If you want to create the most immersive movie-viewing experience possible, there's little question as to why you should add a 3D Blu-ray player to your home theater mix. Today's state-of-the-art technology has revolutionized the way we watch movies, and falling prices are making it increasingly affordable to own a 3D setup – but before you begin shopping, keep in mind that you'll also need to own a 3D TV and accompanying 3D glasses.
We've reviewed what we consider to be the top 10 best 3D Blu-ray players on the market today. Our top three choices are the Oppo BDP-103D, the Sony BDP-S7200 and the Samsung BD-H6500. All of these include what is possibly the most important feature in getting the most out of your player: 4K upscaling. For more information about this technology, read our articles on 3D Blu-ray players.
Knowing what to look for in a Blu-ray 3D player is as much about knowing what technologies and functionalities are available as it is about determining which device delivers the highest level of performance. Here's an overview of the most important criteria to consider.
Standards for video quality have come a long way in recent years, effectively leveling the playing field where it comes to actual video performance. That's not to say that every single 3D Blu-ray player on the planet plays at exactly the same quality; however, the line that separates good from not-so-good has become razor thin. Today's more nuanced concept of video performance has taken on a different definition, encompassing the availability of ancillary capabilities: the ability for a 3D Blu-ray player to convert 2D discs to 3D or its capacity to perform 4K upscaling, which takes 1080p Full HD video and quadruples resolution for display on an ultra-high definition TV. There's also the inclusion of features like Deep Color, which gives you a much crisper image by increasing the number of visible colors from millions to billions, and 24p True Cinema which affects a more cinematic look when playing back discs and streaming video on a compatible TV. When shopping for a 3D Blu-ray player, take into consideration the type of support the player offers in these areas.
Also look for features like built-in Wi-Fi and user-friendly interfaces that give you access to the widest array of movie and music streaming services. Ultimately, these features will serve you far better than isolating the player with the best reputation for crisp HD images but not much else.
The quality of a 3D Blu-ray player's audio performance can't be understated. Fully three-dimensional images with substandard audio quality can derail the home theater experience. The good news is that the majority of modern-day 3D Blu-ray players offer support for the decoding of the most widely used lossless audio codecs, including the competing standards of DTS and Dolby. Always ensure that a 3D Blu-ray player supports one of these robust audio options.
Additionally, seek out players that you can also use as your primary audio device. Today's Wi-Fi enabled 3D Blu-ray players can stream media from compatible devices and smartphones or computers in your home network, so most people also use them to listen to music or stream audio content from the internet. The best 3D Blu-ray players have a diversity of choices for online music streaming and are capable of playing a wide variety of compressed and uncompressed music files. Although the vast majority of players are compatible with audio CDs and burned discs with data files, not all accept the Super Audio CD (SACD) format. This can be an important inclusion if you're a collector of SACDs or may want to start in the future.
Connectivity & Streaming Apps
We've already touched briefly on the importance of looking for a 3D Blu-ray player that has access to online streaming services – but it's an important enough topic that it bears repeating. One perk of owning a Blu-ray player is access to the streaming capabilities that have never been available through standard DVD players. This includes the ability to not only stream content from the internet through apps for pay services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, or free platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, but also to play media files located on nearby computers or mobile devices. Widely considered to be the true hidden value of both standard and 3D Blu-ray players, the device's ability to wirelessly connect and operate streaming apps is a feature as important as video and audio quality. While all 3D Blu-ray players offer access to streaming audio and video, some offer fewer than others and sometimes exclude popular services like Netflix for movies or Pandora for music. Always look for the broadest support of streaming features before settling on any 3D Blu-ray player. Likewise, bear in mind not all players support Wi-Fi connectivity. Some require a physical cable connection via Ethernet port to get online. Depending on how you have your home theater set up, this could be a serious consideration that will inform your purchase.
In the early days of Blu-ray players, long before the arrival of 3D to home theaters, connectivity ports held greater weight than they do today. With the advent of players that come with built-in Wi-Fi, and with the explosive growth of apps that can enable players to sync up with home computers and stream content from any number of devices without requiring cable connections, the need for numerous I/O ports has greatly diminished. This doesn't mean they're not still important, though – especially when it comes to finding a 3D Blu-ray player that you will be able to drop in easily to your existing home theater mix. For comprehensive audio support, look for optical digital audio outputs and coaxial audio outputs to ensure compatibility with your stereo system. Also, look for USB ports which can facilitate the loading up of media files from thumb drives for playback. Finding a player that's got enough ports to satisfy your home theater needs is a best-of-both-worlds scenario that won't limit your options or put any restrictions on what you can or can't do.
Help & Support
For the most part, 3D Blu-ray players are simple-to-operate devices that don't require any rolling up of the sleeves. Yet on the rare occasion when something goes awry, it's good to know you will be able to get answers. While all manufacturers of 3D Blu-ray players offer technical support, methods of communication differ. The most common and often preferred methods include live chat and phone support, but it's also important to seek out a product that includes links to online FAQs and knowledgebase articles.
Finding the best 3D Blu-ray player on the market isn't just about comparing statistics. It's also about knowing precisely what you want and finding the player that fits the bill. Before you begin, determine what you need to make your home theater complete. Then, take a look at our side-by-side comparisons and make your decision.