Guide to buying a Blu-Ray player: prices and features

Blu-Ray players are essential devices for reading this type of video media, without sacrificing the graphic quality that only Blu-Ray Discs are able to ensure. However, they can also be used to read DVDs and CDs, with resolution qualities ranging from Ultra HD to Full HD and 3D, available only on the most advanced high-end models.

Blu-Ray: what it is and how it works

Developed in 2006 by Sony, the technology company that also makes the Playstation gaming console, Blu-Ray is a hard drive capable of storing a large amount of data, up to a maximum of 128GB for 4-layer discs.

How to choose a Blu-Ray player

When choosing the best Blu-Ray player, you need to consider several technical aspects, features and functions to determine which model is best suited for your needs. Almost every Blu-Ray player reads DVDs, so any device can play both media without any particular difficulty. At the same time, there is a galaxy of video formats available on the market, so it is necessary to carefully evaluate the compatibility of the device before buying it.

Formats supported by Blu-Ray player

Most Blu-Ray players offer basic media, present in both high-end and budget models. For example, the AVI, MKV and MP4 formats, which can be played on any player on the market, with Full HD 1920×1080 pixel resolution. On the contrary, some formats are less common, since they require high technical characteristics, so they are usually only compatible with the most advanced top-of-the-range devices.

Including the Blu-Ray 3D player, which can read three-dimensional multimedia files, an innovative technology that has only appeared in recent years. To see a movie in 3D you absolutely must buy a high quality machine, also it is essential to have one of the best Smart TVs with compatible functionality. Equally evolved are the 4K Blu-Ray players, which offer a resolution 3840×2160 pixels Ultra HD, support not present on the traditional standard models, to be connected to the TV with a special HDMI 2.0 cable.

Another type of format is HDR, High Dynamic Range, capable of ensuring a wide and deep color spectrum, among the best currently available in video playback. Depending on the brand and the device, different HDR formats may be supported, the most commonly used of which are HDR10 with 10-bit encoding, HDR10+ with dynamic color balance, HLG used by some companies for movies and Dolby Vision, with 12-bit encoding and active color management, a sort of evolution of the HDR standard.

Video Quality Upscaling

An important feature for modern Blu-Ray players is upscaling, the device's internal ability to deliver higher quality than native. Although not always accurate or reliable, this system is useful for increasing the resolution in older TVs, bringing it up to the Full or Ultra HD standard. Upscaling is present in many 4K Blu-Ray players, thanks to special algorithms within the software, which allow you to adapt the playback quality depending on the connected devices.

Audio on Blu-Ray players

In addition to video quality, audio also plays its part, making the experience complete and making the most of the Blu-Ray's graphic resolution. Again, many devices offer basic media, present on almost all models, including DTS and Dolby Digital, which guarantee a good audio performance. Some audio formats, however, are only available by purchasing a specific Blu-Ray player, often high-end, to reproduce the sound in Dolby Digital True HD or DTS-HD.

Connectivity between Blu-Ray and TV

Blu-Ray players are connected to the TV and screen via HDMI cables, but on some models there may be several outputs, to connect multiple devices at the same time, type 1.4 or 2.0. Both are compatible with the transmission quality of the UHD signal (Ultra HD or 4K), however HDMI 1.4 outputs have a speed of 30 fps, while HDMI 2.0 outputs have a speed of 60 fps. Other connectivity can be analogue outputs, coaxial audio outputs if your TV doesn't have an HDMI socket, or one or more USB ports to connect flash drives and external hard drives to the player.

Other Blu-Ray Player Features

In addition to the main features, Blu-Ray players can feature additional technologies and functions, which allow you to increase the applications offered by the device. For example, it is possible to find pre-installed apps, including Netflix, Spotify and YouTube, a web browser for internet browsing, the option to watch streaming TV channels, or compatibility with DLNA technology. The latter is a solution that allows file sharing with other peripherals, to play original content without violating copyright regulations.

