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AVS Forum's Top 7 Blu-ray Players

As far as source devices in your home theater are concerned, nothing is as good as a Blu-ray player and Blu-ray discs. These discs offer superior picture and sound quality over high-definition broadcast, cable, or satellite TV as well as all online streamed and downloaded content. Best of all, many Blu-ray players are well under $200.

 

The basic digital performance of most Blu-ray players is about equal—the differences lie in the analog-audio outputs (if any) and the feature set. All of them can play Blu-ray discs as well as DVDs and audio CDs and all the various recordable formats, but some also play the high-resolution audio discs known as SACD and DVD-Audio, which isn't important unless you're a diehard audiophile. Many players can also play 3D Blu-ray discs, and some of those players have two HDMI outputs, which is important if your AV receiver cannot pass 3D video information from the player to the TV. In this case, you connect one of the outputs to the receiver for audio and the other output directly to the TV for video.

 

Even though Blu-ray discs are the best available source of audio and video content, many people also like to access online-streaming material, perhaps because they don't have something on disc, or it's just more convenient sometimes. Many Blu-ray players include a suite of streaming apps that provide access to YouTube, Netflix, Vudu, and many other online providers. If this is important to you, make sure the player you're considering provides access to the online sources to which you've subscribed. To facilitate online streaming, many players provide WiFi as well as an Ethernet port, but I always recommend using a hard-wired Ethernet connection if possible because it's more reliable for media streaming than WiFi.

 

Another application for Ethernet and WiFi is streaming content from computers and other servers connected to your home's local-area network. In this case, the player needs to be compatible with the DLNA (Digital Living Network Association) standard.

 

All players can upscale lower resolutions, such as standard-def DVDs, to 1080p, and some do it better than others. And some players now provide upscaling to Ultra High Definition (UHD), which has a pixel resolution of 3840x2160—four times the number of pixels in conventional high definition (1920x1080). This is often called "4K," which is a marketing misnomer, but the term has stuck, so you will see often see "4K upscaling" touted as a feature. It's not important unless you have a UHD (4K) display, which already upscales HD to UHD, so I wouldn't worry about this particular feature.

 

The Blu-ray players in this buying guide were selected as the best models available in 2013 by consulting various review outlets such as CNET and Consumer Reports as well as AVS reviews and owner threads and a special call out to members for their top picks.

 

Panasonic DMP-BDT230 (MSRP $130)

 

This relatively inexpensive player is very highly regarded by many AVS members, and it offers many great features, including 3D, 2D-to-3D conversion, SD-card slot and USB port, many online apps, a web browser, built-in WiFi, DLNA compatibility, and Miracast, which lets you stream content from an Android mobile device. It's also a Consumer Reports Best Buy. But it has no analog-audio outputs (not a big deal in my book), and CNET's review reports that the player displays undefeatable ads while browsing for new apps.

 

Scott Says: That many AVS members can't be wrong, but beware of the extra ads.

 

 

 

Sony BDP-S5100 (MSRP $140)

 

At about the same list price as the Panasonic DMP-BDT230, the Sony BDP-S5100 is another AVS favorite among budget Blu-ray players, and it's also a Consumer Reports Best Buy—and according to CNET, it doesn't push unwanted ads at you. Otherwise, it has most of the same features, including 3D, 2D-to-3D conversion, USB port (no SD-card slot), many online apps, web browser, built-in WiFi, DLNA compatibility, and an iOS/Android app called TV SideCast that lets you stream content from an iOS or Android mobile device. Like the BDT230, the S5100 has no analog-audio outputs, but unlike the Panasonic, it can play SACDs. I've seen it online for as little as $80.

 

Scott Says: This is a superb budget-friendly Blu-ray player, especially at the deep discounts being offered these days.

 

 

 

Sony PlayStation 3 (MSRP 12 GB: $200, 250 GB: $250, 500 GB: $300)

 

Many gamers already have a PS3, and most of them realize they also have one of the most highly regarded Blu-ray players ever—in fact, the latest version is the only product in CNET's current list of best Blu-ray players. Now in its fifth generation—dubbed Super Slim—the PS3 is available in three configurations with 12 GB of solid-state storage or 250 or 500 GB of hard-disk space. That storage capacity lets you download movies, TV shows, and games from the PlayStation Store in addition to streaming from a variety of online sources.

 

The PS3 is a killer Blu-ray player with 3D, WiFi, DLNA, a web browser, USB ports, SACD playback, and an optional breakout cable with component-video and left and right analog-audio outputs. As in previous generations, there is no IR sensor for conventional remotes (its remote uses Bluetooth), and the Cross-Media Bar (XMB) user interface is definitely not my favorite.

 

Scott Says: If you're a gamer as well as a movie buff, the PlayStation 3 is a no-brainer—it's two of your favorite devices in one!

 

 

 

Sony BDP-S790 (MSRP $250)

 

Another fave among AVS members is the Sony BDP-S790. It offers all the features of the BDP-S5100 and adds several more, such as dual HDMI outputs, left and right analog-audio outputs (no multichannel 5.1 or 7.1 analog outs), Skype video chat with optional webcam, and UHD/4K upscaling. It also provides a special noise-reduction circuit that cleans up highly compressed online content. I've seen it online for as little as $175.

 

Scott Says: A fine player from a fine company, with lots of great features, especially dual HDMI outputs and noise reduction for online content.

 

 

 

Pioneer Elite BDP-62FD (MSRP $399)

 

This player has most features of the more-expensive Oppo BDP-103, including true universal playback of Blu-ray 2D and 3D, DVD, CD, SACD, and DVD-Audio along with a variety of audio and video file formats from a USB device or a LAN-connected server via DLNA. Also like the Oppo, it incorporates a Marvell Qdeo video processor. On the other hand, the Pioneer has no analog-audio outputs, nor does it provide UHD upscaling, and a WiFi adapter costs extra. Still, it's a great player, and it can be found discounted for as little as $200! If you have a compatible Pioneer receiver, the BDP-62FD incorporates proprietary technologies to enhance the quality of compressed audio and video.

