Blu-ray Buzz: Exciting High-Def Players Under $300

Bringing magnificent image quality and the best of the Internet (including the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and even Pandora) straight to your living room, Blu-ray players are falling in price. It’s time to find your perfect home theater addition.

The Best Blu-ray Players

After its lengthy battle with HD DVD, Blu-ray emerged as the high-definition standard in 2008. Blu-ray has been advancing slowly ever since, but the format finally seems to be moving forward full-steam with the advent of 3D video, expanded multimedia capabilities, and “flipper” discs.

Costs have spiraled down and made powerful Blu-ray players distinctly more affordable. We've chosen ten players under $300, ranging from budget models hovering around $130 to pricier, feature-packed machines at the higher end of the spectrum.

Stunning Blu-ray image quality is universal, but some players provide better upscaling of regular DVDs, offer built-in Wi-Fi, or include worthy multimedia options.

For more, see:

* New Blu-ray Titles for Showing Off Your Home Theater

* 3D Blu-Ray Specs Finalized, but What About Your Gear?

* Blu-ray Buying Guide

* Blu-ray Players for $300 or Less

Panasonic DMP-BD60K

Besting the competition for the top spot on our list, the Panasonic DMP-BD60K is a sleek player that handled all of the demands we put on it with ease.

Both Blu-ray content and regular DVDs played to beautiful effect, and Web access--including videos streamed directly from Amazon--is available via Panasonic's VieraCast Web portal.

The DMP-BD60K is a compact and well-designed machine. What more could you ask for?

Full review | $130

LG Electronics BD390

Thanks to a winning combination of remarkable Blu-ray image quality and seemingly boundless networking possibilities, the LG BD390 won our affection.

LG's player comes in at the higher end of the price spectrum--but we think it's worth it, for a few reasons. You can stream video from the Internet, CinemaNow, or Netflix directly over an ethernet connection or through the system’s built-in Wi-Fi (this is one of the few players to offer such an option).

Unfortunately, the less-than-perfect remote requires some getting used to, and the player does little to improve the image quality of standard DVDs.

Full review | $280

Samsung BD-P3600

Samsung's BD-P3600 sports a unique, rounded design that looks striking but may not be practical--it puts the navigation buttons on the top and makes the connectors on the back difficult to reach.

Nonetheless, images appear crisp, the remote is spot-on, and the Internet connection (Wi-Fi is included) allows you to stream content from Blockbuster, Netflix, Pandora, and YouTube.

Full review | $230

LG Electronics BD370

While we found the LG BD370 to be a superior option for Blu-ray discs, it didn't fare nearly as well in upconverting regular DVDs. In our tests, though, it was the fastest player around, loading a disc in just 34 seconds.

The on-screen menus are easy to use, and the player can also access online content (CinemaNow, Netflix On Demand, YouTube) via the ethernet port.

Full review | $165

Sony PlayStation 3 (120GB)

With a $300 price tag, the Sony PlayStation 3 is an expensive choice if you're simply looking for a Blu-ray player--and it certainly doesn't offer quite the same image quality as a stand-alone player does.

But if you have need of a game console (be aware that it is backward-compatible only with PS1 games, not PS2 titles), the PS3 is a versatile choice that improves on its predecessor. We also appreciate the slimmer design and lower power consumption of the newer version (not pictured here).

Full review | $300

Samsung BD-P1600

Like many of the other options on our Top Blu-Ray Disc Players chart, the Samsung BD-P1600 offers a host of multimedia streaming options and provides very good Blu-ray image quality.

We took issue, though, with the poorly designed front flap and the lackluster remote.

Full review | $150

Sony BDP-S560

The Blu-ray players we've reviewed uniformly deliver on their promises of resplendent image quality on Blu-ray discs, but many fall behind in the task of upscaling regular DVDs. Not so with the Sony BDP-S560.

In our tests this model impressively handled regular DVDs (as well as both color and black-and-white Blu-ray). Sony intelligently included two USB ports (one in the front and one in the back), Wi-Fi connectivity, and a power-saving option, as well.

If Sony had also endowed the BDP-S560 with the multimedia options available elsewhere, this player would have been unstoppable.

Full review | $220

Pioneer Electronics BDP-320

The intuitively designed Pioneer Electronics BDP-320 takes the stress away from setting up a new device, offering a simple wizard and an unfussy main menu.

Though its image quality was good, we found its slow reaction times, bulky design, and lack of Web-streaming capabilities disappointing.

Full review | $240

Toshiba BDX2000

Limited extras and an awkward remote for the Toshiba BDX2000 let us down initially. But for a bargain price, this player does one thing well: It brings Blu-ray discs and DVDs to life. Its image quality was superior in just about all of our tests.

You won't be disappointed if you don't expect much else.

Full review | $130

Insignia NS-WBRDVD

So long as you don't mind stumbling through a confusing Wi-Fi setup and dealing with the noisy operation, the Insignia NS-WBRDVD isn't a bad budget choice.

It has a quick loading time and an intuitive remote, as well as built in Wi-Fi and streaming from Netflix On Demand.

Full review | $180

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