What Is a Network-Enabled Blu-ray Disc Player?

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

As a result of the increased convergence of the PC and home theater world, combined with the popularity of internet streaming, there are now several ways to access internet and home-network-based video and audio content, via media streamers, such as plug-in sticks and external boxes, as well as Smart TVs.

Depending on the brand and/or model, these types of devices allow access to PC media content and/or the streaming/downloading of audio, video, and still image content directly from the internet that can be played on your TV or home theater system.

Blu-Ray Disc Player as More Than a Disc Spinner

However, another way to access streaming and network content that you can take advantage of this by using a Network-enabled Blu-ray Disc player.

Network-Enabled Blu-ray Disc Players are compatible with Blu-ray, DVD, and CD discs as well as providing Wired (Ethernet/LAN) and/or Wireless (WiFi) Network Connectivity. WiFi 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 communicates with an internet/broadband router.

This capability allows users to both access online content that may be associated with the Blu-ray disc they are playing, and may also provide access to streaming video and audio content from additional internet content providers, such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, VUDU, Hulu, on the video side, as well as music services, such as Pandora, Rhapsody, and iHeart Radio on the audio side.

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. 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.

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

In addition to internet streaming, most Blu-ray Disc players can also access content stored on other devices, such as a PC, connected to a home network. 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, 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, 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.

On the other hand, 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.

Extra Streaming-Type Features

Another streaming-type feature that some Blu-ray Disc players may include, in addition to the ability to access internet and/or network-based media content, is the ability to share or streaming content directly from compatible smartphones or tablets without the need for an internet/network connection is Miracast. 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 Miracast, it may be referred to as Wifi-Direct, Screen Mirroring, Display Mirroring, SmartShare, SmartView, or AllShare.

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.