Even with prices dropping, a good Blu-ray player will still set you back at least $250. You'll want to get the most for your hard earned cash. Here's a look at the hottest Blu-ray players on the market today.
Although the gap has certainly narrowed between the PS3 and the competition, the Sony PlayStation 3 is still the best Blu-ray player money can buy. Its shiny black, sleek exterior will look great in your equipment rack, and the Cell Broadband Engine will give you all the power you need.
You get all the key features like Profile 2.0 support, upgradeable firmware, built-in WiFi capability and Web browser, and the ability to decode all the high-definition surround sound formats. Plus you get quick load times, upgradeable firmware, and a pretty darn good video game machine.
One downside to the PS3 is that the remote operates using Bluetooth rather than the traditional infrared. This was presumably done so that the game controllers would not need 'line of sight' to communicate with the PS3 unit. This is a great idea for games, but for those hoping to use an infrared universal remote- not so much. This means that for movie watching, you'll either need to:
- Buy the Sony Blu-ray/DVD remote to control your movies
- Use the standard game controller (not recommended) OR
- Buy one of the infrared remotes such as the PlayStation 3 Blue Wave infrared remote that will plug into one of the PS3's USB ports.
I chose the third option and purchased the PlayStation 3 Blue Wave infrafred remote from Amazon.com I was able to download the codes into my Harmony universal remote and it works like a charm!
Caution: The biggest downside to purchasing a PS3 is that it cannot bit-stream the high-resolution audio formats to your home theater receiver for decoding. This is not a problem as long as you have a newer receiver with HDMI inputs. You'll need to decode the audio in your PS3 and pass it to your home theater receiver as uncompressed PCM. You cannot pass high-resolution audio via digital optical due to lack of bandwidth, and the PS3 does not have 5.1 analog outputs. This means that although you don't necessarily need a receiver that will decode high-resolution audio, you DO need one with HDMI. Otherwise you have two choices: upgrade your receiver, or choose from one of the other top performing Blu-ray players on the market.
The Samsung BD-P2500 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player provides excellent image quality on Blu-ray Discs, and is Profile 2.0 compliant which means it supports BD Live. It also has upgradeable firmware which aids in future compatibility, and gives Samsung the ability to provide dowloadable bug-fixes. It decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and adds the ability to bit-stream output if you'd rather decode it in your home theater receiver.
Another cool feature is the ability to stream Netflix movies in high-definition directly to your player. Disc load times are quite a bit slower than the PS3, so you'll have time to make the popcorn while waiting for the disc to load. There have also been some disc compatibility issues noted in some of the reviews I've seen. Hopefully, the upgradeable firmware will enable Samsung to remedy these issues quickly.
LG has long been a company to push the envelope with its products, and the LG BD300 Network Blu-ray Disc Player is no exception. The unit offers quick load times, full networking capabilities, (including Netflix streaming), and decent video quality. Its slick black exterior can best be described as 'simple elegance'. Like most LG products, it carries a premium price over some of the budget Blu-ray disc players.
The unit can output the advanced audio formats in bit-stream form, but its internal decoding is limited to the Dolby high-resolution formats. It will not decode DTS-HD Master Audio. Hopefully, LG will provide this decoding in a future firmware update.