Should You Buy a Blu-ray Player?

Details about pricing, features, and more

This buying guide will help you determine whether buying a Blu-ray player is worthwhile based on your specific needs, budget, and tastes.

What is a Blu-ray Player?

Blu-ray Disc players can play HD (1080p) content in addition to DVDs and CDs, while 4K Ultra (ultra-high definition) Blu-ray players can also play 4K Blu-ray videos. All Blu-ray players have video upscaling capability, which provides a visible improvement, though DVDs won't look as good as actual Blu-ray discs.

Most players can stream audio and video content from services like Netflix and Hulu, local home networks (PCs and media servers), and compatible USB devices like flash drives.

A person placing a Blu-ray disc into a player
Lifewire / Elise Degarmo

Some Blu-ray Disc players include Screen Mirroring (Miracast). Screen mirroring allows you to share audio and video from a compatible smartphone or tablet to your TV and audio system.

Some players provide CD-to-USB ripping, which allows the copying of music from a CD to a USB flash drive.

An HDTV is required to get the most out of a Blu-ray player, and a 4K TV is needed to take advantage of 4K Ultra Blu-ray video.

How Much Do They Cost?

At the time of publication, some of the best Blu-rays or Ultra HD Blu-ray players cost $80-$1,000 or more. The higher the price usually means added connection options, better video processing, more extensive networking, and more internet streaming options.

Another premium feature is analog audio playback for those who listen to CDs and the SACD and DVD-Audio disc audiophile-targeted formats.

Gaming consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X have built-in Blu-ray players that can handle regular and 4K video. The PS4 and Xbox One also have built-in Blu-ray players, but the PS4 cannot play 4K content.

Blu-ray Video

Ultra HD Blu-ray players can output 4K resolution in addition to HD. If you own a 4K Ultra HD TV, a Blu-ray Disc player with 4K upscaling will make Blu-ray Disc (and DVD) content look better on a 4K Ultra HD TV. DVD upscaling isn't the same as true high definition (1080p), and 4K upscaling doesn't deliver the same results as true 4K. Still, it comes close enough for many consumers.

Sony Mastered in 4K Blu-ray Disc


You can't play Ultra HD Blu-ray format discs on regular Blu-ray Disc players. However, Ultra HD players can play Blu-ray discs (2D/3D), DVDs (with 4K upscaling for both Blu-ray discs and DVDs), and music CDs. Most players also provide access to streaming content (including 4K) and content from other compatible devices on your home network.

The Blu-ray Disc format has a region coding and copy protection system. Players sold in specific regions of the world adhere to a specific region code. However, there are fewer regions than DVDs have, and Blu-ray discs aren't always region coded.

Blu-ray Player Inputs and Outputs

All Blu-ray Disc players sold new have HDMI outputs for video output, though some models do include component output options. For audio, players have HDMI and either a digital optical or digital coaxial audio output (and sometimes 5.1/7.1 channel analog audio outputs).

Pioneer BDP-320 Blu-ray Disc Player - Rear Panel - LAN, USB, HDMI Connections

Here's what each of these connections looks like, so you can figure out what you have.

Some players have two HDMI outputs to send audio and video to separate destinations.

Higher-end Blu-ray Disc players often have 5.1/7.1 channel analog outputs, which allow the transfer of a decoded surround sound signal to AV receivers with 5.1/7.1 analog inputs.

All players (except for some early models) have Ethernet/LAN ports for a wired connection to a home network and the internet (most players also have built-in Wi-Fi).

Blu-ray Disc players usually have one or two USB ports that you can use to load firmware updates and provide for one or more of the following:

  • BD-Live memory expansion provides access to additional online-based content associated with specific Blu-ray Disc titles.
  • Access to digital media files stored on flash drives.

Blu-ray Audio

Blu-ray discs can play additional audio formats depending on the model, including

Players can decode some of these formats internally or pass them to a home theater receiver for decoding.

If your receiver isn't compatible with these formats, the player automatically detects this and defaults to standard Dolby Digital/DTS.

  • What kind of HDMI cable should I use with a 4K Blu-ray player and 4K TV?

    There's no specific kind of HDMI cable you need for 4K, as long as it meets the 1.4 or 2.0 HDMI standard. Higher-end cables like HDMI 2.1 will provide a more stable image, but as long as you aren't having problems with video stability you won't need one.

  • Should I buy 4K or 3D Blu-ray discs?

    Unless you're specifically interested in the visual 3D effect, 4K Blu-ray is the way to go. 3D TVs are pretty much dead at this point, and 4K Blu-rays don't offer 3D, so any 3D Blu-rays you find won't be able to match 4K resolution.

  • What region should I buy a Blu-ray player and movies for?

    Blu-ray region codes (located on the back of the case) include Region A, B, C, and ABC. ABC indicates the disc is region free, meaning it can be played anywhere without regional restriction.

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