What Is a Network-Enabled (aka Smart) Blu-ray Disc Player?

Access video and music on a Blu-ray player via a home network and the internet

Samsung BD-H5900 Blu-ray Disc Player - Photo of Rear Connections
Robert Silva

A network-enabled (aka smart) Blu-ray Disc player refers to one that in addition to playing Blu-ray, DVD, and CD discs, also includes wired (Ethernet/LAN) and/or wireless (Wi-Fi) Network Connectivity, which can enable your TV to have access to the internet

Wi-Fi access may be either built-in or require an optional USB WiFi Adapter.

In both wired and wireless connection setups, the Blu-ray Disc player connects to an internet/broadband router.

 Wi-Fi is convenient if the Blu-ray disc player is not close to the router, since no physical cable connection is required, but is not always as stable as a wired connection. 

Blu-ray Disc Player Ethernet Connection to Router

What Network Connectivity Provides

Network connectivity allows users to access several smart features on a Blu-ray Disc player.

  • Online content that may be associated with the Blu-ray disc they are playing (referred to as BD-Live),
  • Streaming video internet content providers, such as Netflix, Amazon Video, VUDU, Hulu, and more.
  • Music services, such as Pandora, Rhapsody, and iHeart Radio and others on the audio side.
  • Media content stored on other compatible devices on a home network.

Although many video and music streaming services are free, many also require a pay-per-view or monthly subscription fee.

Panasonic DMP-BDT360 3D and Network Blu-ray Disc Player - Photo of Internet Streaming Menu

However, it is also important to point out that although having the ability to access streaming content via a Blu-ray Disc player, just as with smart TVs and standalone or plug-in media streamers, you are tied into what services the Blu-ray player brand is associated with. This means that not all network-enabled Blu-ray disc players provide access to all the same streaming services. 

If both Blu-ray and Internet content streaming are important to you, then you have to make a decision based on what internet content providers you prefer to have access to on your network-enabled Blu-ray Disc player.

Some Blu-ray Disc players actually have dedicated buttons on their remote controls that access streaming services, such as Netflix, Vudu, and Pandora.

Netflix and Vudu Buttons On Remote Control

Blu-ray Disc Players and DLNA

As mentioned above, in addition to internet streaming, most Blu-ray Disc players can also access content stored on other devices, connected to a home network, such as a PC. One way to find out if a specific Blu-ray Disc player has this capability is to check to see if it is DLNA certified

This capability allows you to access not only video, audio, and still image content stored on connected PCs and media servers with supporting software, if you have a smartphone or tablet that is also DLNA certified your Blu-ray Disc player may be able to access compatible content that you have stored on your smartphone, such as still images or music. 

In some cases, via DLNA, you may also be able to share audio, video, and still images from internet streaming services you may be able to access on your smartphone, but not available through your Blu-ray Disc player's streaming offerings.

There are some Blu-ray Disc players that don't have the ability to access internet streaming content directly but can still access network-based content from PCs and media servers.

Blu-ray Disc Players and Screen Mirroring/Sharing

Another streaming-type feature that some Blu-ray Disc players may include is the ability to share or streaming content directly from compatible smartphones or tablets without the need for an internet/network connection via Screen Mirroring

Samsung UBD-K8500 Screen Mirroring Selection

If shopping for a Blu-ray Disc player, check to see if this added capability is offered. It may go by several names. In addition to Screen Mirroring, it may be referred to as Wi-Fi Direct, Miracast, Display Mirroring, SmartShare, SmartView, AllShare, or HTC Connect.

Example of Miracast/Screen Mirroring
iStock, Getty Images Plus, AndreyPopov, 842272124

All content accessed from the internet, network, or via Miracast, is transferred to a TV, video projector, and or home theater receiver via the Blu-ray Disc player's audio/video output connections, with is most commonly HDMI.

The Bottom Line

If you have a non-smart TV but want to cut-the-cord and add streaming access, instead of buying a separate plugin media streamer, you also have the option of getting a network-enabled (aka smart) Blu-ray disc player – combining two devices in one.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that network/smart Blu-ray disc players usually don't provide access to as many online content services as a dedicated media streaming device, such as a Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, or Apple TV. However, if a specific Blu-ray player provides access to the online content you want to watch, it can be a great option.

This information also applies to most Ultra HD Blu-ray players.