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updated 11/23/2011 1:08:09 PM ET 2011-11-23T18:08:09

Blu-ray offers pristine HD video, better than any other source, including cable and, of course, video streamed over the Internet.

These days, Blu-ray players can be had for under $100, but what do you get if you spend a bit more?

For easy of labeling, we’ll break down the Blu-ray players into three categories: Entry-level, 3-D and Specialty. While there is some overlap, these represent the most noticeable changes in features and price.

What you will get across the board is stunning HD picture quality (much better than DVD), fast loading and an HDMI output. Unless you have an older high-def television, this is good. All HDTVs of recent vintage have HDMI inputs.

Entry-level
As the name describes, these players are the entry into the Blu-ray world. Often around $100, you rarely get the features we’ll see in the upper levels.

However, what you do get is DVD/CD playback and 1080p output (usually 1080p/24 as well). Even at these prices, though, you can find entry-level players that also offer Internet streaming services such as Netflix, Vudu, Amazon and so on. The lowest-cost players often have a limited selection of streaming content providers, but for just a few dollars more, you can get a different player that offers most of them.

Word of caution: As you can see in the links below, there are many excellent Entry-level Blu-ray players that offer lots of features for very little money. You can spend more and get less, and you can spend less and get less. This is, of course, true with any product category, but for many $100 is an impulse buy. That’s fine, but make sure that impulse is pushing you toward something that’s a good value, not just one that’s cheap.

In this category, here are HDGuru.com’s picks:

Also check out our review of the Panasonic DMP-BD75 Blu-ray Player, now $80.99 on Amazon.

SquareTrade offer a  3-year (total) warranty for this class of players for $14.99.

3-D
Still the buzzword in consumer electronics, 3-D is a feature found in most new TVs and Blu-ray players. For just a small step-up in price over entry-level players, you get the ability to output 3-D. That’s presuming, of course, you have a 3-D TV to use it on.

Because these models are a step up, they often have more extensive Internet streaming options and are wireless-ready. This latter means you have to buy a wireless “dongle” that attaches to the player to allow Wi-Fi. These aren’t cheap, and often represent most if not all of the price difference between “wireless-ready” and “wireless” Blu-ray players. We have seen some occasions in which buying a wireless-ready player+dongle cost more than a similar player with the wireless built-in. Something to keep an eye on, if you’re looking for wireless.

Here are our picks for 3-D players:

Also check out our review of the LG BD670 3-D Wireless Blu-ray Player, now $149 on Amazon.

Specialty
At the top of the Blu-ray food chain you’ve got specialty players. These often, though not always, have all the features of their lower-priced brethren. They add specific niche features to appeal to a certain group. In some cases, this may be SACD/DVD-Audio playback, in others it can be a built-in hard drive. Many feature high-end electronics for the best possible picture and sound quality, with all sources. The $250 PlayStation 3 plays Blu-rays and games.

Also check out our review of the OPPO BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player, now $499.99 on Amazon.

Follow Geoff Morrison on Twitter @TechWriterGeoff.

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