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Cheap Blu-ray Players Buying Guide

The top manufacturers of cheap Blu-ray players are the usual electronics heavyweights, including Sony, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Pioneer, and Vizio. Our favorite cheap Blu-ray players are the Panasonic DMP-BDT220 (starting at $130) and the LG BP620 (starting at $139), both of which feature 3D playback, stream video well, and load movies quickly.

The Sony BDP-S580 (starting at $131) and Panasonic DMP-BD75 (starting at $80) are two solid, cheap Blu-ray players; the former supports 3D playback and lots of streaming services, and the latter is a no-frills model that dishes up sharp-looking video at a shockingly low price. The Toshiba BDX2200 (starting at $85) and Vizio VBR122 (starting at $120) fall within our price range but don't pass muster because many users report they often freeze up when streaming video. If you're willing to spend big bucks on a high-end player, though, check out Oppo Digital's BDP-93 (starting at $500). It supports DVD-Audio, a format well loved by audiophiles, and experts say the audio and video quality are unmatched by any player costing less than $1,000.

Cheap Blu-ray players are fairly simple devices and don't have many features that distinguish one from another. That said, there are a few things to look for when comparison shopping. For example, many viewers now want a Blu-ray player that can stream video from services such as Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, and/or Amazon. All the models on our list of best cheap Blu-ray players include at least some streaming services, but if you favor a particular service, read the fine print to make sure the one you're targeting streams it. If you have or plan to get a 3D TV, you'll no doubt want a cheap Blu-ray player that supports 3D movies; cheap 3D Blu-ray players aren't terribly expensive, but they do cost more than players without this feature. Additionally, only some cheap Blu-ray players come with built-in Wi-Fi for wireless connections, though all can be hard-wired through an Ethernet port.

Apart from these characteristics, cheap Blu-ray players are more or less the same. They can all play and "upconvert" DVD movies as well as play audio CDs. They all support a variety of surround sound formats, and, according to the expert reviews we've seen, they all consistently play bright and clear video.

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An important note to thrifty consumers: Blu-ray players are meant for high-definition TVs. If you don't own an HD set, you might want to hold off buying a Blu-ray player, cheap or otherwise, until you purchase the equipment that can show off content to its best advantage.

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