(Pocket-lint) - While online streaming certainly has the popular vote, those seeking the absolute pinnacle of quality will still be sticking with physical media.
Blu-ray discs give your entertainment a big leap forward in terms of picture quality, taking things from SD to HD and even 4K UHD. However, while picking up a dedicated box may seem like a simple way to get the most out of your collection, there's plenty to understand before you buy as not all Blu-ray players are created equally.
Some will come with the ability to upscale DVDs, others stick to the very basics and a select few double up as a streaming box. It can get a little twisted, so to help you avoid getting stung, we've detailed some of the top Blu-ray players below.
What is the best Blu-ray player? Currently, our top pick is the Panasonic DP-UB820EB-K. However, we also recommend checking out the Sony BDP-S3700, Sony UBP-X700, LG BP250 and the Panasonic DP-UB150EB-K.
Our Top Pick: Best Blu-ray Player
- Excellent HDR optimisation
- Analogue 7.1 output
- Superb audio delivery
- No support for DVD-A or SACD
Home to many of the features of Panasonic's flagship DP-UB9000 but at less than half the price; we think the DP-UB820EB is the best purchase for those looking to get serious with their Blu-Ray experience.
Panasonic's impressive HCX (Hollywood Cinema Experience) processor optimises HDR content, taking into account the brightness limitations of your screen to deliver the best possible results.
Audio performance is impressive, too, with support for all the latest spatial formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio.
Other Blu-ray players we recommend
While the Panasonic DP-UB820EB-K is our favourite Blu-ray player, it's not for everyone. Many people won't need all of its advanced features and can definitely get away with a less costly pick. With that in mind, here are four other top Blu-ray players to consider.
- Multi-region playback
- Affordable price
- Smart features
- No support for Prime Video
Sony's BDP-S3700 sits more in the mid-range, offering the bonus of being able to operate like a streaming box, not just a simple Blu-ray player.
You're able to stream 1080p HD quality using Wi-Fi, or by casting from mobile devices, and those with more of an extensive DVD collection will also see their movies or shows upscaled, too.
Just be aware that while you can access plenty of the most popular streaming services through the Wi-Fi, Amazon Prime Video is currently not available.
- HDR10 and Dolby Vision support
- Access to 4K streaming services
- Good connectivity options
- UI can sometimes feel sluggish
Sony's high-end UBP-X700 takes things a step further than much of the competition, acting as a home for DVD and Blu-ray discs (regular and 4K Ultra HD), as well as offering streaming capabilities over Wi-Fi.
Everything you watch is upscaled to 4K, with HDR10 and Dolby Vision also working to give you the best possible picture - even for those watching on non-HDR TVs.
It's perhaps overkill for people looking for a simple Blu-ray player, but those who want something that can deliver the highest quality available right now needn't look any further.
- Full HD upscaling for DVDs
- External HDD compatibility
- Compact design
- No display on the unit itself
If you just want a place to play your Blu-ray discs without spending over the odds, LG's budget BP250 is the one to consider.
There's absolutely no bells or whistles here, which is to be expected for the price, but it does handle the basics with ease. Providing your Blu-ray discs are from Region B and your DVDs are Region 2, you'll be able to receive 1080p playback and upscaling.
You won't get the ability to play 4K options, and the BP250 doesn't double up as a streaming box, but it's one of the most cost-effective choices out there for people who just want a home for their discs.
- Support for HDR formats and HLG
- 4K playback of JPEG and MP4 files
- High-Res audio playback
- No Dolby Vision support
The cheaper cousin of our top player, Panasonic's DP-UB150EB-K offers plenty of functionality at a more wallet-friendly price.
It's able to support HDR10 playback, 4K UHD for your compatible Blu-ray discs, and even upscale SD DVDs, giving you a wide range of choice from your library.
There's no Wi-Fi support, which means it doesn't give you the same streaming box capabilities as other devices at this price range, but it's a solid pick for those who just want a new home for their discs.
Other Blu-ray players we've considered
When initially deciding what we believe to be the best printers currently available, we spent hours testing and researching. No matter the subject area, we always consider a range of factors when it comes to recommending devices - and apply the same process before a new device enters our top five selections. We don't just take into account our own testing, either, but also consumer reviews, brand quality and value.
In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.
How to choose a Blu-ray player
There are loads of Blu-ray players on the market, all flaunting different features and at a wide range of price points. With such a variety of players to choose from it can be easy to get overwhelmed. So, to help you find the perfect player for your setup, here are a few things worth considering.
Do you need HD or UHD?
If you don't have a 4K TV, then there is little benefit in going with a UHD Blu-ray player. Sticking with an HD player can save you a serious chunk of change too.
However, if you have plans to upgrade to 4K, or if you're already invested then UHD is clearly the way to go.
Will you use smart features?
Many of our top picks have some level of smart functionality, allowing you to stream content from services like Netflix, YouTube and Prime Video.
While these features are nice to have, most TVs, set-top boxes and consoles already have the same services available, which could make them redundant.
So, unless there's a particular service that's missing from your current setup, it's often wise to ignore the smart features in favour of picture quality or audio fidelity.
What about surround sound?
One of the best things about watching Blu-ray movies is the wide range of surround sound codecs available. If you'll be using your Blu-ray player as part of a surround sound system, then you'll want to pay particular attention to the audio decoding on offer, as well as the connectivity.
Some of the players on our list have full 7.1 analogue output for compatibility with older or more niche AV equipment. Many will have optical audio output too, though most modern AV receivers will be best used with an HDMI connection.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been assessed thoroughly to ensure it will perform exactly as a recommended pick should.
We've thought about everything, factoring in how each model will perform whether being used as a simple way to enjoy HD movies or as the centrepiece in a serious home theatre setup. This meant diving into the key specs and features, like HDR support, surround sound codecs, smart features and more. From there, we've then crossed our judgements with each individual price tag to ensure they represent good value for money, too.
As with any roundup, it's not possible to deliver a list that works for every type of user, but we lean on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team - as well as thoroughly assessing the areas above - in order to do our best in this regard.
What we always tend to avoid when compiling these picks are needless spec comparisons and marketing lines; we just want to provide an easy to understand summary that gives you an idea of what each blu-ray player is like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is purely in the interest of brevity.