Why Do Some Blu-ray Disc Players Have HDMI Inputs?

It's not for recording Blu-ray discs, but it's still useful

Since its debut in 2006, the Blu-ray Disc player has evolved, first as a spinner for Blu-ray discs, DVDs, and CDs, then adding USB ports for accessing content from flash drives, then, in some cases, incorporating SACD and DVD-Audio playback, then network and internet streaming, and, recently, 3D and 4K upscaling. Another addition has found its way into a small number of Blu-ray Disc players: HDMI inputs.

In addition to the HDMI output that is characteristic of all Blu-ray Disc players (some have two HDMI outputs), a small number of players have one or two HDMI inputs. However, these HDMI inputs aren't included for the purpose you might think.

HDMI input for a Blu-ray Disc player

If a Blu-ray Disc player incorporates HDMI inputs, the inputs aren't for recording high definition TV or video content onto Blu-ray discs. Blu-ray Disc players cannot record video content onto Blu-ray discs, DVDs, or CDs (although some can rip CD music content to a USB flash drive). Also, in the U.S. market, standalone Blu-ray Disc recorders aren't marketed to consumers.

If adding HDMI inputs to a Blu-ray Disc player has nothing to do with video recording, why are the HDMI inputs there? There are several reasons why a manufacturer might include such a feature.

The Blu-ray Disc Player as an HDMI Switcher

With the proliferation of HDMI-equipped source devices, including cable and satellite boxes, network media players and media streamers (Roku Streaming Stick, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, and Apple TV), game consoles, and camcorders and digital cameras, many older HDTVs (and some current ones) may not have enough HDMI inputs.

Instead of buying an additional HDMI switcher, which is one more added box, why not include one or two additional pass-through inputs on a Blu-ray Disc player that can fulfill the same purpose? It sounds practical, so a limited number of players now have this feature.

Accessing Blu-ray Disc Player Video Processing Capabilities

Of all the video components in a home theater setup, chances are, a Blu-ray Disc player has the best onboard video processing capabilities. If you add a couple of HDMI inputs to the player, you can pass through other HDMI source signals through the player.

This setup takes advantage of the HDMI switching capability and improves the signal going to the TV by using the player's built-in video processing capabilities, including 4K upscaling.

MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link)

In addition to the reasons why a Blu-ray Disc player might be equipped with one or more HDMI inputs, another practical application is to accommodate MHL-enabled devices such as smartphones, tablets, and the MHL version of the Roku Streaming Stick.

Connecting MHL Smartphone to TV with MHL/HDMI Input
MHL Consortium

A bonus is that the MHL-compatible HDMI input can be used as a charger for portable MHL-enabled devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Typically, connecting and charging MHL devices requires an MHL-compatible HDMI input on the TV, which may not be available. However, suppose it's available on a Blu-ray Disc player. In many cases, that is a less expensive option than buying a new TV since the player can pass the signal through and out its HDMI output to the TV. In other words, your TV doesn't need an MHL-compatible HDMI input if your Blu-ray Disc player has one. This opens flexible access to photo, video, and streaming content on your TV that you may not be able to accept currently.

If you either own or plan to purchase a Blu-ray Disc player that has an HDMI input feature, it may provide one or more of the functions discussed above. However, the HDMI inputs incorporated into the select number of Blu-ray Disc players are only compatible with input resolutions up to 1080p (those players won't accept a 4K resolution input signal) even though the player can upscale the outgoing signal to 4K.

If you purchase or own a ​4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player with an HDMI input, that input will accept a real 4K input source signal as well as 1080p or lower resolution signals.

As of 2018, Oppo Digital and Cambridge Audio are the main Blu-ray Disc player makers that offer HDMI inputs on their players that are available for the U.S. market. However, you may find some previously made Samsung models available refurbished or used from third-party sources.

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