10 Blu-ray players that stand out from the crowd
7th Dec 2009 | 14:25
Decks that offer features you don't see everywhere
10 Blu-ray players that stand out from the crowd
It's no secret that the new(ish) HD format hasn't sold as well as the AV industry had hoped, but that's good news for anyone about to make the leap and buy-in to Blu-ray.
While the first wave of Blu-ray players offered pin-sharp HD and little else, even budget players can now download disc extras from BD-Live. Elsewhere, there are packages that can dabble in digital media, stream YouTube, pump out 7.1 surround sound, or even record HD channels from Freesat.
BD-Live is presently a sideshow, but it doesn't cost a premium so it's better to have just in case it becomes essential. Try to go for a Blu-ray player that has built-in storage of 1GB or more, because otherwise you'll be constantly yanking it out of your home ents rack to fiddle with SD cards or USB sticks.
Better still, chose a machine that has Wi-Fi, which gets rid of yet more cabling in your living room.
Most people will probably go for a no-frills budget deck this Christmas – or simply invest in a PlayStation3 – but there's no need; here's our pick of ten different takes on the maturing format.
1. Panasonic DMP-B15 portable Blu-ray player - £459.99
Why would anyone want a portable Blu-ray player? Answer: when it's as good as Panasonic's one-of-a-kind DMP-B15.
Plug this portable into an HD-ready TV and serve up some cutting-edge 1080p pictures, plus it could easily operate both as your main Blu-ray deck and a portable home entertainment system.
Inside the B15 you'll find both BD Live and its own Viera Cast online portal (both via a LAN port).
It only lasts 2.5hrs on the go, but the B15 makes for an excellent in-home Blu-ray deck. Those looking to exploit the hi-def format will doubtless balk at the idea of its tiny 8.9in LCD screen, but that rather misses the point. What Panasonic has produced is a fully featured player that just happens to be portable.
- Read TechRadar's Panasonic DMP-B15 review
2. LG BD390 Blu-ray player with wireless BD-Live - £229.99
This machine isn't just a Blu-ray player – it's both an entertainment centre and a showpiece for innovation.
There's 1GB of internal storage, so there's no need for SD cards or USB sticks, while clutter is completely eliminated by its built-in wireless internet connectivity.
Able to get onto your broadband home network in an instant (using 802.11n Wi-Fi), the LG BD390 can download from BD-Live, and stream music, photos, and HD video files from a PC on the same network.
Its huge file compatibility even includes DivX HD files from a USB stick or DVD, while YouTube videos can be streamed.
If you're searching for a high-definition entertainment hub for your living room, stop looking.
- Read TechRadar's LG BD390 review
3. Panasonic DMR-BS850 Blu-ray recorder & Freesat HD receiver - £685.10
It's no exaggeration to say that the £1,000 DMR-BS850 is the most advanced digital recorder ever sold in the UK.
Already down in AV history as the UK's ﬁrst Blu-ray recorder, it sports a 500GB hard drive and twin Freesat HD tuners.
The 500GB drive can store approximately 77 hours of HD, or 215 hours of SD, and burn them to a BD-R or DVD-R disc if you so desire. HD depends on the broadcaster – BBC HD only lets you burn one copy of any programme.
Panasonic has launched a number of BD recorders globally, but none are an exact match of this pricey model. It's unique and more than a little brilliant.
- Read TechRadar's Panasonic DMR-BS850 review
4. Yamaha YHTS1400 Blu-ray player & front surround system - £849
Yamaha has made a mighty tempting package for audiophiles short on space by combining two of its latest machines.
It's built around Yamaha's BDS-1065, a BD-Live Blu-ray player that can provide Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound – as either direct bitstream or linear PCM – through HDMI or analogue outputs.
That masterclass in audio is then routed through the YHT-S400, a 50mm high, 250W soundbar that's designed to go in front of a TV and push out virtual surround sound.
With a built-in subwoofer, the YHT-S400 can also be fitted with an optional iPod dock (YDS-11) or Bluetooth audio receiver (YBA-10). Blu-ray home cinema or ultra modern hi-fi? You decide.
5. Samsung BD-P4600 Ultra-slim & wall-mountable Blu-ray player - £180.78
The 'world's slimmest' Blu-ray player has off the wall and wireless appeal.
Samsung's latest premium player, the BD-P4600, features a radical wall-mounting design, fast disc-loading times and adds wireless networking as the new must-have feature.
