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Shane Buettner Posted: Aug 31, 2009 0 comments
Price: $4,500 At A Glance: Full interactivity and advanced audio • Reference-level picture and sound • HQV video processing • Slow disc access and load times

The Chosen One?

This isn’t the first player we’ve reviewed in the high-end price category. In some respects, we’ve walked away impressed by the high-end players we’ve reviewed, but none of the high-end designs we’ve looked at has earned their pay grade by making our Top Picks list. It’s possible that this tells us more about the less expensive players on the market than the more expensive ones. Blu-ray’s inherent quality, advances in video processing, and the proliferation of HDMI have resulted in sub-$500 players that will satisfy even the most finicky videophile with a front-projection system. In short, midrange and even entry-level players have gotten so good that, although we’ve been waiting to be floored by a high-end player, so far it hasn’t happened. Whether it’s lack of speed, audio or interactivity features, or performance, we’ve been waiting for a player that makes us stand up and shout, “Noooo!” when the UPS man comes to take the player back to the manufacturer. With regards to both its price and its performance aspirations, the $4,500 Denon DVD-A1UDCI is the most ambitious Blu-ray player we’ve yet reviewed. Is it the chosen one?

Kris Deering Posted: Aug 07, 2009 0 comments

Among Sony's vast array of audio/video products, a select few carry the Elevated Standard (ES) designation, which indicates the company's top-flight—and top-price—models. There are two Blu-ray player in this elite club, including the flagship BDP-S5000ES, which lists for the extravagant sum of $2000. Now that some Blu-ray players have achieved mass-market status for a tenth of that and many more can be had for $400 to $500, can Sony hope to sell many of these? Do you really get what you pay for? Let's find out...

David Vaughn Posted: Jul 09, 2009 18 comments

Blu-ray just celebrated its 3-year anniversary, and many of the issues that plagued the format are nearly forgotten—profile issues, pathetically slow boot-up, and of course, HD DVD. For a while, there was really only one choice if you wanted a high-performance Blu-ray player—the Sony PlayStation 3—but the market has evolved, with models from Panasonic, Pioneer, and Samsung making inroads into the PS3's huge market share.

Kris Deering Posted: Jul 08, 2009 0 comments
Price: $499 At A Glance: Reference-quality Blu-ray performance and video processing • Full interactivity and audio decoding • Fast operation and load times • SACD and DVD-Audio

Dawn of a Blu Universe

Oppo Digital may not be the most recognized name on the block, but if you’ve used its products in the past, you’ll certainly remember it. Oppo has been in the DVD player market for a few years now and does all of its business online. You won’t find its products stocked in your local Best Buy or specialty retailer, so the brand doesn’t have the broad market awareness of other Blu-ray player manufacturers. But Oppo’s DVD players have a loyal following and offer incredible performance for the dollar. Oppo’s reputation for excellent performance at a lower price point and its outstanding customer support quickly gained a big following. So it’s been with bated breath that many of us have waited for Oppo to enter the Blu-ray market.

Kris Deering Posted: Jun 01, 2009 0 comments
Price: $400 At A Glance: Extremely responsive • Fast load times • Pandora and Netflix streaming • Full interactivity and audio decoding • Wireless Internet connectivity

Samsung has delivered some solid Blu-ray offerings in the past. The company hasn’t been shy about including high-end video processing, and it’s quick to adopt new features for its lineup. The new BD-P3600 is no exception. It comes with $100 tacked onto its price tag compared with the other players in this roundup, but you may find some interesting features that are worth the investment. At $400, it’s the most feature-laden player of this group and includes onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, 7.1-channel analog outputs, Netflix streaming, and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The BD-P3600 is a very sleek-looking player that takes a minimalist approach to aesthetics. The front panel is jet black, and only the tray is obvious. It also has a garish-looking sticker that flaunts the player’s advanced features. Personally, I’m a silkscreen guy when it comes to logos. I think manufacturers should skip the cheap-looking stickers on their players’ front panels.

Kris Deering Posted: Jun 01, 2009 0 comments
Price: $300 At A Glance: Lacks compelling next-generation features • Xross Media Bar offers intuitive setup • Improved video processing • Full interactivity and audio decoding

Sony continues to do its best to deliver great entry-level products for the masses. Most of the market is now approaching this same price point and including more features, such as on-demand video streaming from online sources like Netflix. This makes the competition stiff for the rather bare-bones Sony. However, that doesn’t mean that Sony doesn’t deliver a capable Blu-ray player for the dollar.

The BDP-S360 ($300) is Sony’s newest entry-level offering, and it supports Blu-ray’s full interactive capabilities. This includes BD-Live via its Ethernet connection and Bonus View picture-in-picture. This year, Sony will also release the BDP-S560 ($350), which builds on this platform by adding wireless Internet connectivity and a front-panel USB port.

Kris Deering Posted: Jun 01, 2009 0 comments
Price: $300 At A Glance: Viera Cast delivers ho-hum connectivity experience • Exceptional video processing • Full interactivity and audio decoding

It seems like just yesterday that I reviewed the DMP-BD35 and DMP-BD55 players (HT, December 2008). But Panasonic spared little time getting its replacements out into the market. This was almost a blink, and you’ll miss the window for the DMP-BD35 and DMP-BD55. Panasonic just introduced the DMP-BD60 and DMP-BD80, which are nearly identical to the models they’re replacing. But this time around, Panasonic has jumped into the streaming video craze and added Viera Cast to both players. This widget-based portal to Internet-derived content is similar to what Panasonic includes in its flat-panel HDTV line.

