There are dozens of Blu-ray players on the market. Telling the difference between them can be nearly impossible without some kind of giant chart. Even I lose track of what player has what feature after reviewing dozens of them.
However, all that time evaluating and testing has made it easy for me to know which ones are the best, and which fall short.
So here are the best, the ones that are really worth your money.
If you want the best Blu-ray player on the market, the Oppo BDP-105 stands alone. Building on their DVD player reputation, the Oppo BDP-105 does everything right. Blu-ray images are pixel-perfect, DVDs look better than any other player, and it plays anything you throw at it. It can scale content to 4K better than most 4K TVs do. It’s even easy to modify to play foreign titles (for films that aren’t released in the USA). The Oppo BDP-105 also streams content from Netflix, Vudu, CinemaNow, Pandora and Rhapsody. It’s one of the fastest players on the market today in loading and responsiveness.
It also has a killer feature that no one else does: HDMI inputs.
Have a cable box or streaming player in your system? Run it through the Oppo BDP-105 and you can use the Oppo’s advanced processing to get a better image. Even your high-end display probably doesn’t scale images as well as the BDP-105.
On the audio side, CDs, SACDs, and DVD-Audio discs have never sounded so good. Stereophile give it a Class A+ rating, even though the Oppo costs thousands less than most Class A+ devices. If you want to play music from your computer, even high resolution downloads, the Oppo BDP-105 has a USB input on the back. Plug your computer in and take advantage of its advanced audio stage.
If you don’t care about analog audio, Oppo has a brand new player for you: The Oppo BDP-103D. The BDP-103D retains the world-class video section of the Oppo BDP-105 but loses the high resolution analog audio section. It also costs half as much as the BDP-105. It also adds a new feature that no other Blu-ray player has (including the BDP-105): Built in Darbee processing.
HD Guru reviewed the DarbeeVision Darblet DVP-5000 and found it to work well with a variety of content. The largest benefits are from lower quality content like DVDs, TV, and streaming services. Now Oppo has taken the $300 DVP-5000 and integrated it into their player. Since the BDP-103D has HDMI inputs you can use the Darbee processing on two other HDMI devices. Of course you can use the Darbee processing on your Blu-ray discs if you want as well.
The regular BDP-103 loses the Darbee processing but saves you $100., However, I’ve yet to talk to someone that didn’t find Darbee useful. The full HD Guru review of the BDP-103D is coming soon, but if you don’t care about analog audio, it has a video section you can’t beat. $600 from Amazon.
The Sony BDP-S790 is the one player that comes close to matching the Oppo in performance. It has many of the high-end features other players do not: Dual HDMI outputs, 4K scaling, and even native resolution support for video processors. It also has a much larger variety of streaming content available than the Oppo: Hulu Plus, Amazon On Demand, and more. It can even do video calls with Skype if you want.
The Sony BDP-S790 also offers more control over the video processing than anyone besides Oppo. It does a stellar job with DVD scaling and streaming content. Your lower quality titles won’t look like a Blu-ray but they will look better than with cheaper players. A real value in a high-end player from the company that helped invent Blu-ray. $198 from Amazon.
If you want a good Blu-ray player with lots of streaming content, you want the Sony BDP-S5100. It has the essential features: Wi-Fi, Netflix, Amazon on Demand, 2D to 3D conversion, and even Sony’s proprietary streaming services. It’s also faster than most players and does a good job with DVD scaling. With most Blu-ray films the picture it produces will look identical to that of more expensive players. You could get the BDP-S3100 and lose the 3D support but you only save $1 in doing so.
With DVDs, foreign discs, and streaming content, the image won’t be up to the level of the more expensive players. It also lacks high-end features like 4K scaling, dual HDMI outputs or analog audio outputs, the interface isn’t as nice as the Oppo or players from LG, but the content selection and performance make it a stand out player this year. $89 from Amazon or from Best Buy for $89.99.
The best interface on a Blu-ray player belongs to the LG BP330. Unlike most companies, they keep it simple and make it easy to access your content. Playing a disc or getting to online content is simple with their new menu system. Other players might make you sort through a long list of online content but LG puts the most popular ones, like Netflix and Hulu Plus, front and center.
It doesn’t do 3D and it is a bit slower than the Sony players, but the interface is clean and simple while the image still looks good. LG has done the best job at making it easy to get to the content you. $86 from Amazon or from Best Buy for $89.99 .
If you don’t need WiFi, or want your Blu-ray player to be very compact, the Samsung BD-F5100 fits the bill. It still has as much streaming content as any player, but cuts off the extra features you may not need. There is no 3D, no wireless, and only a single HDMI output. It will, however, play back Blu-ray discs just fine.
None of the major vendors have models without built-in Apps this year, so giving up WiFi is the only way to save some money (presuming you don’t think you’ll ever use that feature). For a basic, effective Blu-ray player from a company with a good record of firmware updates and support, the Samsung BD-F5100 is a great choice. $68 from Amazon or from Best Buy for $69.99 .
Chris Heinonen @ChrisHeinonen
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