Introduction to Video Player Reviews

As physical media is slowly replaced by streamed content, it’s important to understand just how you’ll get the very best video source material to that shiny new display. Whether it’s a television or a projector, you’ll need some way to feed it. In the past we had scores of DVD players to choose from but now Blu-ray is the gold standard when you’re talking about shiny discs. And Ultra HD Blu-ray is just starting to appear on the market and with it, expanded color gamuts like Rec.2020 and extended contrast from HDR encoding.

Audio formats are equally important. Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro 3D represent the latest technology that seeks to make movie sound more realistic and enveloping. Knowing how to get the most from them is a key factor in our reviews of players, AV receivers and surround processors.

For those looking to stream their content, we include coverage of media servers and streaming devices. A wealth of content can be found on the Internet and no technology has been left out here. HDR, Ultra HD and advanced audio codecs are just as prevalent as they are on Blu-ray disc.

Once you’ve decided on a new display, be it television or projector, we can show you the best sources to use for your ultimate home theater experience.

Review Categories

Video Players Reviews

Cambridge 751BD Universal 3D Blu-ray Player

In a bit of a surprise, the Universal Blu-ray player market has gone through a big upswing recently. While DVD-Audio and SACD might be considered dead audio formats to the mainstream media, more and more players for home are including support for them now. One fairly recent addition to the group is the Cambridge Audio 751BD Audiophile Blu-ray player. It also supports 3D Blu-ray, and I was quite excited to have the chance to try out this unit myself.

Pioneer BDP-52FD 3D Universal Blu-ray Player

Of all the new equipment that I saw at the CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis in 2011, my favorite booth visit was to Pioneer. Showing me around their booth and their new products, it was obvious they had read our review of their last generation of Blu-ray players. So, here is another one, in this case, the BDP-52FD, which is 3D-capable, and will play DVD-A as well as SACD, making it a universal player.

Toshiba BDX5200 3D Blu-ray Player

To compare today's Blu-ray players with the very first models that shipped back in 2006, one would find those early players to be a mere shadow of what's available today. Early adopters had to live without full lossless sound support, no 24p, no Internet apps, terrible ergonomics, glacially slow load times, and of course, high prices. Now we have models like Toshiba's BDX-5200 that give you everything but the kitchen sink for under $180. Ain't technology great?

Panasonic DMP-BDT210 3D Blu-ray Player

Sales figures for home theater components are not something I really pay attention to. I'd much rather own something that works great than to have what's popular, or to have my opinion influenced by sales numbers. However, I'd be willing to bet that Panasonic has done pretty well with their 3D Blu-ray players this year because of one huge advantage they have over everyone else: The ability to include Avatar 3D for consumers. And now, you can get a 3D Blu-ray player for $200: the Panasonic DMP-BDT210.

McIntosh MVP881 Universal Blu-ray Player

McIntosh is one of the most distinctive, and iconic, brands in all of Hi-Fi. Sporting a look that seemingly has never changed, they are most well known for their two channel amps and preamps, but also have a full line of home theater components as well. The MVP881 is McIntosh's contribution to the world of universal players (CD, DVD-A, and SACD). At $8,000 there is a lot of less expensive alternatives as competition. How did the McIntosh compare? Read on.

Samsung BD-D5500 Blu-ray Player

At the CEDIA Expo last fall, the big push for everyone was 3D and online connectivity. We all knew that 3D was going to be everywhere, but also, everyone seemed to have an iPhone or Android Application, and was trying to offer as much online content to the user as possible. Samsung's new BD-D5500 is 3D-capable, and does a pretty good job with regular Blu-ray movies as well, all for less than $200.

Pioneer BDP-43FD Blu-ray Player

The first Blu-ray players that I reviewed for Secrets many years ago were Pioneer models. Up until then, the only player I had used was a PlayStation 3, and was looking forward to a regular box that my universal remote could control and would be easier for my wife to operate. While the Pioneer players did fulfill those requirements, they were also far slower in use than the PS3 was, and as was common for most players then offered no online capability at all. Skip ahead a few years and at the CEDIA Expo, Pioneer was displaying players that were not only much faster and smaller that those early models, but had online streaming capabilities and other features as well. I asked them to send along a unit as soon as they could, and they happily provided me with their BDP-43FD model from their Elite line.

Pioneer BDP-430 3D Blu-ray Player

The cost of Blu-ray players has plummeted over the past couple of years, and numerous models from various manufacturers are available for $300 and less. Pioneer's ne BDP-430 is only $299. It is 3D-capable and includes several Internet apps. It is also a player that we tested with our new Blu-ray HDMI Benchmark.

Vizio VBR231 Blu-ray Player with Wireless Internet Apps

Vizio initially made their mark by being one of the first companies to offer a plasma panel that was both affordable and a good performer. Since then they have continued to serve this niche by offering products that have very good performance for the price, but also have branched out to offer some truly high end home theater equipment. Remember when Blu-ray players first came out, they were all at least $500? The Vizio VBR231 sells for only $179. How does a < $200 Blu-ray player perform? We put it to our new Blu-ray Benchmark tests to find out. (P.S. It even has wireless Internet apps.)

Toshiba BDX3000 Blu-ray 3D Player

By now you've heard lots about 3D TVs. Every manufacturer has at least one 3D-capable model and even the projector companies are offering new products that include this technology. The display is not the only component required to view 3D however. You will also need, at a minimum, a new Blu-ray player. The format itself has not changed but a 3D model is required to view Blu-ray 3D discs. No matter what the brand, every 3D flat panel has a companion player. In the case of the Toshiba WX800 Cinema Series LED panel, recently reviewed at Secrets, that player is the BDX3000.

OPPO BDP-93, BDP-93NE (NuForce Edition), and BDP-95 Universal 3D Blu-ray Players

OPPO has just released its first universal 3D Blu-ray player, the BDP-93, and will shortly release the BDP-95, which adds a pair of balanced outputs (having their own dedicated DACs). At the same time, NuForce has released two upgrade boards that the consumer can install in a BDP-93 player, or purchase the player direct from NuForce with the card installed (Called the BDP-93NE and BDP-93NXE). This review will cover the audio performance of the three players (only the BDP-93NE, not the BDP-93NXE), as well as the video performence using our Benchmark tests. As you will see, OPPO has overturned price/performance expectations, and especially the BDP-95 is reference quality for less than $1,000.

Toshiba BDX-2700 Blu-ray Player

During the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray format war, Toshiba was the main supporter of HD-DVD and producer of hardware. Beyond being just an HD-DVD player, their units were well known for being high quality standard DVD players with very good up conversion of legacy titles. The present review covers the Toshiba BDX-2700 Blu-ray player.