Buying a Blu-ray player can be complicated, but we are going to simplify things for you so that you can find the right player for your system at the right price. Here are some resources that you might find helpful if you are doing research on what player to buy next.
Adrienne Maxwell reviews Sony's UBP-X800, a universal Ultra HD Blu-ray player that supports SACD/DVD-Audio playback, offers Bluetooth audio output, and features streaming services like Netflix, VUDU, and Amazon Video.
Samsung's 2015 Blu-ray lineup includes four models: the BD-J5100, BD-J5700, BD-J5900, and BD-J7500. All four players include access to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, VUDU, YouTube, and Pandora,...
As you may have heard, Pioneer is regrettably exiting the plasma HDTV business, those gorgeous KUROs will be missed. But gladly Pioneer is still producing Blu-ray players and have recently introduced two new models, the BDP-320 and the less expensive ($299 MSRP) BDP-120.
Some of the differences between the players are subtle, for example each is BD-Live compliant, though the BDP-320 has 1GB of memory integrated into the machine. The BDP-120 has packaged a separate 1GB USB Flash Drive in the box.
Profile 1.0 provided playback and basic interactive features. Profile 1.1, (also called BonusView), players added the capability for displaying Picture-in-Picture (PIP) and playing secondary audio tracks available on BonusView discs.
When powered down, the simple description of the Pioneer BDP-320 is "black box." The only distinguishing mark is the silver Pioneer on the upper left. Turn it on and the effect is still subtle with a soft blue power light below the front loading tray in the middle of the player.
The software tied to the LAN port allows the player to connect to movie studios' Internet sites to download BD-Live content. But you cannot tap into your home media network with this Ethernet port nor does this player offer any links to Internet content providers like Netflix.
I especially want to access my photos from my home network and I wish the BDP-320 had that ability. Of course, with the new crop of TVs that have integrated networking capabilities, the need to pipeline through an intermediary like a Blu-ray player becomes less of an issue.
Other than that, the layout is sensible, I definitely like that the remote has dedicated buttons for the Tools and Video Adjust menus, which allow you to make some basic tweaks to the player without stopping the DVD.
The EPA is now publishing a list of ENERGY STAR qualified TVs. (You can find it here.) But the EPA is still in the midst of setting testing procedures for the Version 2.0 ENERGY STAR Audio/Video Specification, which includes devices like Blu-ray players and AV receivers.
As soon as I turned the power off, the meter plummeted to 0W and it didn't waver. This no power state is what a "green" standby should be, especially since Blu-ray players are almost always turned Off. Why should they be drawing any electricity?
The one drawback to this zero standby state is that the BDP-320 does take a bit of time to power up. For example, even with the Transformers Blu-ray already loaded, after powering on the unit, it still took about one minute forty seconds for the movie's menu to appear. I suggest that you gather your snacks while the player is booting up.
Blu-ray technology is still emerging and that's reflected in the constant firmware updates common to almost every player. Luckily, because the BDP-320 has an Internet connection, you can download firmware updates from Pioneer's website. The process is fairly painless and took less than ten minutes.
If you are plugging the BDP-320 into its own dedicated HDMI connection on your TV, then I would recommend that you leave these adjustments at their defaults and do all of your tuning on the TV itself. If you're not satisfied with your TV's results than work with the Blu-ray player.
Another scenario where you might resort to tweaking the player is when you are feeding a number of different sources into an A/V receiver and it is sending only one output to the TV. Then you would adjust your TV to match the signal coming from your cable box through the receiver. Now, if you want the BDP-320's output to look good, you may need to adjust the player's video controls.
If you have an outboard video processor like the DVDO Edge, then you can set the BDP-320 to Source Direct, (in the Output Video Resolution sub-menu), and the player outputs the raw video in the resolution recorded on the disc. Then the outboard processor does all the heavy lifting.
My first impression of the Pioneer BDP-320's performance was stunning. And after using this Blu-ray player for awhile, my assessment remains the same. The audio and video output of Blu-ray discs is impeccable.
Remember that BD-Live is accessed from a movie studio's website through the Blu-ray player's Internet connection. As I have been testing other Blu-ray units, I am realizing that BD-Live content is a bit of a moving target that is often harder to hit than that bull's eye behind an unblinking Angelina Jolie in Wanted.
