After seeing every single Blu-ray player on sale and/or clearance at Best Buy a few weeks back, I’ve been religiously checking in to see when the latest batch (most unveiled at CES) drops. And this weekend, I hit the mother lode at Best Buy’s Reston, VA outpost. Although these eight new units aren’t entirely ready for their close up… None have completed shelf labels and only two (the Sonys) are boxed on the showroom floor. This isn’t the entire updated lineup, but all the models I saw (starting at $180) include a network jack and streaming services. Additionally, all units start at lower prices compared to last year and are mostly more compact – with several boasting improved startup times. Now that the LGBD390 has presumably been discontinued and Vudu has been acquired, I’m no longer sure which player I need…
The Sony Blu-ray Players
The two Sony Blu-ray players are significantly thinner than prior models. At least 1/3rd thinner, maybe 1/2. And surprising slow. Unfortunately, these two lower end models look somewhat pedestrian in a cheaply finished plastic. However, they can be overlooked as the “wireless ready” (buy their USB adapter) units include Slacker, amongst the other Bravia Internet services, and an iPhone remote control app is available. The slightly higher-end unit is also the first Blu-ray player advertising 3D capabilities on the box, expected via a firmware update this summer.
The LG Blu-ray Players
Although not the slimmest, I found the three LG models to be the most elegant looking. But I’m still not quite sold on the need for a built-in hard drive (on their high-end model), as I have no intention of ripping my (old) CDs to a Blu-ray player. However, maybe it opens the door for improved movie download or gaming services. Interestingly, despite the variety of online services offered by LG, only Netflix is mentioned on the unit. I suppose they reserve the right to rotate streaming apps in and out of their catalog.
The Panasonic Blu-ray Players
The Panasonic players are the ugliest of the bunch. What I thought was a reflection and then a shipping sticker is actually a garish paint job (on the higher end unit). However, the Pannys boast boot times of 1/2 a second. If they can achieve that without becoming an energy vampire, I can easily overlook the aesthetics. And why most AV equipment belongs in cabinets.
The Samsung Blu-ray Player
I’m sure there are many more Samsung players on the way, but only one has hit Best Buy’s shelving thus far. And Samsung has seriously redesigned their enclosure. Gone is the shiny black plastic, replaced by a brushed silver metal (or plastic masquerading as metal) chassis. Which looks quite nice. The unit also looks much less deep than it’s predecessors.
- Samsung BD-C6500, no price listed
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