When looking for the best Blu-ray player for your needs, there are a number of things you need to consider. One of the biggest is whether to go for a standard BD player or take the plunge and buy one that can play Ultra HD 4K discs. While Ultra HD Blu-ray players are hitting the market, there is such a small amount of native UHD content available there’s still a compelling argument to be made for saving some money by purchasing a non-UHD Blu-ray player.
Outside of the the cost-saving arguments, there are still some good reasons to opt for a player that sticks to ‘standard’ Blu-ray discs. These are not first-generation players, they’re refined devices packed full of features such as loading times in single figure seconds, 3D Blu-ray playback, 2D-to-3D conversion, Netflix playback and other apps, streaming to and from smartphones and tablets, home networking.
Many of them will also upscale Full HD 1080p Blu-rays up to 4K resolutions as well, although this won’t quite match the quality of native 4K Ultra HD discs.
Here are 12 of the best Blu-ray players to help you make your buying decision:
1. Panasonic DMP-BDT160
3D and wired access to Netflix justify the price, but other apps are in short supply
Netflix & BBC iPlayer app
No 4OD or Demand
Just eight apps
The first Blu-ray deck on our list is the cheapest in Panasonic’s 2014 range but is still worth considering. Being priced higher than all other entry-level Blu-ray decks isn’t the negative it could be, but the DMP-BDT160 lacks WiFi which might be a problem for you because the optional WiFi dongle costs about £50, while the step-up DMP-BDT260 – which merely adds WiFi – costs just £109. But if WiFi isn’t important and you’re looking for the best quality images, and perhaps Netflix and BBC iPlayer for good measure, the DMP-BDT160 is a good option.
Read the full review: Panasonic DMP-BDT160
2. Cambridge Audio CXU
Quality over quantity from this high-end audiophile player
Hi-end video processing
Massive price tag
Limited app selection
With a recommended price of $1,299 (£899, AU$1,747) the Cambridge Audio CXU is by far the most expensive Blu-ray player on this list. It’s also got one of the smallest feature sets, lacking support for Netflix and other common apps. So why would we choose to include this Blu-ray player in our roundup? The answer is simple – it both looks and sounds better than anything else out there. This player will upscale both DVDs and standard Blu-ray discs to 4K with impressive results, and can even upscale audio to 24-bit/192kHz as well as handling a full suite of hi-res audio formats.
The Cambridge Audio CXU is definitely a player aimed solely at hi-end audiophile and home theatre perfectionists, but if the idea of quality over quantity of features sounds ideal to you then you can’t do much better.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio CXU
3. Panasonic DMP-BDT360
A great value performer with pin-sharp pictures and 4K upscaling
Excellent 4K upscaling
Lacks must-have apps
The DMP-BDT360 is a classic mid-range option that will suit owners of 3D TVs as well as those after some specific apps and Wi-Fi. A simple to control and impressive machine, the DMP-BDT360 is the cheapest Panasonic deck to offer 2D-3D conversion – which works well – and 4K upscaling, which also delivers impressive results. There’s an excellent treatment of digital files, too. The poor remote and a basic selection of apps are the downsides, but overall this future-proof deck is impressive and good value.
Read the full review: Panasonic DMP-BDT360
4. Panasonic DMP-BDT460
3D Blu-ray and Netflix with 4K photos and 4K upscaling
Excellent 4K upscaling
Basic user interface
If you’re after exacting picture quality and have the coming era of 4K firmly in mind, the DMP-BDT460 makes a great value choice. Spanning all the latest Blu-ray features but with its Viera Connect platform missing a few crucial apps, the DMP-BDT460 is a good value high-end choice for 4K home cinemas and photographers, too.
Attached to an Ultra HD TV the DMP-BDT460 spits out pristine upscaled Blu-ray images and pin-sharp 4K photos, while the inclusion of a couple of USB slots and a SD Card slot is handy, too.
Read the full review: Panasonic DMP-BDT460
5. Sony BDP-S1200
A great Blu-ray player but there’s no Wi-Fi here
Amazon Instant Video & Netflix
Ageing user interface
The budget Sony BDP-S1200 is that classic compromise between features and flexibility; it gives you most of the apps you need, but not all, and it lacks Wi-Fi. Its smart stuff could therefore be quite useless unless your router is near your TV. Apps for the BBC iPlayer, Demand Five, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are welcome, but some UK services were missing.
Sony’s SEN platform is cluttered and lacks some essential apps, while the provision of another layer of apps from Opera just adds confusion. The lack of a 3D mode might annoy those who have 3DTVs, too, but what Sony hasn’t skimped on is Blu-ray quality and digital file playback, both of which the BDP-S1200 excels at.
