You may be wondering if Blu-ray players are still worth buying in the age of Netflix and chill. My friend, the answer is a resounding yes!
Now I know what you‘re thinking: isn‘t streaming supposed to make optical discs obsolete? Well, not so fast. There are some real benefits Blu-ray still holds over streaming:
Superior video quality – With support for Full HD 1080p, 4K Ultra HD, HDR and wider color gamuts, Blu-ray delivers far better picture quality than streaming services which often max out at 720p or 1080p.
Immersive sound – Blu-ray supports advanced surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X that streaming can‘t touch, providing a truly cinematic audio experience.
Reliability – No buffering or degrading over poor internet. Just pop in a disc and enjoy glitch-free viewing.
Special features – Streaming often lacks extras like director commentaries, behind the scenes docs and deleted scenes commonly packed into Blu-ray releases.
Building a collection – Streaming content comes and goes, but your Blu-ray library will remain yours forever!
Now let‘s look at the 5 best Blu-ray players that will let you get the most out of the format in 2023. I‘ll summarize what makes each player great and provide some pros and cons to help you choose.
Blu-ray is Still Kicking
But before we get to the players, it‘s worth looking at a few statistics that show Blu-ray still has some life left, despite the popularity of streaming:
Over 50% of TV households in the US have a Blu-ray player as of 2022 (source).
23.3 million Blu-ray units were sold in 2021 versus 19.7 million in 2020, a 18% increase (source).
Top films continue to see robust Blu-ray releases. For example, the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition of Spider-Man: No Way Home sold over 300,000 copies in its first week (source).
So while streaming has put a dent in optical media sales, there remains a healthy audience of enthusiasts keeping Blu-ray alive and well! Now let‘s look at some great players that will let you enjoy Blu-ray‘s benefits.
1. Panasonic DP-UB820 – The Best Overall
If you want the absolute best quality and premium features, the Panasonic DP-UB820 is my top overall recommendation. Let‘s look at why it stands out:
Superb HDR optimization – The DP-UB820 dynamically optimizes HDR content to look its best on your specific TV in your viewing environment. I don‘t know of any other player that adjusts HDR so intelligently.
Supports Dolby Vision & HDR10+ – It handles both major HDR formats for the widest compatibility with UHD Blu-ray discs mastered with either spec.
Audiophile-grade components – This player uses high-end capacitors and audio circuitry for reference-level sound quality. It‘s like having a high-end AV receiver built just for Blu-ray playback!
Every feature you need – In addition to state-of-the-art video and audio, you get WiFi, Ethernet, USB ports for media playback, and Alexa voice control.
Here are some of the pros and cons to consider:
- Unrivaled picture optimization for HDR content
- Plays discs with Dolby Vision or HDR10+
- Audio quality on par with top-tier AV receivers
- Built-in WiFi and voice control
- Very expensive at around $500
- Large and heavy at over 7 lbs
If you want the absolute best performance with premium features, the Panasonic DP-UB820 is my top pick. But it doesn‘t come cheap.
2. Sony UBP-X700 – Best Budget 4K Blu-ray
The Sony UBP-X700 gives you excellent Ultra HD Blu-ray playback at a more budget-friendly price. Here‘s what you need to know:
Terrific 4K HDR – Despite the low cost, it delivers crisp, detailed 4K HDR video with support for Dolby Vision. You get true cinematic quality on a budget.
Great audio features – Bluetooth lets you listen wirelessly on headphones or connect to speakers. There‘s also digital optical output for piped audio to a sound system.
Streaming built-in – The X700 has all the essential streaming apps like Netflix, Prime, Disney+ and more.
Slim and compact – It has a much smaller footprint than other players at just 2.4lbs and a slim 1.6" height. Easy to tuck into small AV racks.
Here are some pros and cons:
- Inexpensive 4K player at around $200
- Strong picture quality with Dolby Vision
- Bluetooth and digital audio output
- Small size perfect for tight spaces
- No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X decoding
- Only basic streaming features
For entry-level Ultra HD Blu-ray playback with streaming features, the Sony UBP-X700 is a superb value pick.
3. LG UP970 – Best Streaming Features
In addition to outstanding 4K Blu-ray support, the LG UP970 stands out for its impressive selection of integrated streaming services.
