Though some reviewers give the nod to other Blu-ray players as the best choice overall, at least for those who are not interested in a gaming console, the Sony PlayStation 3 Slim (*Est. $250) remains among the most powerful Blu-ray players available. Reviewers say the PS3 Slim delivers excellent HD image quality, speedy performance and a complete set of features -- including a bevy of streaming apps and the ability to play back 3D Blu-ray Discs.
The least expensive PS3 Slim includes a 160 GB hard drive (up from 120 GB in a previous version). In addition, a version with a 320 GB hard drive (*Est. $300) is also available.
The PlayStation 3 Slim still draws raves for its picture quality with Blu-ray Discs, but it doesn't upconvert DVDs as well as many dedicated Blu-ray players. Also, while the PS3 was previously the speed champ when it came to loading discs and navigating menus, it is now beaten -- sometimes soundly -- by many stand-alone disc players. Audio support is comprehensive, though the PS3 lacks multichannel (7.1) analog audio outputs found in higher-end dedicated Blu-ray players.
The Sony PlayStation 3 Slim has Wi-Fi networking support as well as an Ethernet jack, so you can connect to the Internet. In addition, the PS3 is also DLNA-compliant, so you can stream media from a networked PC.
One other issue worth noting is that the PlayStation 3 Slim uses Bluetooth to communicate with its controllers and remotes. That means it is generally not possible to control the player with a universal infrared remote -- you'll need to use the PS3 controller or a Bluetooth standard-layout accessory remote (*Est. $20). Most critics recommend springing for the optional remote, because operating the PlayStation 3 Blu-ray functions via the game controller can be an "interesting" experience.