As we've noted in our report on Blu-ray players, improving technology and dropping prices have made Blu-ray Disc players a reasonable choice over a DVD player for anyone that owns an HDTV. If you're considering making the move to Blu-ray this holiday season, we spotted a number of good offers on everything from basic, low-priced Blu-ray Disc spinners to feature-rich players with all the trimmings, including 3D, built-in Wi-Fi and Internet streaming support. You might need to line up pretty early for some of these deals, while you can get others right now. Here's our take on the best deals if you want to make this a Blu Christmas.
Bargain basement Blu-ray players
If you want a very inexpensive player for watching Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, there are a couple of tempting offers. The big news is that we've finally seen the first $50 Blu-ray player of the season (okay, $49.99 to be exact). There are a couple of catches, however. The biggest is that there are absolutely no details on the make or model. Also, availability isn't exactly broad. The deal is at Fred Meyer, a grocery chain with stores in the western U.S. If you're near one of the stores, and are the kind of person that doesn't mind surprises, head on over but be quick about it; the ad says only 20 of the players will be available per store.
You'll also want to move fast to snag the next least-expensive Blu-ray player, the Toshiba BDX1100 being offered as a doorbuster by Best Buy for $59.99. We blogged about this player earlier and you can see our comments in that post. If you're interested, get to the store early (Best Buy opens at 5 a.m.) as each location is only guaranteed 15 of these deals.
More than the basics
As tempting as these cheap deals are for (very) basic Blu-ray Disc players (at least we assume so in the case of the one offered at Fred Meyer), we don't think they're necessarily the best values. Lots of Blu-ray players now offer features that make them more versatile home-entertainment devices. The big extra, of course, is watching videos (movies and TV shows) from the Internet. If that's of interest to you, you might want to check out the Funai-made Magnavox MBP5120F/F7 for sale at $69 as a Walmart doorbuster deal (5 a.m. to 11 a.m.). Unlike the BDX1100, the MBP5120F/F7 has Internet streaming built-in, and you can download content from Vudu and a host of other providers (including Pandora, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, Twitter, and lots, lots more) via the Vudu Apps platform. Walmart is also throwing in $10 worth of free Vudu rentals to sweeten the pot.
There's one caveat with this deal, however. An error on the Walmart web site might lead buyers to believe that the MBP5120F/F7 also offers access to Netflix and Blockbuster, but a reading of the manual (available at http://www.funaiservice.com/information/manuals.cfm) reveals that that's not the case. Componding the confusion, many sites talking about Black Friday deals have misidentified the player being offered as the similar MBP5130/F7, which does have Netflix and Blockbuster access -- an error that's obvious when you look at the ad itself.
Most budget Blu-ray players with Internet access don't include wireless connectivity, requiring you to use either an Ethernet connection to your network or to buy an accessory adapter for Wi-Fi. The MBP5120F/F7 has Wi-Fi built in. However, the chief complaint users have regarding MBP5130/F7 (the MBP5120F/F7 is yet to receive any feedback at last look) is that the Wi-Fi range is woefully short (10 feet or so according to some reports). Even so, $69 is a pretty solid deal for a Blu-ray Disc player with Internet-streaming features, albeit limited ones.
If Netflix access is a must, the cheapest deal is for the Wi-Fi-equipped Insignia NS-WBRDVD2, which is being offered as a Black Friday doorbuster by Best Buy for $89.99. You can read about that in our post on Best Buy's Black Friday Blu-ray deals.
Good deals you needn't lose sleep over
We've also previously blogged about the Sony BDP-S370, a well-regarded Blu-ray player (we name it as the best value Blu-ray player in our Blu-ray players report) that was to be offered at $99.99 on Black Friday at a number of stores. Well, we still like the BDP-S370 at that price, and if you do, too, the good news is that there's absolutely no reason to line up early on Black Friday to get it. A host of retailers have jumped the gun and are rolling out the BDP-S370 at that price right now, including Best Buy, Amazon, TigerDirect and others.
If you want a good buy on a top-of-the-line Blu-ray player, we think the best deal is for the Sony BDP-S570. Step up features over the BDP-S370 include built-in Wi-Fi and support for 3D. Like the BDP-S370, video quality with Blu-ray and DVD is among the best of any mainstream Blu-ray disc player. It's also one of the fastest Blu-ray players, leaving most older players and many current ones in the rearview mirror when starting up and navigating menus. That's why we name it as the best Blu-ray player overall in out report, and you can see more details there.
Earlier, we spotted Walmart's day-after-Black Friday (i.e. Saturday starting at 6 a.m.) offer for that player at $158, a healthy discount over the BDP-S570's normal selling price. However, there's no need to wait anymore, as that offer has left the starting gate a little early as well. You can get the same deal right now at Walmart.com. You can also get it today for roughly the same price (give or take a dollar or two) at Best Buy, J&R Music and Computer World, B&H Photo, Buy.com, Crutchfield and other retailers.