I'm not a huge fan of the BD-Live feature. But since I have a library of almost 300 standard definition DVDs, what is much more important to me is how well a player can upscale SD content. The video processing muscle of the BDP-320 does a yeoman's job of making SD DVDs look as good as possible.
I just wish that we could skip past this phase in the Blu-ray product cycle where manufacturers feel they need to charge a premium for their players and studios for their discs. The high definition Blu-ray experience is simply too sumptuous and I don't relish the notion that people are priced out of it.
I'm glad to find the street price of the BDP-320 at a little over $300, which in the current marketplace is good value. I just can't wait for the day when I can find a Blu-ray player of this caliber under $200 then $100.
The new Essence Evolve II-4K is a HDMI v2.0b Multi-Channel Hi Res Audio DAC designed to extract the native LPCM multi-channel 24/192K audio from HDMI v2.0b sources such as 4K Blu-ray players, Apple TV4K and other 4K streamers, and 4K video games. It extracts the original LPCM hi res audio digital soundtrack and converts it to analog multi-channel audio for playback on your multi-channel audio system.
A combo HDMI hi res audio de-emebdder, low-cost, high-quality, multi-channel PCM DAC that nets you 24/192 quality from lossless (DTS MasterHD, Dolby TruHD) and LPCM multichannel or stereo audio. This Evolve II-4K gives you the ability to use virtually any Blu-ray player with any legacy or current multichannel analog preamplifier, or preamp section contained in a receiver. And the results are amazing, given the price.
But figuring out what to hook up to an HD television is still far from a cakewalk as at least three different variations on the Blu-ray standard have emerged. Thankfully there is a simple answer, although it's not one that Sony likes to advertise: Buy a PlayStation 3. It's not only the most advanced technology, it's plain cheaper than getting a standalone Blu-ray player.
But Blu-ray also made the PS3 a key weapon in Sony's battle with Toshiba in the high-definition standards war. The first HD DVD player hit stores in April 2006. The first Blu-ray devices, manufactured by Samsung, didn't arrive until June. Sony's PS3 was released in November 17, 2006--a few days before the company's first standalone player. Back then, PS3 sales lagged behind the Xbox 360, which was released a year earlier. When Sony rolled out a $399 model this past holiday season, sales surged. And every one of those units packed a BD-Live-capable Blu-ray player.
Consumers who hung back until the format war ended, however, are still finding that they have to make choices. For starters, there are Blu-ray "profile 1.0" players, available via many online retailers, selling for as little as $300. The problem with these thrifty solutions is that they lack Ethernet ports, leaving them functionally orphaned. With no way to connect to the Internet, these devices can't receive firmware updates, effectively rendering them obsolete.
Every player made since November is based on the Blu-ray 1.1 technology. Available from a host of manufacturers, these range in price from $400 to $1,000 and feature the ability to view a picture within a picture. But don't expect them all to play the bonus material on BD-Live discs, which link up to the Internet for exclusive downloads of bonus documentaries, games or movie trailers. Some may be upgradable via an Internet connection, but Ethernet ports aren't standard. They'll also be hampered by a diminutive storage capacity.
That's where Blu-ray Profile 2.0 steps in. Both Panasonic and Sony have announced they'll release Blu-ray 2.0 players later this year that will be ready to play BD-Live content. The first Live-enabled discs, The Sixth Day and Walk Hard, are slated to be released next week by Sony Pictures. These players are expected to retail for at least $500 apiece.
But gamers still have the best option. The PS3, which starts at $399, includes Blu-ray 2.0 technology (well, after a firmware update). The "razors and razor blades" business model associated with home consoles--under which console manufacturers sell hardware at a loss so they can bank royalties from software sales--allows Sony to sell a BD-Live player disguised as a game machine for less than the stand-alone player.
Streaming services are fantastic but the standard of content you view can vary considerably depending on everything from your TV operating system to your broadband connection. If getting the best picture and sound quality is important to you then there is no substitute for playback from a disc and for the very best 4K Blu-ray players around.
4K Blu-ray players not only enhance your viewing experience, they can also support lossless object-based surround formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. But you'll need to partner it with either a compatible sound system and AVR or a soundbar capable of outputting immersive audio. 2b1af7f3a8