Best cheap Blu-Ray players

In the market you can find several cheap models, with a price below 100€, including the LG BP250 Blu-Ray player, available with a cost of just 62€. The device has standard features such as 1080 pixel video resolution, 1 HDMI USB port, audio outputs Dolby Digital, Digital DTS and Dolby TrueHD, supports various formats such as AVC, MKV, MPEG4 and XVID, also can play normal DVDs and offers a warranty of up to 24 months.

Another device that allows you to save money is the Blu-Ray player Sony BDP-S6700, purchasable with a price of 99€, a cheap product but at the same time equipped with advanced features. For example, it possesses Smart 3D, 4K and DLNA compatibility, Bluetooth and wireless connectivity with USB and HDMI ports, an internal upscaling system, Ethernet network interface, a Dual Core processor and several pre-installed built-in applications, such as YouTube and Netflix.

Also good is the Panasonic DMP-BD84EG-K Blu-Ray player, a model that supports XVID, MKV, MP4, AAC, MP3 and many other formats. It has a USB 2.0 port and an HDMI interface, as well as several smart features such as the ability to connect it to the internet via Wi-Fi signal, it can also be used as a simple DVD player and is available at a cost of 60€. Finally, among the economic devices we point out the Pioneer BDR-209DBK, a Blu-Ray player for Windows PC, which at € 72 offers burning function up to 50GB with Dual Layer.

Best Blu-Ray players ever

As for the top of the range, spending over € 150 you can find the best Blu-Ray players available on the market, devices equipped with advanced features and innovative technologies, able to meet every need. Among them is the Sony UBPX700B, a 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray player with HDR support for 3D videos, Multi-room wireless connectivity, Bluetooth and NFC technology, a USB input and two HDMI ports, one of which is perfectly optimized for a very high quality audio, available at a price of 179€.

Equally appreciated is the Samsung BD-J5900/ZF Blu-Ray player, on sale with a cost of about 188€. This device is equipped with USB and HDMI ports, is compatible with DLNA technology, provides more than 250 pre-installed applications, can be connected to Wi-Fi via an Ethernet port, also integrates dynamic Full HD 3D support, and is connectable with the latest generation of curved Smart TVs, for excellent video playback.

Finally, a product of the highest level is the LG UP970, which can be purchased at a price of about 370€. This is a real exclusive model, a 4K Blu-Ray player of energy class A+, so it offers rather low consumption on the electricity bill, just 287 kWh per year. Technical specifications include a noise level of just 49 dB, native HDR Dolby Vision and HDR 10 support for extremely realistic images, two HDMI outputs, input for connection with Wi-Fi and Ethernet, USB port and compatibility with any Blu-Ray, DVD and CD.

Best External and Portable Blu-Ray Players

Some devices feature a small size and compact design, with a design specifically designed to watch videos on the built-in display on the go, or without a screen to use them as external Blu-Ray players for your PC. A popular model is the Pumpkin, a device with a 12-inch display, Full HD 1080-pixel support, USB port and HDMI output, Dolby Digital, DTS-HD and Dolby True HD audio encoding, a portable Blu-Ray player available with a retail price of €184.

Those who want to buy a device to use with the PC, for example to view Blu-Rays or burn DVDs, can opt for the Asus SBW-06D2X, featuring a speed of 6x for Blu-Rays, 8x for DVDs and up to 24x for regular CDs, with values for writing from 4 to 6x for any type of media. This device is also compatible with Blu-Ray 3D, also allows you to convert 2D videos in three dimensions, with a purchase cost of about 98€.

Another model of external Blu-Ray player is the Archgon Style, also with burner functionality, usable with both Windows and Mac OS PCs. The device is on sale at a price around 113€, with plug & play installation without drivers, an ultra-fast USB 3.0 port and BDXL writing technology up to 128 GB. It also offers compatibility with 3D video graphics, M-Disc support, an ultra-thin aluminum casing and a read and write speed for Blu-Ray of 4 to 6x, depending on the format used.