Blu-ray players might seem like yesterday's tech for gadget hounds, but they're still a bedrock of any modern home theater. Not only will a modern Blu-ray player handle all your disc-based media (Blu-ray, DVDs, CDs), they're also very capable streaming-media players, with support for apps like Netflix and Pandora.
Unlike DVD players, many Blu-ray players are internet ready with built-in Wi-Fi. This allows you to access the internet and use media streaming apps such as Netflix and Pandora. This is why Blu-ray players are at the top of the pyramid when it comes to home entertainment equipment. You get far more entertainment options, better picture and sound quality and overall the ability to have the ultimate movie experience in your own home without emptying your wallet.
Things you need to
Blu-ray Disc players are changing the way we watch movies at home. Most of the Blu-ray players we reviewed have the ability to play DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray movies, so you don't need to worry about replacing you monster DVD collection. The best Blu-ray players can play a plethora of different video formats, including AVCHD and DivX video formats.
It is incredible what Blu-ray technology can do for your home entertainment system. Most Blu-ray players that have built-in Wi-Fi will provide instant access to media streaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu and Pandora, and the Blu-ray systems that are DLNA certified allow you to connect all of your mobile devices through your Blu-ray so you can watch videos from your phone or laptop on your big screen.
All of the top 10 Blu-ray players we reviewed have the ability to play 3D Blu-rays. The most impressive of the Blu-ray players can convert your 2D Blu-rays to 3D. This brings a whole new dimension to your favorite movies.
The Blu-ray players that have Ultra HD upscaling improve the resolution of your Blu-rays four times higher than 1080p resolution. Some Blu-ray players may not be able to achieve Ultra HD upscaling but still can upscale the quality of your DVD to 1080p. Deep Color is a feature that expands your TV's color display from the millions to billions, allowing for a more vibrant, better quality picture.
You want the sound of your movie to be as high quality as your picture. A Blu-ray player that supports Dolby True HD and DTS-HD formats will bring you the best audio quality you will find outside of the theatre.
Inputs & Outputs
Blu-ray players will have the newest HDMI ports and digital outputs. It is also nice for a Blu-ray player to have older connections such as analog I/Os for anyone who is connecting to an older TV. Having USB ports can also further your player's media capabilities. USB connections can allow you to play music and videos stored on your USB. An Ethernet connection can also connect your Blu-ray player directly to the internet.
If you watch television and have an older CRT (cathode ray tube) or analog TV set, you have undoubtedly heard that by February 2009, you will need to have purchased a converter box in order to view basic television programming. Most of us already enjoy digital television programming with satellite or cable and won't need to do much to prepare for the change. However, if you are one of the estimated 20 million households that do not take advantage of these services but rather watches TV using an antenna, you will not be able to receive any programming after midnight on the February 17, 2009.
CRT television owners can choose to purchase a converter box using a government subsidized coupon for the purchase or they can buy a newer model television that can accommodate the change to digital, like an LCD or plasma screen.
The change made by Congress to transition to all-digital television has been put in place for several reasons:
1. Better picture and sound quality is available with digital television
2. More free channel options are available with digital television
3. Transitioning frees up more frequencies that can then be used by emergency services.
What's The Big Deal?
Because many homes may in fact be getting rid of their older television, there is a growing concern as to what to do with those older TV models. An estimated 75 percent of unused and broken televisions get stored away rather than recycled or disposed of. Keeping an old set around is really not a good idea. Older CRT sets contain anywhere from four to eight pounds of toxic lead, a fairly unhealthy thing to keep lying around your garage. Additionally, throwing these TVs into a landfill is not too environmentally savvy either because the lead can leech into the soil and groundwater if broken. Recycling can help prevent the release of this hazardous lead.
Additionally, television sets are big, clumsy, non-biodegradable objects that take up large amounts of space in our nation's landfills. Many states have already started prohibiting or limiting the ability to dispose of electronic devices in landfills. California, for instance, was one of the first states to pass a law prohibiting the throwing away of old TV sets, followed by several other states. The Environmental Protection Agency website can give you more information on limitations in your area.
How Can You Recycle Your TV?
There are a number of different options available to CRT and analog TV owners wishing to dispose of their sets in the most socially and environmentally responsible way. Before handing over your TV to any of these organizations or companies, however, ask some simple questions to verify that they comply with state or local electronics disposal laws and that they send any hazardous waste to a facility that specializes in the safe and legal disposal of such things.
Donate It To Charity: Consider giving your TV to a local charity, church or hospital. They may be willing to take it off your hands as well as pick it up from your home. You can contact the Electronic Industries Alliance for a list of local and national organizations that accept used electronic items.
Local Goodwill, Thrift Stores: Thrift stores will generally take an older TV set as long as it is in working condition. If you don't know where to start, simply make a few calls and see who might be interested.
Electronics Retailers: Some retailers, such as Best Buy, Circuit City and Office Depot will work with television manufacturers to sponsor in-store collection of televisions, computers and other electronics devices. This service is usually free or there may be a small charge. This is an incredible convenient option for people that want to dispose of a TV and get a new one all in one shop. Some retailers may even pick up the old TV set when they deliver your new one.
