2009 Holiday Gift Guide: Blu-ray Players 
Home Theater Feature Articles Best Of & Top 100 Lists
Written by AVRev Staff   
Wednesday, 18 November 2009

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If the recent Blu-con conference in Los Angeles is any indicator, Blu-ray is officially here to stay.  If you haven’t made the jump into the 1080p deliciousness of this high definition movie format, now is the time.  With the holiday season rapidly approaching, there will be an astounding number of cheap Blu-ray players targeted at consumers finally ready to start replacing their DVD collections.

Of course, with all the deals on the Blu-ray market, audio / video fanatics have to be careful that they are spending their money on high quality Blu-ray players.   The following section of our holiday gift guide will provide solid recommendations on which players to keep your eye out for.  In addition, we provided intermediate and videophile level picks for those looking to seriously upgrade their home theater system.

If you are just getting into Blu-ray, we easily recommend the following Blu-ray players:

Top Pick: Sony 120GB Playstaion 3 

- Full Review -

Playstation 3 Slim
You can’t go wrong with Sony’s new slim Playstation 3 as your first Blu-ray player.  While on the steep end of the price spectrum for this group, the amount of features you get with the Playstation 3 is amazing. Quoting our expert review of the Slim PS3, “As a Blu-ray player, it’s both completely functional as a 1080p, audio bitstreaming unit over HDMI and up-and-running with all the supplemental features that make the new technology a cutting edge medium.”.  Add in use as a media hub / next gen gaming system and you have a Blu-ray player that’s quite the Goliath in the Blu-ray marketplace.

Samsung BD-P4600

Samsung BD-P4600 Blu-ray Player

Simply put, the Samsung BD-4600 screams sexiness.  When we spotted this player at CES in January, we were enthralled with the design.  Being able to feature your Blu-ray player as a work of home theater art underneath your super-slim flat screen TV can only add to your home theater’s appeal.  With support for Netflix and Pandora as well as quick loading times, the Samsung player can easily be added to the minimalist’s home theater design.  

Pioneer BDP-320 

Pioneer BDP-320 Blu-ray Player

The Pioneer BDP-320 is a powerhouse in audio / video quality, giving the intermediate level Oppo some serious competition.  It’s also a quite Blu-ay player and runs quite cool.  The trade off for the reduced price point is lengthier load times for Blu-ray discs and a lack of wi-fi functionality included in the unit.  Still, the Pioneer BDP-320 is an admirable unit for those ready to make the jump into Blu-ray.  

LG BD390

LG BD390 Blu-ray Player
The LG BD390 Blu-ray player takes a direct networked approach to their hardware and provides Netflix / Youtube / Cinemanow access right of the box.  It’s also DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) capable, which allows you to stream files on your hom network directly to your TV.  Blu-ray load times are farily close to previous generation DVD players and a/v performance is solid.  This is the Blu-ray unit to give to a friend or family member that’s really into home networking.  

Perhaps you were an early Blu-ray player adopter that’s ready to upgrade your aging Blu-ray hardware with a new player.  Perhaps you are looking for a Blu-ray player that offers more functionality, faster load times or a higher level of Blu-ray picture quality.  Here are our recommendations for the next step up in Blu-ray hardware.

Top Pick: Oppo BDP-83 

- Full Review -

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Player

This is the Blu-ray player that you won’t find in brick and mortar stores, but may possibly be the most sought after Blu-ray player on the net this holiday season.  Beyond its superb prowess at handling Blu-ray discs and delivering a cinematic experience that blows other players away, its ability to upscale DVDs is stunning.  Those with large DVD collections won’t feel the annoying pressure to upgrade their entire collection of discs to DVD.  

Harman Kardon BDP 1 

- Full Review -

Harman Kardon BDP 1 Blu-ray Player

The Harman Kardon BDP-1 is a profile 2.0 player with a small footprint, but offers impressive audio / video quality as well as fully functional BD-Live support.  The player renders a sharp and colorful image out of the box, with the capacity to bitstream native TrueHD and Master Audio tracks flawlessly.  Sound may actually be its strongest suit, as each of the audio portions tested through the Blu-ray side of the technology were impressive, to say the least. Most of all, the visual and audio qualities in Blu-ray mode are both excellent, while the standard-definition upscaling stands impressively with others of its ilk. 

