Blu-ray players may have spread from early adopters to suburban basements, but DVDs are still widely watched, and some frugal consumers no doubt find the newer technology tough to justify. If you see a lot of movies in theaters, however, Blu-ray starts to look a little more appealing. By the time you take someone to “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and “The Bourne Legacy,” ingesting several thousand calories’ worth of popcorn and candy along the way, you could have bought yourself a budget Blu-ray player.
If you don’t mind waiting a couple of extra months to catch this year’s summer blockbusters -- or if you just want to re-watch the Bourne Trilogy in HD before seeing the new one -- take a sneak peek below at Cheapism’s top picks for affordable Blu-ray players.
- The Panasonic DMP-BDT220 (starting at $130) delivers superb video quality and features for the price, experts say. On top of the usual HDMI, composite, and Ethernet connections, it features an SD card slot for displaying photos, two USB ports, and optical audio output for home theater speakers, as well as analog stereo output for an old-school receiver. It can stream content from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, YouTube, and Pandora. (Where to buy)
- The LG BP620 (starting at $139) earns praise for its speed: In comparative testing, it took only 20 seconds to start playing a disc. Outputs include both optical audio and analog stereo. This player supports the Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, CinemaNow, and Pandora streaming services. (Where to buy)
- The Sony BDP-S580 (starting at $131) is a solid performer, according to online reviews. It features digital audio or analog stereo output, two USB ports, and a component output as an alternative to HDMI or composite. This model can stream media from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, YouTube, and Amazon. (Where to buy)
- The Panasonic DMP-BD75 (starting at $80) wins fans with its high-quality video playback and easy-to-use interface. While this cheap model comes with few added features, it does stream movies via Netflix, Vudu, and CinemaNow. (Where to buy)
All these Blu-ray players can handle DVDs, so you don’t have to worry about replacing your existing library with Blu-ray discs. Blu-ray players can read audio CDs as well, and these models support Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, and DTS-HD surround sound. They all have HDMI and composite outputs for connecting to a TV, at least one USB port, and an Ethernet connection for streaming. The Panasonic DMP-BDT220, LG BP620, and Sony BDP-SS80 can also stream content wirelessly. For anyone who has a 3D TV or is thinking about buying one at some point, these three budget models can play 3D movies. Visit the Blu-ray Disc Association’s website to see titles available in 3D.
One final note: Remember that Blu-ray is a high-definition format, so even a cheap player isn’t worth it if you don’t have or plan to get an HDTV.
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