It was just a few short years ago that the CES masses were cramming into manufacturers' booths, in hopes of even a small peek at what Blu-ray technology could do. Real 1080p content for our HDTVs and lossless 7.1 channel surround sound? Wowee!
Well, times have changed, the format has become commoditized and prices have dropped. It's now possible to get a wireless network-enabled internet streaming 3D-capable Blu-ray player from a name brand manufacturer for under $100. But this doesn't mean that the technology is standing still or that there aren't still great players out there now or coming soon. In 2013, there are still pllenty of companies producing Blu-ray players in various shapes, with various features, for various budgets.
Ok, that last one, we're not too sure about. Many of the prices on the new Blu-ray players for 2013 have yet to be announced, but if history is any guide, expect to pay even less this year for any but the most high-end players.
Even more interesting, a lot of manufacturers have really upped the breadth of features that buyers can expect, even in "entry-level" players. There will be even more players streaming even more web services this year. A few manufacturers areoffering players with advanced 4K upscaling so they'll be ready to rock your new Ultra HD panel or projector.
Looking to cram a little something slim and shiny into your AV cabinet this year? Let's put a spotlight on a few of the new Blu-ray players which made their debut at last month's CES.
LG made a lot of its announcements over the holiday season, with the BP730 Blu-ray player with Smart TV features being its big player for the year. LG's flagship player will support 3D and web streaming, with Hulu Plus, Pandora, Netflix, YouTube and a web browser right out of the box. It also supports Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, so users can easily pair smartphone and tablet content with the player. Other features include a dual-core processor for All-in-One search across VOD and app services and LG's Magic Remote.
LG will also put WiFi and Smart TV features into the BP530 Blu-ray 3D player, with the BP330 Blu-ray player dropping the 3D support and some of the streaming features and the web browser.
While technically not introduced at CES, OPPO recently added two new players to its lineup, which are already proving to be popular among high-end audio/video hobbyists and aficionados. Both the BDP-103 ($499.99) and BDP-105 ($1199.99) are universal players. This means they will play back DVD-Audio and SACD Discs, in addition to CD, DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D Discs.
OPPO's players are among the first to support Roku's Streaming Stick, via an MHL-capable HDMI port on the front of the units. We think this is a great idea as it allows OPPO to concentrate on audio and video quality and let Roku, a leader in the streaming media space, concentrate on providing a wealth of audio and video streaming channels and apps. The Roku Streaming Stick is available separately for $99. If you opt not to get the Streaming Stick, you can still enjoy a select few streaming apps on the OPPO players themselves including Netflix, VUDU, Pandora and YouTube.
Both players feature advanced video upscaling to 1080p or Ultra HD formats thanks to Marvell's Kyoto-G2H video processor with the latest generation Qdeo technology. Both also feature high quality multi-channel analog outputs for integration with high-end analog audio systems. The main improvement in the BDP-105 is the high-end SABRE32 Reference Audio DAC (Digital Analog Converter) and an upgraded audiophile grade analog audio output for those who want the finest possible audio playback quality.
Of Panasonic's four newly announced players for 2013, two will have 3D support. Those are the DMP-BDT330 and the DMP-BDT230, which include built-in WiFi, as well as Panasonic's IPTV platform and the web-based VIERA Connect. Both also have the cool new Display Mirroring feature, which allows users to stream content from virtually any Android 4.2 smartphone or tablet to the larger screen. The BDT330 is a real standout, with built-in 4K upscaling and twin HDMI outputs. The twin outputs allow you to use the player with an HDMI-capable A/V receiver which may not support 4K or 3D passthrough.
The DMP-BD89 and DMP-BD79 are the company's two non-3D players, with IP VOD. That basically means that both of these models have web-based streaming, but it's slightly more limited than the full VIERA Connect platform. That said, you should be able to get your streaming goodies from Netflix, HuluPlus, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, CinemaNow and YouTube. The BD89 has built-in WiFi, with the BD79 offering that option via an add-on adapter.
Panasonic expects to start shipping all of the new models in February or March. In case you can't wait, the company says it's sticking with 2012's DMP-BDT500 and DMP-BBT01 players this year so if you want a small form factor (BBT01) or an advanced player with high quality multi-channel analog outputs (BDT500), these two are still available and remain current for 2013:
Samsung wasn't talking up its entire 2013 Blu-ray player line in Vegas this year. Instead, they went for quality over quantity, choosing to shine a spotlight on the 2013 flagship Samsung BD-F7500 Premium Blu-ray Player. The hook on this model is that it can upscale to Ultra HD levels (4K). Of course, it also plays nice with plenty of SD and HD content and has a dual-core processor to crank out all of the Smart Hub and AllShare goodies. Pricing and availability details were not available at press time.
Similar to Panasonic, Sony is introducing several new players in 2013, but is leaving their current top of the line player, the BDP-S790 Blu-ray Player as their flagship. That probably has something to do with the player's 4K upscaling capabilities, Wireless streaming and ability to play a number of popular video codecs on locally attached USB drives or network drives. Available now, this model also supports 3D playback and a number of web streaming apps including UltraViolet streaming powered by VUDU. Other perks include a dual-core processor, two HDMI outputs, an IR input, DLNA support, IP content noise reduction, and support for Sony's HomeShare Network Speaker.
The new players for 2013, the BDP-S3100 and BDP-S5100 may not have all of the bells and whistles, but will come packing built-in WiFi and a new design. The BDP-S5100 will also have 3D support. Not as much is known about the BDP-S1100 Blu-ray Player, except that it will be Sony's entry-level model.
This year, Toshiba won't have any Blu-ray players -- technically. Instead, the company announced the "Media Box with Blu-ray Disc player capabilities." In other words some of Toshiba's "Over the Top" streaming boxes for 2013 also happen to include Blu-ray and DVD playback capabilities. Some of the Media Box players will feature built-in WiFi, a web browser and the option for Miracast so you can connect portable devices without actually having to use cables. Other features include YouTube, Netflix, VUDU, CinemaNow, Hulu Plus and Pandora, as well as photos, gaming and other content via Cloud TV.
All four of the new players won't have all of the new options. The BDX2400 is a basic Blu-ray player with server access, with the BDX3400 adding in built-in WiFi and the Miracast feature. The BDX5400 has all of the above features, but adds in 3D playback. At the top of the 2013 heap is the BDX6400, which has the server access, the open browser, the built-in WiFi, the Miracast, the 3D playback and 4K upconversion.