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Blu-ray Players

2014 Blu-ray players: Which is the best and fastest?

The Samsung BD-H6500 has emerged as the quickest and best budget Blu-ray player of 2014 in a series of speed and usability tests conducted by CNET.

The Samsung BD-H6500 has a lightning-fast dual-core processor. Sarah Tew/CNET

If you're looking to buy a Blu-ray player, the most important thing, in our book, isn't image quality anymore. The fact is, nearly all of today's players can put out identically fantastic images.

It's speed.

How quickly a player can boot into Netflix or access a disc varies widely, and if you can shave up to a minute off waiting for a disk to load that's gotta be a good thing right?

Of the seven players we compared, the Samsung BD-H6500 and the Sony BDP-S6200 blitzed the other players in the field. It's no coincidence that both have dual-core processors. The Samsung showed slightly faster disc speed and a better user interface between the two, making it our favorite overall.

NB: The Oppo BDP-105 and PlayStation 3 are included as reference only as they were not technically released in 2014.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One of the best innovations in Blu-ray player design in 2014 has been the integration of dual-core processors, as they have helped halve wait times over those of last year's players. While companies will tell you these processors also enable 4K upscaling, no one should really care about that -- your expensive TV most likely does a better job than your ~$120 disc player.

We tested seven different Blu-ray players and one gaming console, with prices ranging from $90 to over $1,000. Price wasn't always a good indication of speed. For example, the PlayStation 3 is $280 and includes the "eight-core" Cell processor, but it was the worst performer in the tests it could complete. In its defense, this is an eight-year-old player, and its processor was designed primarily to service games, not apps or Blu-ray disc menus.

We put the players against three tests: 1) the speed of loading Netflix from the main menu; 2) how long it takes to load "Mission: Impossible III" when off and the Play button on the remote is pressed; 3) how quickly the player can run the Java-intensive "Vantage Point" after first ingesting the disk.

Blu-ray player speed test

CNET's 2014 Blu-ray players speed chart LG BP540 Panasonic DMP-BDT360 Samsung BD-H5900 Samsung BD-H6500 Sony BDP-5200 Sony BDP-S6200 Sony PlayStation 3 (reference) Oppo BDP-105 (reference)
Price $130 $125 $99 $139 $89 $149 $269 $1,199
Dual-core No No No Yes No Yes N/A Yes
MI:III (Off,quick start) - 14.71 6.62 5.47 12.25 11.09 - -
Netflix (until menu) 20.58 13.67 17.31 10.01 19.18 9.53 24.4 11.68
Vantage Point 30.8 33.38 33.67 28.96 27.65 26.04 57.02 29.78
All times are in seconds. The " - " indicates the player could not complete as it was unable to play from being off.

Three players were unable to complete the second test. Either they weren't able to power up when the Play button was pressed ( Oppo), lacked a Play button (PS3) or simply behaved erratically (LG).

The LG BP540 responded to the Play button by powering on but would stop at the main home page, and pressing Play again immediately would cause the disk to eject! Playing a disk from the main menu of the LG worked, however.

Conclusion

The competition for the best budget player of 2014 ended up being between the Samsung BD-H6500 and the Sony BDP-S6200. While the Sony beat the Samsung in two scores it was very close, and the Samsung's superior interface (and cheaper price) became the deciding factor. If you're looking for the best mix of price versus performance, however, the BD-H5900 looks like an excellent value.