Blu-Ray Players 2010 Holiday Gift Guide 
Home Theater Feature Articles Best Of & Top 100 Lists
Written by Dick Ward   
Monday, 22 November 2010

Getting gifts is great, there's no one debating that.  Giving gifts may be less rewarding financially, but there are some things you just can't put a price on.  Imagine your brother-in-law's face when he sees his first Blu-ray or the sheer joy emanating from your parents when you introduce them to 1080p for the first time.  Blu-ray players are a great gift, and we've got the best of them compiled in one simple list.

Entry Level

When we talk about entry level, we're talking about players for those completely new to Blu-ray, or those upgrading from an early system without the benefit of online firmware updates and BD-Live.  They're not at the top of the list for the best ever, but they do top the list in their class – a few hundred dollars or less.

Panasonic 100Panasonic DMP-BDT100

The BDT100 from Panasonic is one of the cheapest entries into 3D Blu-ray around.  It's got an MSRP of around $250, but you can find it regularly for $100 cheaper with a quick search on Google.  It offers Viera Cast internet based content, a 1080p picture and both decoding and bitstream for the usual assortment of high-def codecs.

Panasonic's player, while impressive for the price, does lack built-in WiFi.  If that's a concern for you, this isn't the Blu-ray player you want.  What the BDT100 offers in exchange is an ultra-thin profile and a load speed, according to Panasonic, of just half a second.

Sony S570Sony BDP-S570

If you've read up on our Blu-ray reviews, you've seen the praise that our own Thomas Spurlin laid upon the BDP-S570.  As far as inexpensive entry level players go, it doesn't get much better than the S570.  You get 3D functionality, wireless connectivity and plenty else.

The S570 is another slim unit, and one that offers surprisingly good detail, excellent 24p playback, and noteworthy upscaling ability makes it a Blu-ray player worth checking out.  It's also the first Sony player that competes with the next one on the list.

Playstation 3 SlimSony PlayStation 3 Slim

We specify the Slim because it's smaller, quieter and less power hungry. It also bitstreams Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio while the original model does not.  It shouldn't be much of an issue though, since you'll be hard priced to find one of the older versions.

The PS3 is the best supported Blu-ray player on the market, with constant updates and added features.  Since launch, the PS3 got access to both Hulu Plus and Netflix and can even play 3D content.  It's not every Blu-ray player released in 2006 that can say that.

 

Mid Range

There's been a bit of a race to the bottom in the Blu-ray market, with every manufacturer trying to get as much quality as they can as cheap as they can.  It's great for spendthrift consumers, but it does mean the selection between the $300 and $1,000 range is a bit limited.  Regardless, we've pulled together the ones worth looking at, including one player you might not have even thought of.

Onkyo 808Onkyo BD-SP 808

Onkyo's 808 was released just last a few months ago and it's been very well received.  At an MSRP of $599, the BD-SP 808 packs design features only found on ultra-high-end players just a few years ago.  In addition to everything on the inside, it boasts a rigid chassis and a center mounted drive drastically lower interference from vibrations.

The BD-SP 808 is THX certified which is almost certainly thanks to the Marvell Qdeo video chip that handles video processing and scaling of less than HD content.  Unlike a lot of players in the price range, the Onkyo 808 also offers access to streaming services like Netflix, Blockbuster on Demand and Roxio CinemaNow.  You'll find the BD-SP 808 for an MSRP of $599.

Yamaha BD-a1000Yamaha BD-A1000

Yamaha launched its Aventage line earlier this year, promising a complete redesign from the ground up.  The 3D ready BD-A1000 is the first Blu-ray player in the line and it definitely earns the privilege.  At $699, it streams from a variety of online sources including Netflix and Blockbuster on Demand but specializes in the playback of physical media.

The A1000 isn't just a Blu-ray player – it's a universal player.  That means it will let you play back all those SACDs and DVD-Audio discs you've got lying around in addition to your more traditional CDs and DVDs.  It boasts Control4 certification, and supports RC-232C control for those that want to get fancy and offers a simple setup wizard for those that don't.

Oppo 83Oppo BDP-83

This is the only player on our list that you'll have to track down, but if you do it will be well worth it.  It's also an entry level player, bridging the gap between low-end and high-end.  It's been the darling of Blu-ray enthusiasts since launch, but with a replacement on the horizon, the BDP-83 is getting harder to find.

It may not have all the features – internet streaming, 3D capability - of the upcoming BDP-93, but the 83 has a definite advantage in that it's available now.  It's an amazing player that packs VRS Anchor Bay video processing for the best picture you're going to see on a player at this price.

Samsung 8000Samsung BD-C8000

Here's one that's a little out of the box, but definitely a contender for those that like to travel.  The Samsung BD-C8000 is a portable Blu-ray player with a 10.3 inch screen, built-in WiFi and the ability to access Internet@TV.  That means you can watch your Blu-rays and stream from Netflix while you're on the go.  Sound pretty good?  It gets better.

When you've arrived at your destination, you can plug it in and use it as a 3D Blu-ray player.  That's right, the BD-C8000 is the first portable 3D Blu-ray player and it's selling at an MSRP of $499.  Sadly, the C8000 can't do 3D without plugging in to an external display, but if you're the type that travels a lot, the BD-C8000 will kill two birds with one stone.


 

High End

These are the players only the super dedicated enthusiast will want to consider.  They cost upwards of $1,000 and are packed with features that less eagle-eyed viewers might not appreciate.  They might not show up on the Christmas lists of your friends, but they'll be quite happy with a spot on yours.

Acram 100Acram FMJ BDP100

There's a lot of focus on video quality when it comes to Blu-ray players, but Acram takes a different tact with the BDP100.  It's can handle video nicely of course, but it was designed specifically as the first Blu-ray player for Audiophiles.

Along with the usual decoding capabilities, the BDP100 packs some impressive hardware.  It utilizes a Bessel output filter, Wolfson Audio 8741 DACS and a high precision re-clocking system.  According to Acram, you're going to get the same audio quality from the BDP100 that you would from a high-end CD player.  It's available now at $1,499.

Denon S5BDDenon S-5BD

We're swerving off in a different direction with the Denon S-5BD which combines a Denon Blu-ray player with a Denon receiver all in one compact box.  Don't count this out as your typical home theater-in-a-box arrangement - the S-5BD is full of high-end features.

It decodes and plays the latest in HD audio formats, and offers an auto setup feature that allows you to easily match the audio output of the S-5BD to the acoustics of your room.  It doesn't stream media and it doesn't do 3D, but the space-saving Denon S-5BD might be just what you're looking for.

Sony CX7000Sony BDP-CX7000ES

It made the 2009 Blu-ray player list and there's still nothing out there to compete with it.  The BDP-CX7000ES gives you the ability to store and change up to 400 Blu-ray discs.  That's enough to satisfy most collections, and the inclusion of a graphical browser that allows you to sort through the titles with cover art showing makes it simple to navigate.

You might think with all that functionality there would have to be a sacrifice made in video quality, but the BDP-CX7000ES boasts a 14-bit video processor that upconverts and smoothes out 8-bit color.  Sony's CX7000ES doesn't support 3D or streaming media, but with 400 Blu-rays queued up, you won't have time to want anything else.






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