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BLU-RAY PLAYER REVIEWS

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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: $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.

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.

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.

David Vaughn Posted: Oct 30, 2008 0 comments

Founded in 1938 in Tokyo, Japan, Pioneer has a long history of making quality audio and video products. Its involvement in optical-disc technology started with the development of Laserdisc and includes a prominent role in DVD and Blu-ray technology.

uavKim Wilson Posted: Sep 23, 2008 0 comments

The Sony BDP-S350 is the latest Blu-ray player from the company that invented the format. This is an upgrade from its previous entry-level model, the <A href="http://ultimateavmag.com/hddiscplayers/707sonys300/">BDP-S300</A>, offering more features and options. The blue brushed-aluminum faceplate, similar to the design of the top-end ES series, is attractive and elegant and sure to add some class to all your black components.

Kris Deering Posted: Sep 15, 2008 0 comments
Introduction
Joshua Zyber Posted: Aug 04, 2008 0 comments
Can Blu-ray be more than the next Laserdisc?

Although I don’t usually pay attention to such things, the other day as I was opening a recent Blu-ray purchase, I took note of the “Compatible with PlayStation 3” sticker that either the studio or the retailer had attached to the shrink wrap. It was trivial, hardly worth glancing at, but it got me thinking about how closely the Blu-ray format is tied to Sony’s multipurpose game console. Of course, I seem to recall similar stickers about the PlayStation 2 appearing on early DVD releases, but the situation is very different now. DVD’s benefits over its VHS and Laserdisc predecessors were so obvious that the format achieved explosive growth, and its success was never dependent on just one playback machine. Certainly, the PS2 brought DVD into a lot of homes very quickly, but standalone players and computer drives were equally (and soon more) popular with the public. Everyone wanted DVD, whether they wanted a game console to go with it or not.

uavKim Wilson Posted: Jul 21, 2008 0 comments

The BD-P1500 is Samsung's fourth-generation Blu-ray player. Its elegant high-gloss, piano-black chassis is sure to stand out in any equipment rack. While dedicated Blu-ray players haven't reached rock-bottom prices yet, the BD-P1500 is Samsung's least expensive to date at $400, $150 less then the BD-P1400 that came out less than a year ago. The BD-P1500 is not the holy grail of Blu-ray players, but its feature set and lower price could be just what you've been waiting for.

David Vaughn Posted: Jun 28, 2008 0 comments

It has been two years since Blu-ray trickled onto the scene with the launch of the Samsung BD-P1000 and some less-than-stellar-looking movies. The combination of a faulty player setting and some poor-quality masters had many wondering if Blu-ray could challenge HD DVD for consumers' hard earned dollars.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 12, 2008 0 comments
Now this is the way to set up a system.

This month, we break new ground in Spotlight Systems. Normally, we pair off a surround speaker package with surround electronics. But that ignores the whole subject of signal sources, without which, after all, all of our systems would be dark and silent. So this time out, we’re mating an up-to-the-minute receiver, the Sony STR-DA4300ES, with an oh-so-hip Blu-ray player, the Sony BDP-S500. And no, Sony didn’t slip me a suitcase full of cash for doing this.

Kris Deering Posted: Apr 18, 2008 0 comments
Breaking new ground in HD.

Since the arrival of Blu-ray, I’ve been waiting for a player from Denon, whose high-end DVD players have served as references for me for years. So far, the standalone Blu-ray players I’ve used have left me wanting. Pioneer and Sony are the only manufacturers offering players with the construction quality I expect from a top-end player. But both of these manufacturers have delivered products with their own issues, including extremely slow response times and lack of support for cutting-edge Blu-ray features.

Shane Buettner Posted: Apr 07, 2008 0 comments
Sony’s gaming console still the Blu-ray player to beat.

[Update: The best just keeps getting better. Sony has announced at long last that a firmware update available April 15th will allow the mighty PS3 to decode lossless DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS-HD High Resolution, a lossy, higher bitrate version of its codec. This was the last technological hurdle for Sony's mighty gaming console. For those with HDMI switching and an AVR or pre-pro that can process multichannel PCM the PS3 is unequivocally the Blu-ray player to beat. It's not only the fastest and most reliable BD player, it's the cheapest and most advanced. Look to this space for an update to this review once I've had a chance to experience DTS-HD MA and BD-Live. -SCB]

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