~Ben Anton, 2008
What is Apple TV?
Apple TV is a small device that uses a cable to connect to your television. It uses wifi to connect to your home network and the internet. Its purpose is to stream media--photos, movies and music--from your computers, the iTunes store, or from other partners like Netflix and Pandora, to enjoy on your television and home theater audio.
The early Apple TV models had a hard drive that would sync with your computers' iTunes libraries. You could also buy movies from the iTunes store and save them to the Apple TV's hard drive. However, the second generation Apple TV does not have a hard drive so it can only stream media.
The Apple TV can only stream music or movies stored in a computer's iTunes library. It does not see videos or other music stored in folders on your computers. This is both good news and bad news. The good news is that Apple TV works seamlessly with Mac computers and PCs running iTunes. The bad news is that you cannot access movies saved outside an iTunes library. If you are an iTunes or iPhone user, Apple TV might be right for you. If you have a number of computers in your home network, or a network attached storage (NAS) device, you may want to choose another type of network media player.
What's on Apple TV?
Choose from thousands of blockbuster movies and the latest TV shows in addition to classic films and shows from iTunes -- many in stunning 1080p HD.
What is an Apple TV box?
One of questions we get asked more than we really should here at PC Advisor is 'What is an Apple TV box?'. Here, we explain what Apple TV actually is. See Apple TV review (2012).
It's fair to say that Apple TV is a little bit confusing to the uninitiated. The first thing to understand is that it's not, as its name would suggest, a TV made by Apple. It is actually Apple's own media streamer, and it's pretty much as simple as that.
What's a media streamer, you ask? It's a device that plugs into your TV or HD TV and allows you to watch films, movie trailers, TV shows, home videos, photos and other media from either computers or devices on your home network, or the internet. Unlike the first-generation Apple TV, the second- and third-generation (which both cost Â£99) have no internal hard disk, so they can only play content over your network. Take a look at Group test: what's the best TV?
The main difference from an Apple TV box to all other digital streamers/receivers, is that Apple TV is set up to work seamlessly with Apple products such as Macs and iOS devices like the iPhone or iPad. See also WD TV Live media streamer review.
In 2008 Steve Jobs managed to explain what Apple TV is as succinctly as anyone has managed to date. He said "Apple TV was designed to be an accessory for iTunes and your computer. It was not what people wanted. We learned what people wanted was movies, movies, movies."
Of course, the box does more than just "movies, movies, movies". While the Apple TV box can be used to play movies and video on your TV wirelessly over Wi-Fi, it can also play audio files (think your MP3 collection) and display photo slideshows on your television.
However, Apple TV is a little more complicated when you look into how it interacts with other Apple devices such as iPads, iPhones and iPod touches. Similarly Apple TV's limitations are equally confusing, as it will only work with certain video/audio formats. In short, the fact that the Apple TV box is geared up to work with other Apple devices is a bit of a double-edged sword.
It's good as Apple has made each of its AirPlay compatible devices ridiculously easy to use with Apple TV. AirPlay means you can stream media from your handheld device to the Apple TV box with a couple of easy clicks. For example, you could be part way through watching a movie on your iPhone 5 and then stream the rest of it onto your TV, via the Apple TV box, with a couple of taps of your iPhone's screen. Also, AirPlay can be used to display a game from your iPad, for example, on your TV, while using the iPad's screen for extra information, such as the track layout in a racing game.
The Apple TV box can also play movies/audio from iTunes on your computer. Simply turn on your Home Sharing in iTunes and providing Apple TV is connected to the same wireless network as your computer with iTunes is, then you can stream content in seconds.
The downside to Apple TV is that it only plays the formats that Apple likes, which isn't a problem if you buy all your content from Apple, as they will all work on Apple TV. However the chances of having all of your media in Apple approved formats are pretty slim, which makes the restrictions a bit of a pain for the non-Apple fanboy. The media formats that an Apple TV box can play are:
H.264 up to 720p at 30 frames per second (1st & 2nd generation)
H.264 up to 1080p at 30 frames per second (3rd generation)
MPEG-4 up to 720Ã—432 (432p) or 640Ã—480 pixels at 30 frame/s
Motion JPEG up to 720p at 30 frame/s
AAC (16-320 kbit/s)
FairPlay protected AAC
AC-3 Dolby Digital pass-through 
MP3 (16-320 kbit/s, with VBR)
What else does Apple TV do?
Like a lot of media streamers, Apple TV also gives you the ability to connect to the internet and watch content from a number of different providers. Unfortunately the list of providers that would appeal to an UK audience are a bit limited at the minute, with Netflix and YouTube being the only channels that really would really satisfy the average UK consumer. There's no BBC iPlayer or any other catch-up TV services, for example.
Nevertheless here is a list of all the Apple TV channels that are currently available: Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Flickr, iCloud, MLB.tv, NBA League Pass, NHL GameCenter.