Blu-ray players – review

Once the sole domain of home cinema fanatics, Blu-ray is now as ubiquitous as DVD. We’ve looked at five players across a range of price points.
 
 
 

 

  • Panasonic
    Danny Phillips
    By   | Technology journalist
    Last updated: 14 August 2013, 17:36 BST
    BT rating
     

    Price: £210

    Website: Panasonic

    Panasonic’s top-end player comes with a hefty price tag, but if you can stump up that sort of cash you’ll be rewarded with a glut of features and super-stylish design.

    The DMP-BDT330 is simply stunning, boasting a brushed silver finish, mirrored panels and angled sides. On the back are plentiful connections including two HDMI outputs (allowing you to feed a TV and sound system separately, or two displays at once), optical digital out and Ethernet. An SD card slot and two USB ports adorn the front panel for media playback.

    Feature highlights include Viera Connect, which counts BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube among its many web apps (although Samsung still has the upper hand on content) alongside 4K (3840x2160) upscaling on compatible TVs, Miracast for viewing the Android phones’ displays on a TV and 3D playback. Built-in wi-fi lets you stream files over a network wirelessly.

    Picture quality is superb in 2D and 3D, while its smooth ‘one-touch’ on-screen menus make navigation a joy. It’s one of the best Blu-ray players around, but if you want the best you have to pay for it.

     
     

     

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  • Pioneer
    Danny Phillips
    By   | Technology journalist
    Last updated: 14 August 2013, 17:36 BST
    BT rating
     

    Price: £130
    Website: Pioneer

    The BDP-160 is Pioneer’s entry-level Blu-ray player, but you wouldn’t know it from the design – build quality is the best of our five players and its sleek black finish is classy.

    The feature list isn’t bad either. There’s built-in wi-fi, 3D Blu-ray support and network media streaming, but a modest selection of internet content (YouTube and Picasa).

    The BDP-160 likes mobile devices too. Wi-Fi Direct sends content from device to player without a home network, while Pioneer’s Android and Apple apps turn your phone into a remote control. You can easily watch web videos on the big screen with YouTube’s ‘Send To TV’ function.

    Rear sockets include HDMI output, Ethernet, coaxial digital and analogue stereo outputs, while USB ports on the front and back allow you to play media files from flash drives and external hard-disks.

    The remote and onscreen menus are uninspiring but get the job done, plus it streams files and web content with no fuss. Format support is good too, playing everything we threw at it (including high-quality audio SACD discs) but its disc loading speed is the slowest of all five players.

    We can’t fault its picture quality, and it delivers sparkling HD pictures in 2D and 3D, making this a terrific player for the money. But if it’s web content you crave then look elsewhere.

     
     

     

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  • Sony
    Danny Phillips
    By   | Technology journalist
    Last updated: 14 August 2013, 17:36 BST
    BT rating
     

    Price: £100
    Website: Sony 

    At about half the size of a regular Blu-ray player, Sony’s budget player is perfect for the bedroom. Its sharp-angled design is eye-catching and the aluminium bodywork feels robust.

    On the back is the bare minimum – an HDMI output, coaxial digital audio output and an Ethernet port for hooking up to the internet. But surprisingly for such an affordable player it has built-in wi-fi too, making it easy to access its online features, of which there are plenty.

    The Sony Entertainment Network offers a range of internet services, including BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, Sky News, LoveFilm and Netflix, which is a good selection but not quite up to Samsung’s level.

    There’s also a TV Side View app that lets you control the player with your smartphone. You can also play media files over your home network, but not in MKV or DivX formats (though it will play the former from connected USB drives).

    There’s no support for 3D Blu-ray discs either, but 2D movies look wonderful – bursting with intricate HD detail and painted in subtle, natural colours. It’s also easy to operate thanks to the intuitive cross-axis menu and intelligently-organised remote.

    If you can live with the lack of 3D and patchy file support, the BDP-S3100 is excellent value for money.

     
     

     

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  • Toshiba
    Danny Phillips
    By   | Technology journalist
    Last updated: 14 August 2013, 17:36 BST
    BT rating
     

    Price: £60
    Website: Toshiba 

    As the cheapest player here, you might expect the BDX2400 to be devoid of features, but that’s not entirely the case.

    Sure, there’s no 3D support or built-in wi-fi, but you do get internet content via Toshiba’s cloud portal, making this a cheap introduction to the world of online streaming. Apps include BBC iPlayer, BBC News, YouTube, Netflix and Picasa, which is a useful selection for the money.

    Hooked up to a router (via Ethernet or Toshiba’s £35 USB wi-fi dongle) you can also stream a healthy range of files from PCs, but not MKV or DivX formats.

    A USB port on the side provides an alternative way of playing media, although it might have to be shared with the wi-fi dongle if you plan to use both. On the back is the standard socket line-up – HDMI, coaxial digital audio out and an Ethernet port.

    Build quality is light and plasticky, but it’s one of the best-looking players Toshiba has ever produced.
    On-screen menus have been overhauled for the better with an engaging web portal and slick main menu, while pictures are sumptuous even without the wow factor of 3D.

    It even loads discs quickly, making this a much more impressive player than the price tag would suggest.

     
     

     

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  • Samsung
    Danny Phillips
    By   | Technology journalist
    Last updated: 14 August 2013, 17:36 BST
    BT rating
     

    Price: £110
    Website: Samsung 

    Samsung players usually offer loads of features at affordable prices, and the BD-F6500 continues that tradition.

    The main attraction is the Smart Hub internet portal, which puts a wealth of streamed content at your disposal from the likes of BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand 5, LoveFilm and YouTube. A top-drawer selection.

    Far from being just a Blu-ray player, it’s more of an all-round entertainment hub. It streams video, music and photos over a home network, and supports a wide range of formats including MKV, DivX, AVCH and MP3.

    On the outside the deck looks cool and classy, distinguished by its sleek gloss black finish and curved right-hand corner. Its light, plasticky casing betrays its budget price, but from afar it looks lovely.

    The sparse sockets are typical of a budget player – there’s HDMI, optical digital audio output and an Ethernet port for connection to your web router, but with built-in WiFi you probably won’t need the latter.

    It’s one of the fastest disc loaders on the market and pictures are crisp and deftly coloured, whether you’re watching in 2D or 3D. All of which makes this a great value Blu-ray deck that ticks all the boxes.

     

     
     

     

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