It upscales standard Blu-ray movies up to 4K. It supports high-end audio formats like DTS-HD and Super Audio CDs (SACDs).
There’s no support for streaming video apps like Netflix or Hulu, which is a pretty glaring omission at this price point.
Built-in WiFi and HDMI connection. AllShare Play allows streaming w/compatible devices. Slim design and easy setup. Affordable.
No power indicator light, which annoys some users. Occasionally drops WiFi connection.
It’s got a tiny, unassuming design and a rock-bottom price tag. It’s got apps for plenty of streaming services and can mirror your phone’s screen.
The lack of support for 3D movies and 4K upscaling will leave some users disappointed.
Small footprint. Works with a variety of technologies including Bluetooth and WiFi. Good streaming app collection.
Some issues with freezing up during streaming playback. Only offers 4K upscaling, not pure 4K resolution.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
While streaming video gets most of the glory these days, there’s still a lot to be said for Blu-rays – they deliver better audio and video quality, they’re ad-free, and you can keep them forever. Even better yet, everything gets released to Blu-ray eventually, so you don’t have to search through multiple streaming video subscriptions to find your favorite obscure TV show or movie.
Picking the right Blu-ray player can be a little tricky, however, because there’s a lot of confusing terminology and quite a bit of innovation. For example, some Blu-ray players will claim “4K compatibility,” which means they can be connected to a 4K TV but can’t play 4K Blu-rays. (Playing 4K Blu-rays requires a dedicated 4K Blu-ray player.) Other Blu-ray players include streaming apps for services like Netflix and Hulu, but still call themselves Blu-ray players instead of streaming boxes.
But fear not! We’re here to help clear up any confusion. Read on for our best advice for finding the perfect Blu-ray player, and check out our favorites.
Before you start shopping, take a moment to consider your own use case and how you plan on using your Blu-ray player. Start by answering these three questions.
Standard Blu-ray players play Blu-ray discs, which have a maximum video resolution of 1920 x 1080 (aka 1080p HD). In contrast, 4K Blu-ray players play 4K Blu-ray discs, which have a maximum video resolution of 3840 x 2160 (aka 2160p). If you own a 4K TV, you might want to buy a 4K Blu-ray player instead of a standard one so you can take advantage of every last pixel on your set. On the other hand, if you’ve got a standard 1080p HD TV, a Blu-ray player is the perfect match.
If you don’t own a streaming device or a smart TV, consider looking at Blu-ray players with built-in streaming video apps. Blu-ray players that stream videos offer the best of both worlds: the superior video quality of Blu-rays on disc with the convenience of streaming video, all from one interface.
If your Blu-ray player will live near your TV for most of its life, you can get a traditional Blu-ray player, but if you’re planning on watching movies in multiple places, get a portable one. Portable Blu-ray players usually have their own built-in screens, so they’re ideal travel companions.
A home theater fanatic’s dream
The Yamaha Aventage is no joke – it’s one of the most powerful Blu-ray players available, and it’s designed to support viewers with the most demanding needs. It’s got XLR audio outs for high-end audio systems, it can stream video straight from DropBox, and it even supports casting video from your phone or tablet (via Miracast). The Aventage is one of the priciest models around, but it’s also worth it.
All Blu-ray players have the same basic functionality: they play back Blu-ray movies. But past that, there are some features that set our favorite players apart from the rest.
3D Blu-ray support: If you’ve got a 3D TV, you’ll want to make sure your Blu-ray player can play 3D Blu-rays. 3D TVs are a bit of a rarity because TVs stopped including the feature after 2016, but many projectors continue to support 3D.
Streaming video and WiFi: Some Blu-ray players come with built-in WiFi and streaming apps for watching video from internet services like Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon Prime video. If you don’t have a streaming box already, or you just like the convenience of using one remote to control all of your media, look for a Blu-ray player with built-in apps.
Upscaling: Upscaling is the act of taking a low-resolution video source and stretching it (and in many cases improving it) to a higher-resolution screen. For example, most Blu-ray players can play back DVDs at their native 720 x 480 resolution but will upscale them to 1080p images for an HDTV. In some cases, a Blu-ray player can even upscale the 1080p image from a Blu-ray disc up to 4K resolution. Upscaling is great for making content look better, but just keep in mind that upscaling is an approximation. An HD movie upscaled to 4K will never look as good as the version found on a native-4K Blu-ray disc.
High-resolution audio support: If you’re a home theater enthusiast, or if you like playing around with different audio formats on your Blu-ray movies, you’ll want to make sure the Blu-ray player you buy supports all of the audio formats commonly found on Blu-ray discs. Most Blu-ray players cover the basic formats like Dolby Digital and DTS, but if you want to hear the high-resolution versions of your movie soundtracks, you’ll need one that can play back DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, and DTS:X. (Keep in mind that you’ll need either a high-end soundbar or a proper surround sound system to play back high-resolution audio formats.)
