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Blu-ray players

Consumer Reports:

New Blu-ray player Ratings: Movie-streaming grows, prices to plummet?

Vizio Blu-ray player RatingsVizio’s VBR100 Blu-ray player will be $100 on Black Friday.

If you’re on the hunt for a high-def Blu-ray player to go with your new flat-panel HDTV, here’s some good news: Our latest Blu-ray player Ratings, available to subscribers, show that prices continue to fall, even as more players add BD-Live, a feature that can provide access to Internet-based content, including streaming movies from several online services.

In fact, the Ratings include several full-featured models that cost $200 or less, as well as more-basic models (without the BD-Live feature) for as little as $130. We expect prices to fall even more sharply as we near Black Friday weekend, the traditional kickoff for holiday-season buying. For example, Best Buy recently offered a BD-Live Insignia-brand player for $100, and Vizio just announced it will drop the price of its VBR100 model—a tested BD-Live model included in our Ratings, now regularly priced at $150 to $180—to just $100 at Costco and on Black Friday, at least while supplies last. And the company is throwing in an HDMI cable to boot.

All BD-Live models can access extra content, such as out-takes, deleted scenes or even games, from a movie studio’s servers. In and of itself, this feature is less than compelling, in our view. But many of these Internet-enabled models, from companies such as LG, Panasonic, and Samsung, also offer what we believe is a more engaging extra: the ability to instantly stream movies from services such as Amazon Video On Demand, Netflix, and Vudu.

As the category matures, we expect to see Blu-ray players with new features or capabilities. For example, our latest Ratings include the only portable Blu-ray player available, as well as the first Blu-ray/VHS combo player we’ve seen, both from Panasonic.

We’ll be tracking Blu-ray pricing from Black Friday though the holiday buying season, so check back here regularly for updates. —James K. Willcox

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