Wal-Mart Lowers Blu-ray Player to $128

It may be a Father’s Day special, but Wal-Mart’s $128 special for a Magnavox Blu-ray player is another indication of the mainstreaming of the high-def disc format.

Wal-Mart’s Black Friday-style bargain for the Magnavox NB500MGX player begins June 14, and the deal runs through June 20. It’s part of a larger Father’s Day promotion that includes two-for-$20 Blu-ray movie bundles.

As of June 11, Wal-Mart’s Website wasn’t offering the Magnavox NB500MGX, so it’s unclear what the player will cost once the sale ends. Another Magnavox model, the NB530MGX, goes for $168. Ten of 17 user reviews on the Wal-Mart site gave the NB530MGX player four or five stars on a five-star scale.

Given the Magnavox model’s ultra-low price, it’s doubtful the NB500MGX will rival top-of-the-line Blu-ray players that sell for $100 to $300 more. That probably won’t matter to the Wal-Mart throng that’ll scoop up the players in a hurry. Let’s hope there are no fatalities this time.

As first-generation LCD and plasma panels get moved to the bedroom to make way for newer and larger HD sets, the market for cheaper, no-frills Blu-ray players will rise. Internet streaming, high-end audio decoders, and Ethernet connectivity won’t matter as much as whether the Blu-ray plays HD movies without any hiccups.

In fact, recent reports indicate a trend toward cheap Blu-ray players, and entry-level boxes may cost as little as $99 by this year’s holiday shopping season. Combine that with the fact that Hollywood is cutting the prices of many Blu-ray movies, and there’s a good chance that video-on-a-disc will survive the onslaught of video-on-demand services -- at least for a few more years.

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