This is beginning to look like a merry holiday season for anyone looking to step up from DVD to Blu-ray Disc. While the Holy Grail of a $50 Blu-ray player is still proving to be elusive, we're coming tantalizingly close, and I would not be surprised to see one surface for Black Friday before all's said and done. In the meantime, the Best Buy Black Friday circular has been leaked -- you can see it at BFads.net and elsewhere -- and it includes three tempting offers for value-oriented Blu-ray players. We have our preferences, but depending on yours, all are worth considering.
Toshiba's bargain Blu-ray
Leading off the list is what, to date, is the least expensive Blu-ray Disc player we've spotted for Black Friday. It's the Toshiba BDX1100 at the doorbuster price of $59.99. That's $40 less than Best Buy's normal price, though we've spotted it elsewhere for less; $79.99 at Amazon.com, for example.
This is a bare bones disc spinner, with little in the way of features. There's an Ethernet connection, but you can't use that to stream video from Netflix (or anywhere else, for that matter) as it's strictly there to support BD-Live features. You'll need a nearby hard-wired network connection, too, because Wi-Fi isn't supported. There's an SD card slot for playing back media (MP3, JPEG and MP4 files only), but you'll need to have a 1 GB card installed (not included) to support BD-Live functions as there's only limited on-board memory.
The Toshiba BDX1100 is newly released, so feedback on it is scant, but the few user reviews we saw (from Europe, where the player was first put on sale) have been positive. Other Toshiba Blu-ray players have received mixed reviews. You can read about one of the company's more upscale offerings, the BDX2700, in our report on Blu-ray players.
The bottom line is that $59.99 for a non-refurbished Blu-ray player from a "name brand" maker is a pretty tempting offer. The Black Friday price is in the same ballpark as mainstream upscaling DVD players (a job that the BDX1100 can also handle), making it almost a no-brainer for anyone looking for a cheap disc player to use with an HDTV.
What else is Blu at Best Buy?
The store is also offering two other interesting Blu-ray player deals. We've extolled the virtues of the Sony BDP-S370 in previous posts about Black Friday deals, and in our report on Blu-ray players. Best Buy joins what looks to be just about every other retailer in the known universe by offering this player for $99.99. That said, just because the deal is ubiquitous doesn't mean that it's not very good.
That's not to say that the BDP-S370 is without warts; it doesn't feature built-in Wi-Fi. That's not a big deal if you have a nearby Ethernet network connection, but if you don't, it can get dicey. At $80, the optional Wi-Fi radio costs nearly as much as the Black Friday price of the player itself.
If Wi-Fi is a must, Best Buy is also offering its house brand Insignia NS-WBRDVD2 at $89.99. This model includes built-in Wi-Fi and access to streaming content from the Internet, though partners are very limited -- just Netflix, CinemaNow and Pandora radio. The NS-WVRDVD2 is an update to the Insignia NS-WBRDVD and is essentially identical except for the ability to automatically resume playback if you stop a disc in midstream. (That feature is found on most Blu-ray players, but was inexplicably left off of the original NS-WBRDVD.) In any event, professional and user feedback is pretty positive. Though there are certainly more capable Blu-ray players available, playback quality and player reliability seem to be on the high side of average.