Read the full review: Sony BDP-S1200
6. Sony UHP-H1
“Sony’s latest media player is as much about the audio as the visuals”
Audiophile-grade music playback
Impressive 4K upscaling
Doesn’t support 4K UHD Blu-ray
It’s easy to enthuse about the UHP-H1, both as a Hi-Res Audio music player and a top-flight Blu-ray player. Image quality is outstanding, even when compared to first-gen 4K UHD Blu-ray players, and it sounds every bit the premium component.
Compared to rival players from Oppo, Cambridge and Pioneer, the UHP-H1 could even be construed as good value. If you’re not planning to jump on the 4K Blu-ray bandwagon any time soon, it’s well worth an audition.
Read the full review: Sony UHP-H1
7. Sony BDP-S6200
Dual core processing is the star on Sony’s flagship Blu-ray deck
Quality 2D & 3D Blu-ray images
Unimpressive 4K upscaling
Ageing user interface
Do you need Ultra HD 4K upscaling? Probably not, but we all know where this is heading. Your next TV will likely be an UHD TV, but by the time you buy it 4K upscaling will have gone to a whole new level than what the BDP-S6200 can muster. In which case we’re left with dual core processing (and so a speedier, though ageing user interface), a bigger physical footprint and unconvincing 4K upscaling as the only features that lift the BDP-S6200 beyond its cheaper sibling (above).
Comparisons aside, however, the BDP-S6200 has a decent smart TV apps package, excellent digital file support, and unquestionable quality in in both 2D and 3D Blu-ray disc playback.
Read the full review: Sony BDP-S6200
8. Samsung BD-F6500
Affordable and fun. Samsung took smart to a new level
Excellent picture quality
Slick operating system
Outdated remote control
This is Samsung’s flagship player from 2013 and it’s still worth a look as it’s now available for just over £100. It’s an attractive deck with a user interface that is a total delight. Its bright, contemporary GUI is a pleasure to use and makes setting up and multimedia playback an absolute doddle. The video on-demand portal is primed with just about the best selection of apps on any Blu-ray player. Picture performance is also bang on.
Read the full review: Samsung BD-F6500
9. Samsung BD-H6500
Multi-talented 3D Blu-ray player with dual core processing and 4K upscaling
Excellent user interface
4K files not played
Poor app organisation
Fast forward a year and we arrive at Samsung’s latest finest. For all the niceties of 4K upscaling, a wide choice of apps and digital file playback, it’s the dual core processing inside this good value 2D and 3D Blu-ray deck that most impresses. With a decent – if oddly organised – collection of smart apps and plenty of advanced features, the BD-H6500 makes a great mid-range option if you’re after a does-it-all deck that offers some future-proofing.
The 4K upscaling on the BD-H6500 is better than we’ve seen on the Sony BDP-S6200, but not as good as on Panasonic Blu-ray players like the Panasonic DMP-BDT460; either way, it’s not one of the many reasons to buy the BD-H6500.
Read the full review: Samsung BD-H6500
10. Samsung BD-H8900
An excellent does-it-all Blu-ray-playing Freeview HD recorder
Slow user interface
Key apps hidden
Just like Virgin’s TiVo box (though with one less TV tuner), the BD-H8900 lacks the processing power to truly be a breakthrough product. It’s the best value of Samsung’s two pricey Freeview HD recorders, but for all of its flexibility, 3D Blu-ray disc playback and excellent digital media-friendly design, the navigation and operation is a low-point.
So too is a muddled approach to key apps, with second-rate apps too high-up on Smart Hub and many catch-up TV apps hidden in an online store. Video quality is generally very good and digital file handling excellent. It’s not perfect, but for anyone after a catch-all solution without monthly subs, this is as good as it gets.
Read the full review: Samsung BD-H8900
11. Toshiba BDX1500
It’s no star performer but Toshiba’s budget player is worth considering
Good color & contrast
Slow user interface
And finally, can a 2D-only Blu-ray player with no hint of streaming video apps really cut it in the ‘smart’ market? It has no apps, no networking, the remote is poor and it can’t play 3D Blu-ray discs, yet there’s something about Toshiba’s bare bones BDX1500 – other than its low price – that we like. It’s not for avid streamers nor videophiles after the perfect picture, but as a small and easy to house disc spinner for a bedroom, the BDX1500 won’t disappoint.
Read the full review: Toshiba BDX1500
12. Sony BDP-S7200
This premium player from Sony punches well above its weight
Excellent picture performance
No nonsense minimalist design
Lacking some catch-up TV services
Tired user interface
The BDP-S7200 is a piece of kit with an external appearance that looks every bit as premium as the decent electronics contained within. It does an excellent job of upscaling content to a resolution of 4K, even surpassing the upscaling technology built into Sony’s own TV sets.
It might not have support for enough catch-up TV services to completely fill your needs, but when the image quality is this good it’s hard to fault the overall package. At this price it’s something of a bargain.
Read the full review: Sony BDP-S7200
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