What should I consider before buying?
Today's Blu-ray players bear little resemblance to the clunky machines we were introduced to when the high definition format first emerged a couple of years ago. Although we are now expected to pay a fraction of the price for far more capable, feature packed machines, the buying decision has become more complicated.
Remember that you will need an HD Ready TV to gain the benefit of the extra sharpness and clarity a Blu-ray player can provide. See our HDTV guide to get more information.
Virtually all Blu-ray players now come with some form of internet connectivity. Ethernet ports on most machines allow you to connect to the internet, but for convenience you should look at players with Wi-fi (either built-in or requiring the purchase of an optional 'dongle').
The big manufacturers all offer their own 'ring fenced' internet portals that offer their own features and content.
Samsung's Internet@TV provides access to a range of video, music, information and social networking features including services such as LOVEFiLM, BBC iPlayer, Twitter and YouTube. In our opinion, Samsung currently offer just about the best on line experience
Sony's 'Bravia Internet Video' offers a growing amount of content with some interesting developments on the horizon such as on-demand programming. You also get access to the likes of YouTube, Love Film and iPlayer.
Panasonic's 'Viera Cast' cannot match Samsung's or Sony's range of on line content although it does offer access to YouTube and Picassa on line photo collections.
Via DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) most Blu-ray players allow you to create a home network for streaming media files from your PC. This has opened up a number of exciting possibilities such as streaming DivX format films stored on your computer.
If you plan to make use of this type of functionality, it is worth checking what file formats a Blu-ray player supports. You should now expect to be able to play MP3, DivX, Divx HD, JPEG, JPEG HD, MKV, or AVCHD via a home network or directly through a player's USB port.
The likes of Sony, Samsung and LG have already introduced 3D capable Blu-ray players. Remember that you will also need to buy a 3D capable TV if you want to enjoy the extra dimensional experience. However, it is worth considering 3D capability for future proofing, especially Sony's range of 3D capable players which offer excellent value for money.
If you own a PS3, a firmware update later this year will give Sony's games console 3D capability. Sony's BDP-S370, BDP-S470, BDP-S570, Panasonic's DMP-BDT300, Samsung's BD-C6900 and LG's BX580 are available to buy in the UK now
If you would like to find out more about the format, you might like to read our 3D TV, Cinema & Gaming Guide.
Panasonic DMR-BS850 Blu-ray recorder
Blu-ray players have the ability to play your current standard DVD collection, and you may have come across the term Upscaling in relation to Blu-ray players.
Your old DVD collection was designed to be viewed on a CRT screen, and as such was encoded at the lower quality 576i resolution. Because your High Definition TV was designed to display material in either 720p, 1080i or 1080p resolution it uses sophisticated 'scaling' technology to take a video source and scale it to fit the screen, or 'upscale'.
Blu-ray player manufacturers have taken the upscaling concept a step further by adding detail to an upscaled source to create sharper more detailed images, enhancing the perceived quality of, for example, your existing standard DVDs.
Of course, sophisticated upscaling algorithms are making an educated guess as to what extra detail should be added. Although the extra detail is essentially 'made up' the results can be surprisingly good, and can give your old DVDs a new lease of life.
Our selection of Blu-ray Players
The next section contains a top ten list of Blu-ray players which in our opinion offer the best combination of performance and value. If you can, visit your local retailer and compare a few players side by side. You can take some of your old DVD's to compare the upscaling abilities of Blu-ray players you are interested in, any retailer worth their salt will accommodate you.
While most people agree that Blu-ray offers exceptional picture quality, choosing a piece of kit can be a subjective business. We are all different and you may appreciate certain aspects of performance to a lesser or greater degree than us.