We bring you our best Blu-ray spinners of 2013, to suit all budgets
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9,013The Blu-ray player has become a relatively inexpensive commodity fairly soon into its lifecycle.We hare hoping that CES 2014 will give the product sector a shot in the arm, with manufacturer revelations of 4K players but 2013 has been all about adding features - some useful, others not so.
Despite the general southerly direction of the price-tags, there does remain quite a spread, with a huge array of players on the market to cater for all needs and budgets so here's our rundown of what has impressed us in 2013.4K Scaling? Give us Ultra HD Blu-ray disc instead!Oppo BDP-103EU
Whilst technically this is a 2012 player, the Oppo 103 is still widely available and as it's so good, we're willing to overlook a matter of a few weeks in the interests of bringing you the best. OK, to be pedantic, there is the Oppo 105, but if you only need HDMI outs, the 103 represents better value for most.
Oppo has refined the chassis of the BDP-103 but it remains beautifully solid with its brushed aluminium front and simple buttons and the centrally mounted disc tray operates with a pleasing hush. The BDP-103 also has a great of array of connections including two HDMI v1.4a outputs and also a second HDMI input that allows you to take advantage of Oppo's superb video processing with another device.
Setup is a breeze with a helpful ‘Wizard’ and the menus are easy to navigate and digest. The BDP-103 doesn't have Wi-Fi built-in but it does come with a wireless dongle and an expanded internet platform, including Netflix and YouTube. The inclusion of 4K upscaling and 2D to 3D conversion feel like gimmicks to help with marketing but the addition of access to the Gracenote global media database and a remote app for Android/iOS are very good.
The Oppo BDP-103 is a true universal player.The BDP-103 is the player to choose for those with a large variety of discs and boasts playback of CD, HDCD, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray media and it’s a stellar performer with each, delivering flawless video and audio. Scaling of DVDs is of a reference standard, equalling some of the best video processors and the audio performance was equally as assured. There are certainly cheaper players out there but if you’re looking for a no-holds-barred universal player, the Oppo BDP 103 takes some beating.
Whilst Samsung’s flagship Blu-ray player, the F7500, was pretty much all you could want from a spinner, its inclusion of 4K scaling adds to the price-tag without really having any practical use. The scaling of Ultra HD TVs should be at least a match so the F6500 is more a value option to consider.
You can find it online for less than £100 this festive season, which is fabulous value for such a feature packed Blu-ray player. It might not be the best looking bit of AV furniture but that doesn’t really matter, we prefer our spinners unobtrusive. Connectivity options are also fairly basic but most will be catered for with a single HDMI out and digital audio connections.
All this for under a ton? Crazy!The feature set will take some beating in the Blu-ray market – whatever the price bracket - with loads of Video on Demand services available and lots more besides. But, most importantly, it’s a very fine disc player, whether that's with 2D or 3D Blu-ray, or even in adding a bit of spit and polish to your DVD collection.
The BD-6500M will give you almost universal playback of your physical and digital media catalogue and a host of excellent features for under a ton. Not much to fall out with there!
The Pioneer BDP-450 is another player with universal ambitions but at a price somewhat lower than that of the Oppo. In fact, we’ve found it for less than £180, which is simply superb value for such a well-constructed and high performance player.
Design-wise, it’s classic Pioneer – understated and refined with a heavy dose of classic minimalism and mechanically it’s quiet and efficient, too, so what more could you want? The addition of a secondary HDMI output is also useful for those with older AV receivers but it is also bereft of analogue outputs, if that’s a consideration for you.Pure understated Pioneer class
It’s not the smartest player out there. There is no built-in WiFi, for starters, and the online content is limited but it certainly doesn’t compromise in performance terms. Whatever the digital source, results were superb, whether 2D or 3D video, SACD, CD or streamed audio.
Whatever the task, the Pioneer BDP-450 proved a very assured player and if you're looking for a universal player and don’t need any analogue connections, it’s a very tough proposition to beat at the price.
The BP730 boasts LG’s usual attractive design ethos, with a a two-tone brushed metal and gloss black look. at the bottom. Again, it features only a basic set of connections with a solitary HDMI output, an S/PDIF audio out and an Ethernet port but there's also built-in WiFi, WiDi and USB connections concealed on the front facia.
The player also comes with LG’s superb Magic Motion controller - which justifies its inclusion on this list, alone – and it offers an unprecedented ease of menu and features navigation, both with voice and gesture based controls. As you would expect from LG, the breadth of features on offer is also superb with numerous apps and video-on-demand services available..Feature-laden at no-frills pricingThe all-digital nature of the outputs means the BP730 is effectively a digital transport and therefore unsurprisingly pristine in its delivery of audio and video from both 2D and 3D Blu-rays. Video processing is top-notch so even DVDs will look excellent and it’s another fully-featured player doing the rounds at no-frills prices.
We’ve always been fans of the Panasonic Blu-ray players for their uncomplicated yet uncompromising performance and the BDT220 is another solid, budget player from the Japanese. It’s not particularly pretty but its simple all-black design is just fine for us.
As a very affordable product, there are no ‘exotic’ connectivity options so you’ll have to make sure one HDMI and optical audio out are sufficient for your needs but there is built-in WiFi. That connection is particularly useful in accessing the VIERA Connect Market, where you can download additional apps and games to the accompany those built-in including, Netflix, YouTube and BBC iPlayer. Netflix subscribers will especially pleased with the BDT220’s dedicated launch button on the remote.
The BDT220 impressed us with its rapid disc loading abilities and playback of both 2D and 3D Blu-ray was flawless. The Panasonic players feature some clever chroma upsampling capabilities too, which just add that smattering of gloss to the already impressive images. Handling of standard definition content was also highly impressive with pristine scaling of DVDs.The BDT220 has some impressive video processing capabilities.The Panasonic DMP-BDT220 is simply a super little all-rounder, offering a bevy of features, in a simple to use but expansive package for less Amazon vouchers than you might expect.
So there you have it. Hopefully we've selected something to suit everyone but with so many players on the market the choices have never been more varied. Please let us know if you have your own suggestions for a player that deserves to go on the list in the comments below and share your hopes and desires for the product sector in the coming year ahead.
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