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

Some Blu-ray Players Have HDMI Inputs - But Not For The Reason You May Think

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OPPO Digital BDP-103 Blu-ray Disc Player - Front Mounted MHL-HDMI Input. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
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Since their debut in 2006, Blu-ray Disc players certainly have evolved, first as just spinners for Blu-ray Discs, DVDs, and CDs, then adding USB ports for accessing content from flash drives, then, in some cases, incorporating both SACD and DVD-Audio Disc playback, then Network and Internet Streaming, and, more recently, 3D and 4K Upscaling. Also, another another addition has found its way into a small number of Blu-ray Disc Players: HDMI inputs.

That's right, in addition to the HDMI output that is characteristic of all Blu-ray Disc players (some even have two HDMI outputs), there are a small number of players that sport one or two HDMI inputs as well. However, they are not included for the purpose you might think.

If a Blu-ray Disc player incorporates HDMI inputs, they are not included 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, there are no standalone Blu-ray Disc recorders marketed to consumers.

So, if adding HDMI inputs to a Blu-ray Disc Player has nothing to do with video recording, then why are they there? Actually, 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, Apple TV), game consoles, and even camcorders and digital cameras, many older HDTVs (and even some current ones) may just not have enough HDMI inputs.

So, instead of having to buy an additional HDMI switcher, which is just one more added box (who neends more clutter?), why not just include one or two additional pass-through inputs on a Blu-ray Disc player that can fulfill the same purpose? 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 will have the best onboard video processing capabilities. So, with that in mind, if you add a couple of HDMI inputs to the player, users can pass through other HDMI source signals through the player, not only to take advantage of any HDMI switching capability, but also to improve the signal going to the TV by using the player's built-in video processing capabilities - including 4K upscaling.

MHL

In addition to the previously outlined 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 smart phones, tablets, and the MHL version of the Roku Streaming Stick (see the entire list of MHL-enabled products).

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

Normally, connecting and charging MHL devices would require an MHL-compatible HDMI input on your TV - which may not be available. However, if you have it 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 own HDMI output to the TV.

In other words, your TV doesn't have to have an MHL-compatible HDMI input, if your Blu-ray Disc player has one. This opens more flexible access of 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, and it has an HDMI input feature, it may provide one or more of the functions discussed above. However, it is important to note that the HDMI inputs incorporated into the select number of Blu-ray Disc players are only compatible with input resolutions up to 1080p - they will not accept a 4K resolution input signal - although the player can upscale the outgoing signal to 4K.

However, if you purchase or own a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player if it has an HDMI input, that input will accept a native 4K input source signal (as well as 1080p or lower resolution signals).

For an additional reference on connections that may be found on Blu-ray Disc players, other than HDMI inputs, check out my photo-illustrated article: Typical Connections Found on a Blu-ray Disc Player.

NOTE: As of 2017, 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 be able to find some previously made Samsung models available refurbished or used via 3rd party sources.