When looking for the best Blu-ray player for your needs, there are a number of things you need to consider. One of the biggest is whether to go for a standard BD player or take the plunge and buy one that can play Ultra HD 4K discs.
If you’re not quite interested in 4K UHD, though, either because there’s not much native content available or because you haven’t upgraded to a 4K UHD TV, there’s a compelling argument to be made for saving some money by purchasing a non-UHD Blu-ray player rather than upgrading right now.
But, why else would you want to opt for an HD Blu-ray player? These are not first-generation, untested pieces of cutting-edge hardware – they’re refined devices packed full of features such as loading times in single figure seconds, 3D Blu-ray playback, 2D-to-3D conversion, Netflix playback and other apps, streaming to and from smartphones and tablets, home networking.
Many of them will also upscale Full HD 1080p Blu-rays up to 4K resolutions as well, although this won’t quite match the quality of native 4K Ultra HD discs.
Need help narrowing down which deck to choose? Here are eight of the best Blu-ray players to help you make your buying decision:
1. Cambridge Audio CXU
Quality over quantity from this high-end audiophile player
Hi-end video processing
Massive price tag
Limited app selection
With a recommended price of $1,299 (£899, AU$1,747) the Cambridge Audio CXU is by far the most expensive Blu-ray player on this list. It’s also got one of the smallest feature sets, lacking support for Netflix and other common apps. So why would we choose to include this Blu-ray player in our roundup? The answer is simple – it both looks and sounds better than anything else out there. This player will upscale both DVDs and standard Blu-ray discs to 4K with impressive results, and can even upscale audio to 24-bit/192kHz as well as handling a full suite of hi-res audio formats.
The Cambridge Audio CXU is definitely a player aimed solely at hi-end audiophile and home theatre perfectionists, but if the idea of quality over quantity of features sounds ideal to you then you can’t do much better.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio CXU
2. Panasonic DMP-BDT360
A great value performer with pin-sharp pictures and 4K upscaling
Excellent 4K upscaling
Lacks must-have apps
The DMP-BDT360 is a classic mid-range option that will suit owners of 3D TVs as well as those after some specific apps and Wi-Fi. A simple to control and impressive machine, the DMP-BDT360 is the cheapest Panasonic deck to offer 2D-3D conversion – which works well – and 4K upscaling, which also delivers impressive results. There’s an excellent treatment of digital files, too. The poor remote and a basic selection of apps are the downsides, but overall this future-proof deck is impressive and good value.
Read the full review: Panasonic DMP-BDT360
3. Sony BDP-S6700
Faultless Blu-ray images for an unbelievable price
Excellent Blu-ray images
Dual core processor
Average build quality
The S6700’s bias towards Android devices for both Bluetooth music streaming and for screen mirroring (over Miracast) is irritating, but this diminutive 255x39x192 mm, 900g package promises 4K upscaling (for those with an Ultra HD 4K TV), Full HD 3D support and wireless music features galore.
But the real victory for the BDP-S6700 is with its image not only from Blu-ray, which are faultless, but also from lesser sources of video, which are nicely cleaned-up.
Read the full review: Sony BDP-S6700
4. Sony UHP-H1
Sony’s latest media player is as much about the audio as the visuals
Audiophile-grade music playback
Impressive 4K upscaling
Doesn’t support 4K UHD Blu-ray
It’s easy to enthuse about the UHP-H1, both as a Hi-Res Audio music player and a top-flight Blu-ray player. Image quality is outstanding, even when compared to first-gen 4K UHD Blu-ray players, and it sounds every bit the premium component.
Compared to rival players from Oppo, Cambridge and Pioneer, the UHP-H1 could even be construed as good value. If you’re not planning to jump on the 4K Blu-ray bandwagon any time soon, it’s well worth an audition.
Read the full review: Sony UHP-H1
5. Sony BDP-S6200
Dual core processing is the star on Sony’s flagship Blu-ray deck
Quality 2D & 3D Blu-ray images
Unimpressive 4K upscaling
Ageing user interface
Do you need Ultra HD 4K upscaling? Probably not, but we all know where this is heading. Your next TV will likely be an UHD TV, but by the time you buy it 4K upscaling will have gone to a whole new level than what the BDP-S6200 can muster. In which case we’re left with dual core processing (and so a speedier, though ageing user interface), a bigger physical footprint and unconvincing 4K upscaling as the only features that lift the BDP-S6200 beyond its cheaper sibling (above).
Comparisons aside, however, the BDP-S6200 has a decent smart TV apps package, excellent digital file support, and unquestionable quality in in both 2D and 3D Blu-ray disc playback.
Read the full review: Sony BDP-S6200
6. Samsung BD-H6500
Multi-talented 3D Blu-ray player with dual core processing and 4K upscaling
Excellent user interface
4K files not played
Poor app organisation
Fast forward a year and we arrive at Samsung’s latest finest. For all the niceties of 4K upscaling, a wide choice of apps and digital file playback, it’s the dual core processing inside this good value 2D and 3D Blu-ray deck that most impresses. With a decent – if oddly organised – collection of smart apps and plenty of advanced features, the BD-H6500 makes a great mid-range option if you’re after a does-it-all deck that offers some future-proofing.
The 4K upscaling on the BD-H6500 is better than we’ve seen on the Sony BDP-S6200, but not as good as on Panasonic Blu-ray players like the Panasonic DMP-BDT460; either way, it’s not one of the many reasons to buy the BD-H6500.
Read the full review: Samsung BD-H6500
7. Samsung UBD-K8500
4K playback on the cheap? Check out the UBD-K8500
Impressive 4K HDR image quality
4K Netflix and Amazon onboard
Journeyman build quality and noisy
Not a great sounding music player
As we said at the top of this list: You don’t need a 4K Blu-ray player. Native content is still sparse, and even though some models don’t break the bank (see: Samsung UBD-K8500) they are a bit pricier than their HD counterparts.
Sure, you might not need a 4K UHD Blu-ray player. But, if you wanted one, you might want to consider the Samsung UBD-K8500, currently the cheapest route into 4K Blu-ray. It’s a useful hub for 4K OTT services from Netflix and Amazon, and while the design is a bit Marmite, you’ll be consistently impressed by its loading speed and colourful UI.
If you want your 4K HDR TV to look its best, then you can’t beat 4K Blu-ray. And when it comes to sheer image fidelity, the UBD-K8500 certainly impresses.
8. Sony BDP-S7200
This premium player from Sony punches well above its weight
Excellent picture performance
No nonsense minimalist design
Lacking some catch-up TV services
Tired user interface
The BDP-S7200 is a piece of kit with an external appearance that looks every bit as premium as the decent electronics contained within. It does an excellent job of upscaling content to a resolution of 4K, even surpassing the upscaling technology built into Sony’s own TV sets.
It might not have support for enough catch-up TV services to completely fill your needs, but when the image quality is this good it’s hard to fault the overall package. At this price it’s something of a bargain.
Read the full review: Sony BDP-S7200