With prices for both players and discs plunging, this may be the holiday season for Blu-ray. Already online movie streaming is making inroads—even on Blu-ray players themselves. Some of these picks are integrating on-demand video services into their feature sets, hoping to keep themselves relevant in the disc-less future.
You don't drop $500 on an Oppo Blu-ray player like the BDP-83 because you want to watch Netflix's streaming service through it. You get one because of its superlative video quality and speed, along with its ability to play PAL-encoded discs and even niche products like DVD-Audio and SACD discs. If you don't care about networking features, but value high-quality image quality most of all, the BDP-83 is worth the price.
It's pricier than most competing units, but the BD-P4600 is easily the best-looking Blu-ray that isn't attached to a Bang & Olufsen or some other super-high-end system. Better still, it's wall-mountable. The player doesn't scrimp on features, either, coming with a Wi-Fi adapter so you can wirelessly access streaming services from Pandora and Netflix.
If you don't need an objet d'art like the Samsung BD-P4600, the BD390 offers all of the wireless features for around $100 less. Unlike the Samsung, the LG has integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi—no external dongle needed—which lets it host a rash of movie-streaming services, including CinemaNow, Netflix, and Vudu. And, oh yeah, it does a great job with Blu-ray discs, too.
Vizio has become a household name by selling quality TVs at prices well below prestige brands like Samsung and Sony. Now it's finally entered the Blu-ray market with the VBR100, which lacks whiz-bang features like Internet services but delivers a sub-$200 price point that should dip even lower as the holiday season unfolds.
If $500 is too much for a Blu-ray player, how about for a Blu-ray drive and a 5.1 home theater system? That's what you get with the HT-BD1250, which delivers great audio for the price, along with a Blu-ray player that offers streaming media from Netflix and Pandora via its Ethernet port. Samsung even throws in an iPod dock to complete the media-friendly package.