Five Promising Blu-ray Players from CES 2009

Posted Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 02:30 PM PST by

With CES wrapped up and 2009 stretching out ahead of us, we wanted to take a look at five of the most interesting Blu-ray players coming out in the coming year.

ezGear bluCobra EZ3000 – It seems like everyone’s getting into the Blu-ray game this year, including a little known company shooting to become a household name. ezGear is primarily a seller of add on products, such as the UFO wall plug, iPod skins, and Wii accessories, and the bluCobra marks their first venture into the world of home theater.

With the bluCobra , ezGear is trying to fill a very interesting niche, that of a budget high end player. The EZ3000 supports DVD, SACD, and Blu-ray with full 1080p/24Hz output, BD profile 1.1, and has outputs that should satisfy no matter how high or low tech the home theater. The player also supports multiple audio formats including Digital Dolby, Dolby True HD, and DTS-HD Master Audio.

ezGear has stated a price of “$399 or less”, but we will see exactly what that means when the player is released in March. With a less than impressive price tag, the bluCobra EZ3000 looks to be an economic alternative to higher end players.

It will come down to the consumer of course to determine the success or failure of the new entry to the already crowded Blu-ray market, but this just might be a niche that needs to be filled.

Samsung BD-P4600 – Samsung is a name synonymous with cutting edge technology. A constant innovator and always ready to show off their latest and greatest, Samsung changed the pace a bit at this year’s CES by unveiling, not the most technologically advanced player, nor the most full featured, but without question the best looking Blu-ray player at the show.

The BD-P4600 is absolutely beautiful. Jet black with a hint of dark red and an amazingly sleek design, were it not for the Blu-ray Disk logo in the center, Samsung’s new player could easily be mistaken as a piece of home décor. The touch sensitive controls on top of the player even fade to black when not in use. The BD-P4600 isn’t just looks though, this 1.5” thick wall mountable player abides by the old rule “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

Supporting BD Live (Profile 2.0) and Bonus View (Profile 1.1) straight out of the box and boasting a gigabyte of internal storage, this is definitely a capable player. Full HD 1080p playback is of course supported as is total HD soundtrack support. Last but not least, the BD-P4600 comes packaged with a Wi-Fi dongle allowing wireless streaming of both the ever popular streaming movies of Netflix and music of Pandora.

Vizio VBR100 – Economy and quality so rarely come together as well as they consistently do with Vizio products. Certainly not the top of the line, Vizio is clearly happy to offer an affordable alternative at a quality above what consumers have come to expect out of budget televisions.

Taking that philosophy into the realm of Blu-ray, Vizio’s foray into Blu-ray looks to be headed right for the mainstream. Fairly plain feature wise, the VBR100 is profile 2.0 compatible and features onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio decoding. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the 7.1 analog outputs, ensuring that those without the newest receivers will have guaranteed compatibility.

This is all pretty standard, so what’s got us so excited about the Vizio VBR100? The price. Launching in April at an MSRP of only $199, this is a price point clearly set for those new to Blu-ray. Cheaper prices mean that more people will be bringing Blu-ray into their homes, edging that adoption rate even higher and ensuring more quality Blu-ray content for years to come.

LG BD390 – LG, never one to be overlooked, has several Blu-ray players coming to market in 2009. Surely we can expect the same quality from them as with all LG products, but quality alone doesn’t set a product apart. Profile 2.0 compatible, a gig of built in memory, Dolby TrueHD, Digital Plus and DTS-HD Master Audio processing, you get the picture. There are only so many ways to say the same thing so let’s cut to the chase.

The BD390, along with the full feature set to be expected in a Blu-ray player, features built in Wi-fi connectivity. No wires, no dongles, and good to go right out of the box. Coming out in June, the sub $400 BD390 should help to set the standard of what’s expected from a Blu-ray player.

Panasonic DMP-B15 – At first, many people see it as having a limited interest, others see it as pointless, but Panasonic is bringing out the first portable Blu-ray player. Clearly, the 8.9” screen isn’t big enough that the 1080p resolution will even matter, and it’s a WSVGA display, meaning the screen can’t even handle 720p. The battery life won’t be as good as portable DVD players, and clearly it’s not going to be cheap.

That’s the obvious, now here’s the interesting bit. The DMP-B15 has, according to Panasonic “all the technology found in its stand alone brethren, the DMP-BD60 and 80.” This includes Bonus View, BD Live, and Viera Cast functionality, allowing access to Amazon on Demand, YouTube, and other web based entertainment sources.

Making the DMP-B15 a bit more practical are HDMI and HD Audio outputs, allowing the player to be hooked up to not only televisions but home theater systems as well. Imagine starting Return of the King on a plane or a bus on the DMP-B15 only to come home and finish it in full surround sound.

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Tags: HD Gear, CES 2009, Industry Trends, Blu-ray Players (all tags)