It runs on LG‘s user-friendly WebOS platform – giving you access to pretty much any major streaming service including Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV, Hulu – you name it. If you need both Ultra HD Blu-ray and the most robust streaming package, the UP970 delivers.
Beyond that, you still get Dolby Vision HDR, Dolby Atmos decoding and voice control features. Here are some more details:
- WebOS provides a huge streaming app selection
- Latest HDR and surround sound formats supported
- Voice control integration with Google and Alexa
- Compact 5.9" x 1.6" body
- No built-in WiFi – Ethernet-only
If you want a player equally adept at playing physical discs and streaming just about anything, the LG UP970 is my recommended pick.
4. Panasonic DP-UB150 – Best Budget Blu-ray
The Panasonic DP-UB150 is an excellent choice if you want terrific Blu-ray quality on a budget. Despite the low price, here‘s what you get:
Superb picture – Panasonic‘s processing makes even regular Blu-rays look fantastic. And it upscales DVDs to near 4K – rare for budget players!
Wide HDR support – This affordable player handles HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision for broad compatibility.
Intuitive smart platform – Built-in WiFi and Ethernet provide easy access to popular streaming apps.
Compact size – At just 2.2 lbs and 10" x 7.9", it has a small footprint perfect for cramped setups.
Let‘s look at some pros and cons:
- Stellar performance for the low cost
- Supports all major HDR formats
- Small footprint great for tight spaces
- Built-in WiFi and Ethernet
- No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X
- Limited streaming app selection
For impressive Blu-ray playback with smart features on a budget, the Panasonic DP-UB150 is a superb value.
5. Xbox Series X – Best 4K Blu-ray Gaming Combo
If you‘re looking for a killer games console that also plays 4K Blu-rays, the Xbox Series X is a phenomenal 2-in-1 option. Here‘s what you need to know:
Stunning gaming – With 4K 120FPS support and intense Dolby Atmos audio, gaming is better than ever on Xbox Series X. It‘s the most powerful Xbox yet.
Ultra HD Blu-ray – It doesn‘t just do gaming – the Series X plays UHD Blu-rays with Dolby Vision HDR for incredible movie visuals.
All your apps in 4K – Access all the top streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ natively in crisp 4K through the Series X.
Huge game library – From massive new exclusives like Starfield to popular multiplatform titles, Xbox Series X is home to the biggest games.
Some pros and cons:
- Cutting-edge gaming performance
- UHD Blu-ray playback w/ Dolby Vision
- Stream anything in 4K
- Massive Xbox game catalog
- Large 15.1" x 15.1" footprint
- Disc drive noisy during 4K playback
If you want an incredible games machine and the best console 4K Blu-ray player, the Xbox Series X has you covered on both fronts.
What To Look For in a Player
Now that you know some top options, let‘s quickly run through what specs and features are most important when picking a player:
Video quality – prioritize 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, and advanced processing like upscaling. These will give you the best possible picture.
Audio quality – Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, multichannel analog outputs etc. Combines with great video for total immersion.
Disc & format support – look for Ultra HD Blu-ray along with regular Blu-ray, DVD, and CD. 3D is also nice. Provides the most flexibility.
Connectivity – WiFi, Ethernet, USB, HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 compliance allow seamless integration into your setup.
Smart features – most players have popular streaming apps. Premium platforms like LG‘s WebOS give you the most options.
Keep these aspects in mind and you‘ll be sure to find the player that ticks all your most important boxes!
Blu-ray Is Here to Stay
While streaming has eaten into disc sales, there remains a loyal base of home theater enthusiasts hungry for the unrivaled quality of physical media. 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, in particular, provides a level of immersive fidelity streaming simply can‘t match.
And studios continue to feed that niche market with a steady stream of must-own titles on 4K Blu-ray. 2023 promises everything from blockbusters like Top Gun: Maverick to beloved classics like The Godfather Trilogy fully remastered in 4K with Dolby Vision HDR.
Between the players profiled above and the mouthwatering release slate, it‘s a great time to enjoy Blu-ray. These players will allow you to experience films as their directors truly intended. I hope this guide helps you find your perfect match! Feel free to reach out with any other questions. Enjoy!