By Kym Pham, Cheapism.com
Many summer blockbusters just beg to be seen on the big screen (ahem, "Magic Mike"). But with ticket and concession prices so high, going out to the movies adds up quickly. These days, good budget Blu-ray players go for less than $150, making home viewing an enticing alternative. If you're willing to wait a few months for the Blu-ray release, you can ogle Channing Tatum in high-definition whenever you like.
Related: Best budget blu-ray players
See below for a preview of Cheapism's top picks for affordable Blu-ray players.Panasonic DMP-BDT220The Panasonic DMP-BDT220 (starting at $130) provides outstanding video quality and features, according to expert reviews. In addition to the usual video and audio outputs, USB ports, and internet connectivity, it has an SD card slot for photo slide shows. Like many of the latest budget models, this one can not only play movies but also stream media from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and Pandora.
LG BP620The LG BP620 (starting at $139) garners praise for its speedy performance in online reviews. To begin playing a disc, this model requires a mere 20 seconds -- just enough time to grab your popcorn and get comfortable. Reviews also call this Blu-ray player easy to set up and use. It can stream content from Netflix, Hulu Plus, CinemaNow, Vudu, and Pandora (although not Amazon).
Sony BDP-S580The Sony BDP-S580 (starting at $131) delivers a solid performance and plenty of features, according to reviews posted by consumers and experts. It offers myriad connectivity options and streams media from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and YouTube.
The Panasonic DMP-BD75 (starting at $80) impresses experts and consumers with its ease of use and high-quality video playback, especially at this low end of the pricing spectrum. Although this inexpensive player includes few additional features, it does support the streaming services of Netflix, Vudu, and CinemaNow.
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Each of the above Blu-ray players can play DVDs -- a relief if you have a large library you don't want to spend a small fortune to upgrade. These players can also read audio CDs and connect to a home theater receiver via an analog stereo output or, with the exception of the Panasonic DMP-BD75, a digital optical audio connection. All support Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, and DTS-HD surround sound.
They include HDMI and composite outputs to connect to a TV, one or more USB ports, and an Ethernet connection for streaming. The Panasonic DMP-BDT220, LG BP620, and Sony BDP-S580 can also stream content wirelessly. Those three Blu-ray players are set up to play 3D movies as well -- a desirable feature if you have a 3D TV or can see yourself (or someone else in your household) springing for one at some point. Look to the Blu-ray Disc Association for a list of movies available in 3D.
Lastly, don't forget that Blu-ray is a high-definition format, so you need an HDTV to get the full effect.
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