Yamaha BD-S1065 

- Full Review -

Yamaha BD-S1065 Blu-ray Player

Opposite from the small footprint of the HK unit, the Yamaha BD-S1065 is a hefty beast; similar to the design of other Yamaha components.   With fantastic audio / video quality and the ability to upscale DVDs very well, Yamaha adds another key feature; PAL playback.  Those with multi-region discs in their collection will be happy by investing in the Yamaha to play all of their imported Blu-ray discs.  On the flip side, consumers will have to live without wi-fi and simply average load times for discs. 

Sony BDP-CX960

- Preview -

Sony BDP-CX960 Blu-ray Player

Let’s face it, movie collections can be an eyesore inside a home theater.  Stacks upon stacks of DVD or Blu-ray boxes may be fun to browse, but are quite ugly.  Enter a megachanger from Sony.  The BDP-CX960 provides storage for 400 Blu-ray discs and has a built in navigation system for finding your favorite discs; specifically by jacket art, title, director, cast, or genre.  The a/v quality certainly isn’t up to the other Blu-ray players in this class, but storing all your Blu-ray discs in one place can be very enticing to the home theater guru looking to hide those Blu-ray boxes.   

The audiophile / videophile level of Blu-ray player is targeted at serious home theater gurus that want a component expertly calibrated to play all types of discs, beyond Blu-ray.  These video players may be on the extreme end of the price spectrum, but the quality is beyond reproach.  Here are our recommendations:

Top Pick: Marantz UD9004  

Marantz UD9004 Blu-ray Player

This would be the appropriate time to start drooling.  Take one of Marantz’s reference series SACD players, mix it with the BD7004 and you have the Marantz UD9004.  You get immaculate video reproduction thanks to the 14-bit/297MHz video DAC which utilizes Silicon Optix’s Realta HQV video processor.  You get the audio circuitry design from the Marantz SA-7S1 SACD/CD player and twin 32-bit SHARC chipsets for multichannel processing.  You get two HDMI outputs, designed to split the video and audio signals to separate components.  You also get an SD card reader, RS-232 control for integration and BD-Live support via ethernet.  It’s a multi-purpose player that’s nearly perfectly designed to replace your SACD player, DVD player and Blu-ray player.    

Denon DBP-4010UD

Denon BDP-4010UD Blu-ray Player

Denon is banking on consumers looking to do a little web surfing before or after watching a flick on Blu-ray.  The player incorporates a built-in web browser (the first player on the market to do so) into the system as well as integrating iPhone / iPod touch remote control abilities over wi-fi.  On the audio / video side, the unit uses 12 bit, 297MHz DAC for the video as well as a Burr-Brown 24/192 audio DAC for two-channel audio production (SACD gurus, take note!).

Pioneer BDP-09FD

Pioneer BDP-09FD Blu-ray Player

The Pioneer BDP-09FD is Pioneer’s top level Blu-ray player in their Elite series.   Arguably, it’s designed for the home theater owner that cherishes the analog signal over HDMI. It utilizes eight different Wolfson audio DAC’s to output each channel of audio to your seven speakers + subwoofer.   The pitucte quality is upconverted from 8-bit to 16-bit with the video processor, excellent for Blu-ray video as well as upscaling DVDs.  In addition to BD-Live compatibility, it comes with 4GB of internal memory to store all those goodies from your Blu-ray discs.  The top notch quality of the audio and video performance makes this an easy recommendation for those avoiding HDMI for now.  

Sony BDP-CX7000ES

Sony BDP-CX7000ES Blu-ray Player

Once again, the megachanger makes an appearance.  What’s the difference this time?  Simply put, the picture quality.  The BDP-CX7000ES uses a proprietary 14-bit HD video processor that converts the 8-bit color production into a smoother, higher quality image.  Beyond improving a stunning 1080p image, it provides excellent upscaling.  In addition, the component comes with a RS-232 port for integration into a custom installed home theater setup.  Similar to the previous megachanger, the unit provides all your disc information without having to input it into the system

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