The 10 Best 3D Blu-Ray Players
10. Sony BDP-S6700
- proprietary color depth enhancement
- mirrors devices using miracast
- onboard cache tends to be glitchy
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
9. Samsung UBD-K8500
- better color range than most
- dual hdmi outputs
- a somewhat older model
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
8. Sony BDP-S6500
- works over ethernet or wifi
- built-in playstation now software
- more expensive than similar choices
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
7. Philips BDP7501 4K Ultra
- hi-fi sound via dolby true-hd
- quick keys for netflix and youtube
- remote control feels cheap
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
6. Oppo BDP-103
- auto-converts 2d content to 3d
- dolby digital surround sound
- comprehensive disc and data support
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
5. Samsung BD-J6300 Smart
- integrated entertainment apps
- dual-band wireless connectivity
- above-average picture quality
|Rating||3.7 / 5.0|
4. Panasonic BDT-270
- powerful 4k upscaling protocol
- offers 2d-to-3d conversion
- utilizes miracast mirroring
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
3. Sony UBP-X800
- sleek and minimalist design
- middle-of-the-road pricing
- wireless- and ethernet-ready
|Rating||5.0 / 5.0|
2. Oppo UDP-203
- supports high-dynamic-range playback
- fully lossless audio transmission
- reference-level visual reproduction
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
1. LG UP870
- no cumbersome bloatware
- works seamlessly with smart tvs
- supports popular dolby audio formats
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
The Pursuit Of Immaculate In-Home Theater
We've seen astronomical improvements in home video entertainment since the popularization of television in the early 20th century. The massive, wood-encased, tube-based behemoths of yesteryear would be unrecognizable to many movie buffs today. In that same vein, modern high-definition entertainment systems would seem completely alien to fans of the talkies in the 1930s. Screens have gotten flatter, larger, and clearer at faster rates than we could have ever predicted. Meanwhile, the equipment needed to provide those screens with a high-quality video feed has become less expensive and more powerful at a similarly blistering pace.
Among the biggest hurdles that distributors had to overcome to put the big screen in your living room is the massive amount of digital data that comprises a modern film. We're far, far removed from the days of magnetically sensitive tape spooled up inside a plastic case. The original, popular digital video storage unit, the DVD, isn't nearly large enough to hold a two-hour production at 4K resolution. And most people's internet connections and computers aren't up to the task of buffering and storing dozens of megabits of information per second.
So how did engineers solve this problem of data storage and recall ability? Just like they've solved many other computing problems: by making things smaller.
Shiny Circles And Flashing Lasers
To understand how shrinking certain components of the system makes a difference, it helps to first have a basic grasp of how optical storage discs work. First off, don't confuse them with the almighty floppy disk of years gone by. While there was a diskette inside such ancient beasts, those were written with a system of magnets rather than lasers.
Actually, digital media storage is conceptually similar to the original mechanical soundsystem, the phonograph, and later the vinyl record. Those machines run a needle over grooves engraved in the plastic of the storage medium to produce analog data that's then fed to an amplifier and, ultimately, a speaker. Rather than a needle and analog grooves, however, optical storage uses a laser to read rows of microscopic impressions in a foil sheet that's adhered in the middle of the layers of a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray disc.
The data itself is represented on the foil disc by a series of raised and lowered portions, called pits and lands, stretched over a track that fills the entire disc in a spiral pattern. A period of pits or lands over multiple bumps in a row indicates a stretch of 0s, while each change from a pit to a land or back represents a 1. The laser reflects off the imprinted surface back into the lens of the reader, which turns the light measurement into digital information and sends that to the chipset for processing.
To get a sense of why the Blu-ray standard is so effective, let's look at the size of these tracks and the bumps that make them up. The grooves in the aforementioned vinyl LPs were anywhere from 50 to 120 microns wide for most commercial releases (a micron, or micrometer, is equal to 1/1,000,000 of a millimeter). The width of the bumps imprinted on a CD, on the other hand, is 600 nanometers, over 100 times slimmer than the average LP groove. Blu-ray lasers read digital data that is a miniscule 130 nm wide. Compared to the width of a vinyl groove, blu-ray bump width would be a one-inch strip down the middle of a three-lane highway. Because the length of the smallest readable bump on a Blu-ray disc is five times smaller than that of a standard compact disc, it's easy to see how we can store so much entertainment on one little piece of metal and plastic.
And it's all thanks to the short wavelength of high-precision blue lasers.
Hertz So Good
Naturally, light isn't just the key to storing the movies you want to watch. If you're buying a 3-D Blu-ray player, there's probably already a large electronic device in your living room designed to produce light according to the instructions it receives via HDMI cable. This device could be a 4K-ready projector. It could also be a high-end, integrated 3-D TV.
Ever since Avatar transported millions of viewers to another world with its immersive cinema experience, entertainment aficionados have yearned to bring that eye-popping pseudo-reality home. And that's not entirely difficult to do with today's technology. There are a few requirements, though. Some high-end units come with built-in 3-D processing chipsets, but you may have a perfectly good flatscreen already, and you just want to add functionality. You can do that with an aftermarket transmitter. If you do choose to use your current television to display active 3-D, you need to make sure it can support HD resolutions and a 120Hz refresh rate
Why the need for 120Hz? Most movies are recorded at 24 frames per second, and progressive scan reads the screen simultaneously from the top as well as the bottom, meaning 48 actual images are being presented per second, and they're sampled up to the standard of 60Hz. 3-D movies, however, are written and reproduced at twice that. The transmitter works in sync with each individual lens of the proprietary glasses, sending every other frame to the left or right eye. These alternating frames are shot using a perspective-capturing camera that simulates physical presence by recording two slightly offset images per frame. HD and 4K video standards top out at 60fps in progressive scan, which means a max refresh rate of 120 Hz is needed to take full advantage of all the data on that disc.
The images produced by modern 3-D video are very convincing, and you won't have to deal with flimsy glasses, contrasting red and blue outlines, or the accompanying headache of older technologies. And there are plenty of players available that will translate those tiny digital imprints into living-room-invading movie characters for years to come.