For this roundup, I’m looking at the DMP-BD60 ($300). It lacks the DMP-BD80’s 7.1-channel analog outputs, but it still shares many core components and features with its big brother.

Kris Deering Posted: Mar 04, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: BD-Live, storage included • Outstanding build quality • Great DVD playback • Full advanced audio decoding • Limited HD video processing • Average load times

Elevating the Blu-ray Standard?

Sony’s Elevated Standard (ES) products have long been at the respected upper end of the company’s product line. I remember Sony’s early ES DVD players were the cat’s meow in terms of solid video performance and features. If you wanted reference-quality DVD playback early on in the format, you wanted an ES player. Now Sony has delivered two ES branded Blu-ray players. For this review, I’m going to look at its new flagship, the BDP-S5000ES.

Kris Deering Posted: Feb 23, 2009 0 comments
Price: $400 At A Glance: Netflix streaming • Average usability • BD-Live support • Outstanding HD and SD video processing by Silicon Optix HQV

Streaming in Blu

Samsung was the first consumer electronics company to bring a Blu-ray player to market. Since then, the company has released quite a few players with varying degrees of performance. With the BD-P2500, Samsung delves into another market for the first time—video on demand. In the January issue, I reviewed the LG BD300, which was the first player to incorporate Netflix streaming capabilities. The BD-P2500 brings this same feature to the fold and includes some other features that the LG lacks.

Kris Deering Posted: Jan 05, 2009 0 comments
Price: $350 At A Glance: Netflix streaming • Fast load times and operation • Bonus View and BD-Live capable • Limited video processing, advanced audio decoding

LG Breaks New Ground

LG has been one of the most innovative companies out there championing Blu-ray. Early in the format war, LG tried twice to provide a solution for consumers with combo Blu-ray/HD DVD players. While its first attempt didn’t support HD DVD’s full capabilities, the follow-up BH200 was a fully functional player for both formats. It was Bonus View capable and offered Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and 24p playback for both formats. It remains a solid player today, and I have one in my rack.

Kris Deering Posted: Dec 15, 2008 0 comments
Price: $299, $399 At A Glance: Full complement of onboard audio decoding • Exceptional video processing • Bonus View and BD-Live compliant • Plays back DVD at 1080p/24

Hot on the heels of the DMP-BD50 (HT, September 2008), Panasonic has debuted two new players, the DMP-BD35 and DMP-BD55. Despite the DMP-BD50’s recent release, these two players replace the current DMP-BD30 and DMP-BD50 models. These new players are identical except for their analog audio outputs. The DMP-BD35 only has a two-channel analog output, while the more expensive DMP-BD55 supports 7.1 channels of analog audio. All the other features are the same, so for this roundup, I’ll fuse these two players together in regards to performance unless otherwise noted.

Panasonic slimmed down its players this time around, and the new lineup reminded me a bit of the Sony BDP-S350 in form and stature. The chassis is slightly shorter than the last generation and isn’t quite as deep. The disc tray is now located in the center, and there’s a small flip-down panel on the bottom right with Play, Stop, and Pause buttons, along with the SD card slot. Aesthetically, the new player has the same design cues as the previous line, with a tinted front-display readout and a hidden disc tray. It still retains that bright blue LED right below the tray, but you can turn it off through the Setup menu’s display options.

Kris Deering Posted: Dec 15, 2008 0 comments
Price: $599 At A Glance: Slow disc loading and operation • Great build quality • Improved HD and SD video processing • Full 7.1 analog and digital audio support

Pioneer unveiled its first non-Elite Blu-ray player with the BDP-51FD. At first glance, its large chassis and high-gloss appearance might make you think it’s an Elite line player. However, this player is the first of the classic Pioneer line.

The BDP-51FD is a Profile 1.1 player that supports Bonus View features but lacks a LAN connection and BD-Live support. At $599, I was a bit surprised that it lacks BD-Live or an upgrade path to BD-Live, but the rest of the feature set is pretty impressive.

uavKim Wilson Posted: Dec 11, 2008 0 comments

LG has introduced something new with the BD300. In addition to being a full-featured Blu-ray player, it can also stream movies from Netflix, which explains the unique product designation—network Blu-ray player. The BD300 offers a number of key features we've come to expect from Blu-ray players, such as bitstream output of the advanced audio codecs, BonusView, BD-Live, and 24fps output for compatible video displays.

David Vaughn Posted: Dec 01, 2008 0 comments

With the end of the format war fading in the rear-view mirror, manufacturers of Blu-ray players have one last obstacle to overcome to help bring Blu-ray into the mainstream&mdash;make a dedicated player that provides the user experience of the Sony PlayStation 3. (Okay, they must also bring the price down to DVD levels in order to <I>really</I> reach the mainstream.) In addition to delivering a first-rate audio/video experience, players must also offer a user experience on par with DVD.

Kris Deering Posted: Nov 17, 2008 0 comments
Price: $400 At A Glance: Affordable BD-Live performance • Great DVD playback performance • Lacks multichannel analog audio support

More Blu for Your Budget

The BDP-S350 is Sony’s follow-up to the popular BDP-S300. One of the most inexpensive standalone players on the market, the BDP-S350 includes some great new features that the BDP-S300 design didn’t have. Sony overhauled its form factor, with a case that’s nearly half the size of the company’s earlier players. The player also employs a sleek new interface that uses Sony’s popular Xross Media Bar. While player prices have not headed farther south yet, the bang-for-the-buck factor is going up, as players at the lower end of the market add more essential features. Sony’s $400 player is BD-Live ready (firmware update pending), Bonus View PiP capable, and includes bitstream support for the next-gen lossless audio formats from Dolby and DTS.


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