If you’re buying a Blu-ray player that also has streaming video, consider how you’re going to connect it to your local network. Most include built-in WiFi, but if you want the fastest connection available (and no buffering), get one that also includes Ethernet ports.
If you want a Blu-ray player for a laptop or computer, you’ll need an external Blu-ray drive. These are different from traditional Blu-ray players because they connect via USB to your computer and can’t connect to a TV or monitors. They’re slightly more expensive, too, mostly because they’re usually also burners that can back up your data to blank discs.
Blu-ray movies often include audio in a variety of formats, for example, standard Dolby Digital and “high-resolution” formats like Dolby TrueHD (which might not be supported by your TV or soundbar). But not all Blu-ray players support all the formats found on Blu-ray discs. If you have a system that can support high-end audio formats, make sure the player you buy can play those back.
Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $200 for a traditional Blu-ray player. Pricier models include features such as 3D support and multiple connectivity options. That’s one of the reasons why we like the Sony Streaming Blu-ray Disc Player so much. It has a nice feature set, especially for streaming video, yet its price hovers close to the $100 mark.
For an Ultra Blu-ray player, you should expect pay $200 to $500. But again, more features equals a higher price.
A Blu-ray player that’s also a streaming box
The LG BP550 is a fun Blu-ray player because it’s got so much packed inside. It’s got WiFi and apps, so you can stream video from your favorite online services, it’s DLNA certified, so you can stream videos from a local file server, and it’s incredibly affordable. But the best part is that it’s got a private listening feature, so you can stream audio from any disc straight to your smartphone using LG’s innovative proprietary app.
Buy cables ahead of time. Blu-ray players typically connect to TVs using an HDMI cable. Some players include HDMI cables in the box, but in general, we don’t advise using those. Manufacturer-supplied cables are often poorly made or prone to problems. When you’re buying your Blu-ray player, be sure to pick up an HDMI cable while you’re at it, and if you’re planning on integrating an external audio solution (like a soundbar), get two.
Avoid refurbished Blu-ray players. The refurbished market for Blu-ray players is active, but we advise avoiding it. Refurbished Blu-ray players offer a discount from retail prices, but the fact of the matter is that you don’t know where they’ve been. Some refurbishers will painstakingly restore electronics, while others will only make sure they power on before repackaging them for sale. Play it safe: when it comes to Blu-ray players: nothing beats new.
If you’ve got a lot of Blu-rays and DVDs from foreign countries, you’ll need a Blu-ray player that’s region-free so it will be able to read them. Our favorite region-free Blu-ray player is the LG BP175 because it’s so straightforward. It can play any Blu-ray from any country, it can upscale standard DVDs to full HD, and its tiny footprint allows it to fit just about anywhere. If you need the perfect player for your Bollywood collection or just an affordable player that will play anything, this is the one to get. If you’re looking for a Blu-ray player that can upscale standard HD movies to 4K, we recommend the Samsung BD-J6300. It’s exceptionally good at making HD resolutions look good in 4K, it’s got built-in streaming video apps, and it supports 3D Blu-ray movies. This is the player that really has it all, including a wired Ethernet port. If you want one that spares no expense, this is the Blu-ray player to buy.
Q. Can I use a Blu-ray player with an older TV that doesn’t have an HDMI input?
A. Yes, but you’ll need an adapter. Blu-ray players are designed to use HDMI cables to connect to TVs, but in instances where your TV doesn’t have an HDMI input, you can get an HDMI-to-RCA converter, which will translate the signal to an interface older TVs can work with. Adapters typically run anywhere between $15 and $50 and are usually easy to set up. Just keep in mind that you’ll see some quality loss with older TVs, so your movies might not look as good as they could.
Q. What are the differences between Blu-ray players and 4K Blu-ray players?
A. Blu-ray players are made to play back standard Blu-ray discs, which contain movies in HD resolution (1920 x 1080). 4K Blu-ray players are made to play 4K Blu-ray discs, which contain movies in 4K resolution (3840 x 2160). 4K Blu-ray players are backwards compatible, so they can play standard Blu-ray discs. Traditional Blu-ray players cannot play 4K Blu-ray discs.
Q. If I buy a Blu-ray movie, do I get a digital copy of the movie, too?
A. Usually. Most retail Blu-rays include special codes so you can go online and register for a downloadable or streamable copy of the movie. In most cases, you’ll be asked to pick a service to download the movie from, like Google Play or iTunes, but we recommend using download codes with Movies Anywhere. With Movies Anywhere, you can connect your streaming accounts from multiple platforms and redeem your movie codes across all of them. For example, if you buy a Blu-ray with a download code and redeem it with Movies Anywhere, you can then stream the movie from Google Play, iTunes, or even VUDU (without having to settle for just one platform).
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