by Jennifer Allen on
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Physical media isn’t quite dead—those who want the best possible hi-fi playback, or who don’t have an internet connection that can handle HD video reliably, still use Blu-Ray players. Here are the best picks.
The maturity and ubiquity of the Blu-Ray format means there’s a huge selection of players available at all price points. We’ve selected four of the best players for different needs: the best possible 4K playback including support for a wide variety of high-end video and audio setups, the best budget model for those just looking for Blu-ray disc functionality, the best budget step up for a cheap 4K TV, and the best option for users who want to combine Blu-ray viewing with a little casual gaming. Check them out below.
If your specific needs include 4K, 3D, and HDR playback on the latest and greatest TV sets, plus compatibility with your surround sound speaker system and whatever audio standard it happens to be using, this Sony Blu-ray player is just what you want. It can handle the latest 4K and HDR discs with the most eye-popping video quality, and its audio chops include support for Dolby Atmos and DTS-X via HDMI-ARC or coaxial audio cables, with Bluetooth sprinkled on.
The player includes Internet access over Ethernet and Wi-Fi for accessing web content on your Blu-ray discs and system updates, as well as basic support for onboard apps from services like Netflix and Hulu (and yes, they’ll play back in 4K if it’s supported). It can upscale content to your 4K TV easily, and if you’ve burned your own video or audio files onto DVDs or Blu-rays it can play that back as well. This player should be able to handle just about anything you can throw at it in terms of current AV technology—and that being the case, it’s a pretty great deal at under $250.
On the opposite end of the spectrum sits this Samsung model. With no 4K support and no Wi-Fi, playing back standard Blu-ray discs is pretty much all it’s good for. (Technically the BD-J5100 can do streaming apps, but it needs a wired Ethernet cable.) But it does its job well, upscaling DVDs and other video content to 1080p, and it looks surprisingly good for a budget model.
At just $60 this is about as cheap as you can get for a player from an established brand, but if you want to go even cheaper, refurbished units are as little as $35 from major retailers. Those who want to save money but still want Wi-Fi for the included streaming apps should opt for the BD-J5700, also quite affordable at $80.
There are a lot of inexpensive 4K TVs coming onto the market, and if you’ve just bought one, odds are good you’ll want an inexpensive 4K-compatible Blu-ray player to go with it. Samsung’s upgraded BD-J6300 model will perform that role admirably, sliding in a just over the $100 mark. That includes a 4K-capable HDMI 2.0 cable, by the way—an important bit to note, since cheaper cables might not be able to handle the full resolution.
In addition, this model has built-in support for basic surround sound and Wi-Fi included for streaming apps. It’s a solid upgrade over cheaper designs, and it’s as cheap as you can get while still supporting the super-duper-high-resolution of Blu-ray 4K.
Since the PlayStation brand has been intimately associated with Blu-ray since the PS3, it’s strange that Sony didn’t choose to include Blu-ray 4K support on either of the new PlayStation 4 variations. Between that, and the fact that the Xbox One S is $50 cheaper than the similarly-situated PS4 Slim, we’ll give it a nod for consumers who want to play Blu-ray discs and do some light gaming on the same machine. Not only does the Xbox One S support 4K Blu-ray playback, its massive suite of streaming apps means that you’ll be able to play content from almost any web store (with the notable exception of Apple iTunes). And thanks to a somewhat standardized software system with frequent updates, you can be sure that the Xbox apps will remain updated and maintained as well.
At the moment Microsoft is selling the Xbox One S with a free copy of Minecraft for the $250 retail price. That’s an excellent value, especially since most gamers are pretty likely to want the popular building game anyway. And if you want access to the superior selection of exclusive console games on the PS4… well, odds are pretty good that you have one already, and it still can’t play back Blu-ray discs in 4K. Broad value wise, the Xbox One S is a perfect pick for anyone who wants Blu-ray playback and is even casually interested in console gaming.
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