REVIEWS / Blu-ray Player Reviews

Pierre-Jean Alzieu
Despite the growing popularity of HD TVs, very few people own equipment that produces good enough pictures to make the most of these advanced screens. Depending on the availability of HD broadcasts, a Blu-ray player is sometimes the only available source capable of delivering HD content worthy of the name.

BD-Live, DLNA and connected services are available via Ethernet or Wi-Fi in some Blu-ray players. However, Internet connectivity doesn't automatically bring all of these features.

BD-Live is often used as a key selling point for Blu-ray discs, but with content ever scarcer, it's becoming less worthwhile. In fact, BD-Live content has only featured in a few recent productions. Some web-connected Blu-ray players only offer BD-Live and no other services, which makes the Internet connection relatively useless.

DLNA uses network connectivity to read files stored on a PC or a server. That means you can access photos and music stored on your PC without having to transfer the files onto a USB flash drive. For videos, however, the quality of the network and the multimedia player are crucial. For example, some video files may not be compatible with the media player, while others may be too big to be viewed over the network (100 mbps required for HD).

Internet apps and other connected services vary greatly between manufacturers. Some apps are built into the product's interface (e.g. Sony Crossbar) while others come in a separate hub (Smart Hub, Net TV). Such functions can be easy to use and bring handy extras, or they can be confusing and completely pointless. That's something we're sure to check each time we test a Blu-ray player!

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HD is everywhere these days! From ISPs and satellite broadcasters to cable companies and tech manufacturers, everyone seems to pushing users into going HD.

Having taken the plunge and invested in an HD TV, many consumers find the choice of HD content frustratingly limited.

Many satellite and cable channels are still only broadcast in Standard Definition (SD), or the lower 'HD Ready' format, and while movies available over video-on-demand services might be billed as HD, the amount of compression required to beam them into your home means they're often worse quality than a regular DVD when they arrive.

The upshot of all of these compromises is that a lot of people find themselves lumbered with a very expensive piece of kit that they can't get the most out of.

Blu-ray Players to the rescue

Don't give up on your HD TV just yet, though, as with a Blu-ray player you can enjoy top-notch HD in the comfort of your living room.

Movies stored on Blu-ray discs are in the 1080p format, and are therefore compatible with intermediate resolutions (576p, 720p or 1080p itself). Getting the best results requires configuring your Blu-ray player to match the native resolution of your TV.

Plus, SD-to-HD upscaling is always much better when done at the source of the signal rather than by the TV. That's something you're sure to notice when watching standard definition DVDs with a Blu-ray player.

For HD viewing, almost all of the Blu-ray players we've tested to date offer very similar picture quality on HD TVs—which is excellent in most cases. Once you've tried it for yourself, you'll have trouble going back to DVDs and SD TV!
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