An optional £50 wireless dongle is a must – and a slightly messy must, especially since Sony's Blu-ray players are natively wireless.
There are drawbacks to the BD-P4600: you still have to hide the HDMI, Ethernet, power and optical cables somewhere, and in plenty of home cinema stacks, the side-mounted slot-loading mechanism will be a non-starter.
The BD-P4600 is an interesting solution for anyone with a wall-mounted flatscreen, particularly if you go for the dongle to make BD-Live a breeze.
- Read TechRadar's Samsung BD-P4600 review
More Blu-ray players to consider
6. LG HB954 Blu-ray 5.1 home cinema, iPod dock & YouTube - £556
It had to happen soon. Not happy with providing pin-sharp hi-def, LG has bundled its first Blu-ray home cinema with both internet video streaming and an iPod/iPhone dock.
As well as Full HD playback of Blu-ray discs, 5.1 surround sound using satellite speakers and 1000W of audio power, the nicely priced HB954 is something of an all-in-one solution.
An iPod dock in the centre of the Blu-ray player is sensible, while YouTube video streaming is also a decent idea that could be expanded upon by future firmware upgrades. If YouTube's 2.5 billion+ videos aren't enough, the HB954 can also access BD Live.
7. Denon DBP1610 High-end Blu-ray player with DivX - £399.95
Denon comes back down to Earth with a sensibly priced Blu-ray machine for the masses.
If you're after a decent Blu-ray player for a fair price, there are tonnes to choose from, but the brand-conscious should check out this deck from Denon.
The up-market Japanese brand has delivered some £2k+ Blu-ray machines in 2009, so the more sensibly priced DBP1610 is a welcome addition to the melee.
With features and quality in spades, the DBP1610 is certainly a step-up option; its ability to play both DivX video files and AVC-HD files from hi-def camcorders is a plus, though its core duties revolve around 1080p video and high-grade DVD upscaling.
Blu-ray's lossless audio formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, are handled and, unlike some of Denon's 2009 decks, so is BD-Live.
8. Philips BDP3000 Blu-ray player & digital media player - £99.99
A catch-all Blu-ray deck that should suit every budget.
Given the outstandingly low price, the sleek, gloss black fascia and a hood that hides the disc tray, there's little to detract from some excellent value high-definition pictures from Philips' budget deck.
The BDP3000 can stream content from all the major BD Live portals, but it doesn't have any onboard space for storing trailers, director's commentaries and suchlike. So the USB 2.0 port on the rear is crucial; it must be fitted with a memory stick of at least 2GB for the BD Live functions to work.
It can also play digital media files stored on disc, including MP3, JPEG and DivX, AVC-HD and WMV video files.
We've seen better DVD upscalers, but the BDP3000 does a good enough job to be hailed as a great value option.
- Read TechRadar's Philips BDP3000 review
9. Sony BDP-S760 Blu-ray player & wireless BD-Live - £311.03
A reference machine for the budget conscious.
Never one to follow the herd, Sony has yet again attempted something different with the release of the BDP-S760 into a market where plagiarism is positively encouraged.
It has avoided adopting the gadgetry and gimmicks of its competitors and included the same picture processing found in Sony's top-of-the range BDP-S5000ES – as well as a nifty in-built wireless 802.11n modem.
It means that you can plonk the Sony player anywhere you like – you're not regimented by the availability of an Ethernet hub.
You'll need a USB memory stick for BD-Live downloads, as there's no internal storage, but it's the BDP-S760's picture quality that makes it standout.
- Read TechRadar's Sony BDP-S760 review
Panasonic DMP-BD80 Blu-ray player & Viera Cast - £216
The DMP-BD80 is wired to the web, but offers a lot, lot more than mere widgets.
This player, and its cheaper DMP-BD60 sibling, is not simply connected for access to BD-Live content and a Profile 2.0 badge; it features a fully functioning YouTube portal via the company's proprietary VieraCast network.
As with the new widget TVs from Samsung, it's a gimmick you'll probably find yourself losing several hours to.
As with many current stand-alone decks, it can take around a minute just to play a conventional BD movie, and that is bound to put off those with little patience.
The rest of us, though, can simply bow down to the awesome, near-perfect images, cracking feature-set and amusing and relevant gimmickry. A huge advance from £99 decks.
Read TechRadar's Panasonic DMP-BD80 review
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