Image: Samsung 3-D Blu-ray player
Samsung
Samsung's BD-C6900 1080p 3D Blu-ray disc player retails for around $300.
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updated 4/25/2011 7:54:40 PM ET 2011-04-25T23:54:40

There are a seemingly endless number of Blu-ray players on the market. You would think it should be simple to pick one out — they all play Blu-ray movies, and that's the whole point of owning one. But what options — such as streaming Netflix, connecting to the internet, and the ability to watch 3-D movies — make sense for you?

Connecting to the Internet
At first glance, wanting to connect your Blu-ray player to the Internet may seem a bit odd. But doing so can give you some pretty neat options. Other than a high-speed Internet connection such as DSL or cable, you will need a router of some sort. If you aren't sure that you have a router or what it is capable of, call your internet provider, or head into your local electronics store and speak with a sales associate.

There are two ways to go about connecting it to the Internet: through a standard network cable or through your home wireless network. A large portion of Blu-ray players can connect with a network cable, but not all can connect wirelessly — a feature that usually costs a bit more. Connecting your Blu-ray player to the internet lets you easily update its software, access additional Web-based content on certain Blu-ray discs, and use streaming applications.

Streaming applications
Certain mid- and high-end Blu-ray players offer you the ability to stream some of your favorite online content, such as Pandora, Netflix, and YouTube, directly to your TV. You will need to have an account to use many of these applications, and some, such as Netflix, require a subscription.

The benefit of being able to use these applications on your Blu-ray player is twofold: You can enjoy some of your favorite Internet streaming options on a much larger screen than your desktop or laptop, and you can control it all from one device.

Different manufacturers offer different streaming options in different combinations, so be sure to check what applications are available on the model you're considering purchasing before making your final decision.

Is 3-D right for me?
Ever since "Avatar" was released, manufacturers have been trying to recreate the success of 3-D in the home. Most manufacturers offer a high-end version of their Blu-ray player that can play 3-D Blu-ray discs. 3-D players are backwards compatible, meaning that 3-D-capable Blu-ray players are also capable of playing normal 2-D discs and content.

There are only a handful of 3-D Blu-ray movies out right now, and it's too early to tell if this will be a passing trend or is here to stay. Either way, if you decide you want to have the option to watch 3-D movies, expect to pay a premium for the player. Also, keep in mind that you must have an HDTV capable of displaying 3-D content in order to watch a 3-D movie.

Tips to help you choose
Here are a few things to consider before making your final decision.

  • Cost: Keep in mind that the least expensive Blu-ray player will play regular Blu-ray discs just as well as the most expensive one. If you only want to watch movies, you can save a lot of money by opting for a more basic model.
  • Streaming applications: Ask yourself if you really need the streaming options like Netflix, Pandora and YouTube. If you don't already have an account or subscription with any of the companies that offer this, you probably don't need this option and can potentially save some money by opting for a different model.
  • Connections: Make sure that you have the proper connections on the back of your TV or receiver to hook up your new Blu-ray player. Check out Tecca's guide to home theater connections if you need some help making sense of these. If you're still a bit confused, ask a sales associate at your local electronics retailer.

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