If you want to watch your favourite movies in Full HD, and with top-notch surround sound, then Blu-ray is the way to go. With budget Blu-ray players now available for well under £100 – and often given away free or at a discount as part of a bundle with new TVs – it's time to upgrade your old DVD player.
As well as giving you superb picture quality at Full HD 1080p resolution, many Blu-ray discs also include Dolby Digital TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks as well. So not only will the film look great on your HD TV, it will also sound great if you have a proper surround sound system capable of handing the newer Dolby/DTS formats.
And if your existing TV lacks smart functionality and catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer or movie streaming apps like Netflix, many Blu-ray models now have those built-in.
So here's our pick of the best Blu-ray players on the market, assuming you're not prepared to wait for Ultra HD Blu-ray...
This Sony is all about providing serious bang for just a few bucks. The Sony BDP-S5200 looks small and unassuming – it’s pretty much half the width of your average home cinema or hi-fi separate.
But there's nothing wrong with the picture. Blu-rays are equally impressive in 2D or 3D, and the Sony does the transfer justice with a brilliant picture. The level of depth and sense of realism is wonderfully immersive.
The Sony’s picture doesn’t feel fake or forced, even when all the debris comes flying from the screen towards your face. There’s an excellent level of contrast as the black expanse of space is punctuated by stars, satellites and astronauts.
Whites are punchy, but dark areas remain inky-black and the Sony still has enough in the tank to extract plenty of detail from the shadows.
As for sound quality, it delivers tunes with a real sense of fluidity and rhythm, but still hits hard enough to give more explosive, wilder soundtracks the sofa-shaking impact they deserve. All in all, this is a bargain.
Scarily consistent. That’s how we’d describe Sony’s recent track record when it comes to Blu-ray players.
Its budget decks have been showered with Awards and five-star ratings over the past few years, and the BDP-S7200 is the latest of a long line to pick up a Product of the Year trophy.
The BDP-S7200 sits at the top of Sony’s range of Blu-ray players (there’s a choice of five machines, from £60). The other four have the Sense Of Quartz design, but the ’S7200 gets a more traditional boxy look.
The Sony’s star shines brightest when it comes to sound quality: it’s entertaining, exciting and musical, impressing us when it comes to Blu-ray discs, DVDs and CDs.
It even has the added benefit of high-res audio compatibility, including 24-bit/192kHz WAV files, FLAC and DSD, although not all formats are supported over a home network
Pictures are equally impressive. The Sony also excels visually with a great sense of depth and realism to the image too.
There’s no shortage of Blu-ray players out there, but the BDP-S7200 stands out. It will be a tough one to beat.
Why pay £500 for a Blu-ray player when you can pick up a decent one for less than £100? As this flagship Panasonic DMP-BDT700 shows, it’s all about performance.
The Panasonic has 4K Ultra HD upscaling alongside its 3D Blu-ray qualities, smart features and extensive file compatibility inside its sleek casing – but its picture quality is what justifies that premium price.
Images from Blu-ray or DVD look fantastic. Play the Pacific Rim Blu-ray and we’re immediately captivated by the rich, punchy hues, the intense black levels, the bright whites and incredible level of detail.
The DMP-BDT700 is a confident player, juggling high contrast scenes and skin tones easily. Colours are beautifully balanced and the DMP-BDT700’s excellent contrast makes for a bold and riveting picture.
The 7.1 channel sound is clear and detailed, too. Power, scale and dynamics are all present and correct.
If you want a premium Blu-ray player for a premium home cinema system, this is the one to buy.
In today’s market spending £1100 on a Blu-ray player seems awfully steep. After all, you can buy a truly accomplished machine such as our 2014 Product of the Year, the Sony BDP-S7200, for just over £200.
This is undoubtedly the luxury end of the Blu-ray player market, but if you want a source component that's as adept with music as it is with movies, look no further.
This well built machine will play Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD and DVD-Audio discs, has smart functionality including Netflix and BBC iPlayer, and can even stream high-resolution music files (up to 24-bit/192kHz) across a home network.
And the performance is excellent. Every aspect of picture quality from motion handling, to naturalness of colours or noise levels is top class, and a clear step better than already impressively capable machines such as the Marantz UD7007 and Panasonic DMP-BDT700.
If all you want is a way of playing Blu-rays and DVDs, the Oppo is overkill. But if you crave a really talented source component that plays pretty much all movie and music content to a high standard, the story is very different. Want one machine to do it all? Here it is.