How to buy the best Blu-ray DVD player
By Elisa Roberts
Blu-ray players are DVD players that can display films in high definition, 3D or even 4K. We explain what to look out for before buying one.
The primary selling point of Blu-ray is that it will display your favourite films and TV shows in full high definition, meaning that they will have more clarity than your old DVD collection - although Blu-ray players play DVDs, too.
Despite being expensive when they first came on the scene, Blu-ray players are now much more affordable - the cheapest start at around £45 and the majority fall between £60 and £130. And we've found you can get a Best Buy Blu-ray player for less than £70.
The step up in image quality from DVD to Blu-ray is noticeably different; colour, detail and sharpness is better - ideal for large screen TVs. But the benefits don't end there. To help you with your decision take a look at our unique interactive choosing tool below.
Blu-ray player features explained
- 1080p HD picture - If you're a movie buff who wants to watch your films in the high quality, than you'll definitely appreciate a Blu-ray player, especially on a larger TV, where you'll be able to see the tiniest details.
- High definition sound - it's not just about the picture - you can enjoy high quality audio, too. To fully benefit from uncompressed audio, ideally you'll connect the Blu-ray player to a surround sound system, an A/V receiver and speakers, or a sound bar, rather than listening through the TV's speakers.
- True HD vs 'HD channels' - online streaming services like Netflix, digital TV services such as BBC HD and satellite services such as Sky TV HD don't broadcast completely uncompressed HD footage. Even the latest 4K streams won’t necessarily give you a picture as good as a Blu-ray disc.
- 4K - this is the latest standard of image quality. It's an incredible four-times sharper than Full-HD, but needs a special 4K player, 4K-ready TV and 4K Blu-ray discs to be viewed.
- 3D film effects at home - not everyone likes 3D but it still has its fair share of fans. The best way to enjoy it at home is a magic combination of a 3D TV and glasses, 3D Blu-ray disc and 3D Blu-ray player.
- No need to stream - unlike online video services, such as Netflix and Now TV, with Blu-ray discs you don't need a fast internet connection and generous data allowance to watch shows and films in high quality. Even without fast and reliable broadband, you can enjoy movies at their best.
Which brands make Blu-ray DVD players?
The main manufacturers of Blu-ray players are big-name brands such as LG, Samsung, Sony and Panasonic, although other well-known companies also produce them, including Microsoft, Philips, Pioneer, and Yamaha.
Blu-ray players are much more affordable than when they first launched, so you'll find the main brands offer several models from budget up to their very best, fully-featured decks. There are also premium models from the likes of Denon, Onkyo, Marantz, and Cambridge Audio, which can cost from £200 up to £800. Is it really necessary to part with that sort of cash? In short, no. But get it wrong, and you could be left with dire-looking 3D or a dreadful DVD picture.
Not only do we find the best Blu-ray players through our expert tests, we're happy to reveal that they're generally very reliable. That said, some Blu-ray player manufacturers perform better for reliability than others.
Find out how thousands of Which? members rated their Blu-ray players for satisfaction with our table of the most reliable Blu-ray player brands.
How do I choose a good Blu-ray player?
So you want good Blu-ray quality, but what else? Consider the features that you'll really need and use. There's no point paying a premium and buying a 3D-capable or even a 4K-upscaling model if you don't have a TV that supports it.
Good for DVDs
It's easy to overlook DVD quality, but not all are made equal - if you have a large DVD collection then make sure you find a Blu-ray player that receives a good rating for DVD standard definition (SD) picture quality. We test DVD quality on every single Blu-ray player we review, so even if you just want a cheap model to play DVDs we can tell you which will do any disc justice.
Find out which models make our list of the best cheap Blu-ray players under £100.
3D Blu-ray films
3D-ready Blu-ray players are fairly common and many of those we test can play 3D discs. Many TVs are also 3D-capable, and you don't have to spend a fortune for this. The majority do a good job but we catch out any with a poor 3D effect in our tests, so you're not.
Find your ideal 3D popcorn partner with our best 3D Blu-ray players.
If you're a casual Blu-ray disc renter or purchaser, but like the idea of watching catch-up services from the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5, then go for a Smart TV enabled model. Most of these will be wi-fi enabled, so they will connect to your home network wirelessly, although some cheaper or older models will need to be physically attached to your internet router with an ethernet cable.
Discover which Smart models excelled among our Blu-ray player reviews.
Play your own movies via USB
If you'd like to play your own movies and images in the Blu-ray player, check for USB or SD card slots. These allow you to put your own content on a memory stick and play it back on the TV. Seeing your photos and home movies on a big screen TV can be a nice way to share them with your friends and family. Check the technical specifications tab of our Blu-ray player reviews for this but many newer TVs offer this, too.
Easy to use
Blu-ray players are fairly simple in terms of tech products, and most should be capable of doing a decent job of playing your discs. However, the interface and menu can make a world of difference, and a poorly placed volume button on the remote, or tricky to find menu settings can lead to years of irritation. Try to have a play with a few models in store to see how you get on with the remote and menus. As we check how intuitive they are to use, find a model we rate highly for ease of use in our Blu-ray player reviews.
Most people have a Full-HD TV in their homes, but those with 4K - or ultra-high-definition (Ultra HD) picture quality – are becoming more common. These can upscale the picture up to four times the detail of HD, and the 4K-upscaling Blu-ray players we have reviewed essentially do the same job but only with Blu-ray discs. A new Ultra HD Blu-ray format is on its way soon which will play native 4K discs in even higher quality, but upscalers are currently a simple way to get the most out of your 4K TV.
Don't forget the HDMI cable as you'll need one to connect the player to your TV, so check to see if one is included.
Find out which 4K upscaling models came top of the class in our table of best 4K Blu-ray players.