 

Scott Says: If you want performance and features that mostly rival the Oppo BDP-103 for less, this is it—an especially good choice if you have a compatible Pioneer receiver.

 

 

 

Oppo BDP-103 (MSRP $499)

 

The BDP-103 is one of the few truly universal players that can play any shiny 5-inch disc you put into them, including Blu-ray (2D and 3D), DVD, CD, SACD, and DVD-Audio in addition to various file formats from a USB device or LAN-connected server via DLNA. It provides 2D-to-3D conversion, dual HDMI outputs, 7.1-channel analog-audio outputs, lots of streaming apps, WiFi, and UHD upscaling as well as HDMI and MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) inputs, which lets you connect other devices as additional sources. The Marvell Qdeo video processor is one of the best in the business, and a dual-core CPU makes for very fast load times. And unlike most Blu-ray players on the market today, it's built like a tank.

 

A new version of the BDP-103, called the BDP-103D, incorporates Darbee video-enhancement technology for $100 more than the base model. Darbee processing does a great job enhancing an already superb image, so unless you already have a standalone Darbee Darblet, the extra $100 is worth it.

 

Scott Says: As Blu-ray players go, the BDP-103 expensive, but it's just about everyone's favorite, and with good reason. In fact, it's my reference player.

 

 

 

Oppo BDP-105 (MSRP $1199)

 

This is the BDP-103 on audio steroids. It has all the features of the 103 with upgraded analog-audio outputs (including stereo XLR balanced outs) and an ESS Sabre32 DAC (digital-to-analog converter) that can also be applied to an incoming USB datastream.

 

Scott Says: If you're an audiophile for whom money is no object, this is the best of the best.

 

 

Comments (33)

Proud owner of the Oppo BDP-105. My dream player!
Great list.
As an audiophile for whom money is no object I opted for Lexicon's latest Blu-ray player, whose feature set is identical to an Oppo but which costs $3,000 more.

Just kidding. Being a gamer the PS3 has served me well. I have been looking for every opportunity to add an Oppo but I just can't justify it. I love the dual HDMI outs...and I have always wanted to play around with the Darbee....
I use the Oppo BDP-103. It does a great job and also serves up various media files from my NAS.

Candidly, I think it might be time for AVS to look at combo units that are not sold as Blu Ray players as they too can do extremely well on playing discs and serving up media. First that comes to mind are the Dune Media players (the models with the Blu Ray player included). Some reviews consider them as good or better than typical brand name players.
i Like my Denon 3313 it does the job nicely
I have to go with the Oppo103,but they are two other Panasonic bluray players are better than 230, I like 330 and BDT-500.
I second the thumbs up on the Denon DBT-3313. Great picture and sound, plays all formats. Expensive, yes, but worth it IMO.
Gimme a PS3 all day long.
PS3 is a great blu-ray player, if you don't sit close to it because they can get loud.
OPPO BDP-105. For BD and CD via XLR. Love it.
I have the Panasonic DMP-BDT321 and love it
Have an Oppo BDP-83 and later got a PS3 for gaming. Great picture on both, but I use the Oppo for Blu Rays because my older receiver has no HDMI inputs. I use the 7.1 analog inputs of my receiver. The analog audio is fantastic. No need for me to upgrade to anything newer as I am totally satisfied in what I got.
I have the Oppo BDP-103 & Sony BDP-S790, both are great players!
I'm really tempted to drop the money on a S790 but I already have a PS3. As such, I'm a little concerned there would be no discernible difference in PQ.
Which blu-ray player will remember my last 5 discs and restart where I left off, even of course after powering off or changing discs????????????
Love my Panasonic blu-ray player!!!
I bought a Sony S5100 for $85 delivered to door. It's been a perfect player so far, including 3D, and is absolutely superb on audio CDs. Remarkable value proposition.
I have the Pioneer 62FD, mainly because I wanted the Oppo but couldn't swing it right now. I was able to get the Pioneer for $100 open box from Best Buy and couldn't pass it up. The picture is great, but MAN that player is buggy as all hell. Someone at Pioneer needs to do some serious work on the firmware and fix all the issues. Oppo 103D would be the player I would buy today if money were no issue. I can't see needing the extra features the 105 offers.
PS3 was my 1st standalone BD player. I still plays movies well. Funny, I never use it for anything else, I am not gamer either.
Bought my Oppo BDP 95 about 10 months before the Oppo 105 came out - Grrrrrrrr!
Had a Denon 2200 before that (for DVDs, CDs, SACDs, and DVD-As -not blu-ray, plus a Pansonic bdp80).
The Oppo 95 did everything the other two did combined, but - GREAT PICTURE, and even BETTER sound through the analogue outs, for both 2-channel CD's, and surround SACD's or DVD-As. (and, for that matter, blu-ray surround sound).
If my Denon had not died (non-opening tray) I probably would have stayed with it, just wish that, if it had to die, it could have waited until the Oppo 105 came out.
But apart from performance (picture and sound quality both) the other point about Oppo which I think beats every other brand hands down - GREAT customer service, firmware updates etc.
(and APOLOGIES for all the CAPS!!!)
Meant to add, I play all my ripped CDs and ripped DVD-As (FLAC lossless format), and recorded TV Videos, from a hard drive connected to the back USB port of the Oppo - very convenient, and as good as, or better than, playing the original shiny discs.
AVS › AVS Articles › Avs Forums Top 7 Blu Ray Players