well as stereo. Some models may also offer stereo RCA connections for use with older stereo gear.

Video Streaming Options
An internet-enabled Blu-ray or Ultra HD player lets you enjoy streaming video on any HDTV; the TV itself doesn't need to have internet capability. Buying an internet-enabled player costs much less than buying a TV with internet access, yet it can provide you with access to the same content. Players are compatible with different video services, so make sure a particular model supports the movie services of interest to you. Offerings vary by brand and sometimes by models within a brand. (In fact, if you have an internet-connected TV that doesn't offer a streaming service you want, you might be able to get it by buying a different brand of Blu-ray player.) The available services could change over time if the player manufacturer makes different arrangements with video providers. If you plan to connect to the internet, determine whether you can deal with a wired connection to your home network or whether you want a player with WiFi capability; most models, these days offer it.

Audio Capabilities
All Blu-ray players support 5.1-channel surround sound, and many offer 7.1-channel audio from Blu-ray discs. Virtually all new Blu-ray players support high-resolution, multichannel audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, though some can internally decode those signals, while others pass them to a capable receiver for decoding. To enjoy Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD, you must use an HDMI connection, unless a player has an internal decoder and multichannel analog outputs.

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Blu-ray Brands

There are literally scores of brands of Blu-ray players across all categories, some very well known, and others much less familiar. Some manufacturers offer sets of various types, while others are known mostly for one type of Blu-ray product. While DVD players are still obtainable, they are decreasing in availability. Here’s a rundown of some of the major Blu-ray player brands you’ll encounter, listed in alphabetical order.

Denon offers a mix of moderate-to-high-priced consumer products, including universal Blu-ray players that can play SACD and DVD-Audio music discs. Its products generally offer advanced features, especially those that target audiophiles.
LG, now a major consumer-electronics brand, sells a full line of video players at a wide range of prices.
Marantz is a higher-end audio/video consumer-electronics brand that offers full-featured products in the middle-to-higher price ranges, generally with features targeting audiophiles. Many of its models are universal players that can play SACD, DVD-Audio discs and stream video.
Onkyo sells a mix of moderate-to-higher-priced consumer electronics, including 3D Blu-ray. Its products typically offer step-up features compared with more mainstream models. The company also operates a higher-end brand, Integra.
This smaller company now offers 3D Blu-ray players with advanced video-processing technology and 4K upscaling. All its Blu-ray players are "universal" models that can play all disc types, including SACDs and DVD-Audio music discs. Its products are Roku-ready, meaning they can accept an optional Roku Streaming Stick that plugs into the player's MHL-enabled HDMI input.
Panasonic is a top-tier consumer-electronics manufacturer in multiple product categories. Its various Blu-ray products have typically been midpriced and widely available.
Pioneer typically markets to the step-up consumer, particularly with its higher-priced Elite series, which generally has limited distribution.
Samsung is a top-tier manufacturer in several product categories. It's often an innovator, as it was one of the first to include a Blu-ray player in a home-theater-in-a-box system and among the first to offer a 3D-capable Blu-ray player with 4K upscaling for UHD TVs.
Sony is a major consumer-electronics manufacturer in many product categories and has a broad selection of Blu-ray products, including 4K upscaling models for its UHD TVs.
TiVo is the last remaining company selling stand-alone high-definition DVRs. It offers several models, and all require a monthly subscription fee. TiVo's interface is widely acknowledged for its ease of use, and it's licensed by some cable and satellite providers. TiVo DVRs have access to Internet content, including streaming movies and music from services such as Netflix and Pandora. Programs stored on a TiVo can be transferred to notebook, desktop PC, iPad, iPhone, and Android devices using the TiVo boxes and the TiVoToGo service. Networked TiVo DVRs also allow subscribers to enjoy multiroom viewing.
Toshiba has a full line of Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray players with 4K upscaling.
Yamaha, a brand long associated with music and entertainment, sells a midpriced line of 3D Blu-ray players.