Another consumer electronics show has come and gone, and while it’s fun to marvel at each new piece of equipment, it doesn’t mean anything until we know how it all lines up.
To start things off, we’ve taken a look at all the standalone Blu-ray players revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show – many of which we got to go hands on with – and we’ve pitted them against each other until only five remained.
1.) LG BD590 - LG stepped up big this year with the BD590. It’s got built in WiFi connectivity that lets it connect to any 802.11n wireless home network and, of course, wireless g and b networks as well. It’s DLNA compliant so you can stream audio and video from your home computer and it’s got access to some pretty cool online services like Netflix and Vudu. Oh, and did we mention a 250GB hard drive?
The BD590 is the first Blu-ray player to feature a hard drive built into it. You can rip CDs right onto it, and store audio, video and picture files right on your Blu-ray player. Purchased movies can also be downloaded and stored directly from Vudu.
Unfortunately, the BD590 doesn’t rip DVDs or Blu-ray discs, but that’s not entirely surprising. It may play ripped DVD files though, and we’ll find that out as more details come out. LG’s BD590 hits in late spring/early summer of 2010 at an as of yet unannounced price.
2.) Sony BDP-S770 – Sony’s Monolith design is fantastic when it comes to televisions, but the Blu-ray players have a bit of that 1980’s square bulk look to them. While the look of a player is important, it’s the functionality that really matters and the S770 is a workhorse.
The S770 is at the top of Sony’s new Blu-ray lineup, and is the only new Sony player to offer Blu-ray 3D playback. It doesn’t slack when it comes to 2D though; it does everything the rest of Sony’s 2010 BD player lineup does. It decodes and bitstreams Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and upconverts DVDs to 1080p. It’s got built in 802.11n WiFi and access to BRAVIA Internet video.
What may be the most promising feature of Sony’s S770, if 3D isn’t your thing, is an option that they call IP Content Noise Reduction. When streaming from Amazon, YouTube or Netflix, the S770 Blu-ray player will clean up the picture with a technology specifically made for web video. There’s no date or price on this one either, but we’re told to expect it this summer.
3.) McIntosh MVP881BR – We’d be remiss not to mention McIntosh’s Blu-ray debut. It may be a bit out of your price range, but if you can swing the $8,000 price, you’ll get an impressive Blu-ray player indeed. The MVP881BR doesn’t stream audio and video, it doesn’t access Netflix and it doesn’t let you make Skype calls on your television. It’s a Blu-ray player designed to do one thing, and to do it well.
McIntosh’s Blu-ray player is made with the same high quality components as their audiophile grade amplifiers and processors. It’s enclosed in a custom steel and aluminum case that eliminates vibration and shields circuits from interference.
It supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio codecs, and a 24-bit, 192kHz PCM 7.1 channel bitstream is available. A quartet of 32-bit, 192kHz stereo DACS provide the 7.1 channel audio output, while a fifth supplies the stereo down mix. It also sports 14-bit video DACS that work with the Silicon Optics HQV Realta processor to provide a noise free and vibrant image.
4.) Samsung BD-C6900 – Samsung had a lot of cool new tech to show off at CES this year, and the BD-C6900 was right up there at the top of the list. It’s a 3D player that keeps all the 2D features and adds a few additional apps.
Samsung’s new app store is an open platform device, which they hope will explode in the same way that the iPhone app store did. There will be free apps released initially with premium apps to come, and the player will be able to access services like Netflix, Vudu, Blockbuster and Pandora right out of the box.
The BD-C6900 offers built-in WiFi, a quick load time (15 seconds as estimated by Samsung), and it outputs video at 1080p24/50/60. And while the success of the 3D video that it plays is still a big question mark, we can say for sure that this player itself looks slick while in motion. The clear panel above the spinning disc creates a very cool effect when you can see it.
5.) Panasonic DMP-BD85 – The DMP-BD85 is the king of Panasonic’s new 2D Blu-ray players. VIERA CAST has been upgraded for all models with the addition of Netflix. The BD85 streams the video service thanks to an included wireless LAN adaptor. It also employs a range of new technologies that go a long way to improve the quality of both video and audio.
To start with, Panasonic’s new Blu-ray players all incorporate a feature called PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus which helps to ensure that colors are accurately reproduced. The BD85 steps things up with gold plated terminals.
Audio is where the BD85 really shines. It decodes the usual assortment of audio formats but adds a HDMI Jitter Purifier to ensure clear robust bass sounds. It’s also got a built-in Digital Tube Simulator, that helps reproduce those warm tube amplifier sounds. The BD85 even has 7.1 channel analog outputs to complete the audio experience.
Honorable Mention: Sony Playstation 3 – The PS3 is getting two big firmware upgrades in the near future. The first will let it play Netflix without the need for a disc, which puts it back in the conversation when talking about connected Blu-ray players.
The second will let it play 3D Blu-ray discs in – according to claims made by Sony at the show – full 1080p. As Blu-ray players go, the PS3 is still impressive. It’s got a seemingly unending stream of manufacturer support coming to it in the form of regular firmware updates and increased functionality, something that few other players can claim. Oh, and it plays games too.
Most Disappointing: Oppo – We loved the BDP-83, and we were very excited to see what else Oppo had up its sleeves. When the company’s official Twitter reported a reveal of their new player in January we had hoped this would mean CES. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
Oppo didn’t attend the show, and hasn’t had any big announcements for us yet. Their Twitter feed acknowledges the expectation and states that the early January announcement date clearly isn’t happening. “Product announcements are tricky beasts,” says Oppo. “This one needs to be tamed a little longer.”