10 Blu-ray players that stand out from the crowd

Decks that offer features you don't see everywhere

Samsung BD P4600

It's no secret that the new(ish) HD format hasn't sold as well as the AV industry had hoped, but that's good news for anyone about to make the leap and buy-in to Blu-ray.

While the first wave of Blu-ray players offered pin-sharp HD and little else, even budget players can now download disc extras from BD-Live. Elsewhere, there are packages that can dabble in digital media, stream YouTube, pump out 7.1 surround sound, or even record HD channels from Freesat.

BD-Live is presently a sideshow, but it doesn't cost a premium so it's better to have just in case it becomes essential. Try to go for a Blu-ray player that has built-in storage of 1GB or more, because otherwise you'll be constantly yanking it out of your home ents rack to fiddle with SD cards or USB sticks.

Better still, chose a machine that has Wi-Fi, which gets rid of yet more cabling in your living room.

Most people will probably go for a no-frills budget deck this Christmas – or simply invest in a PlayStation3 – but there's no need; here's our pick of ten different takes on the maturing format.

1. Panasonic DMP-B15 portable Blu-ray player - £459.99

Why would anyone want a portable Blu-ray player? Answer: when it's as good as Panasonic's one-of-a-kind DMP-B15.

Plug this portable into an HD-ready TV and serve up some cutting-edge 1080p pictures, plus it could easily operate both as your main Blu-ray deck and a portable home entertainment system.

Inside the B15 you'll find both BD Live and its own Viera Cast online portal (both via a LAN port).

Panasonic dmp b15

It only lasts 2.5hrs on the go, but the B15 makes for an excellent in-home Blu-ray deck. Those looking to exploit the hi-def format will doubtless balk at the idea of its tiny 8.9in LCD screen, but that rather misses the point. What Panasonic has produced is a fully featured player that just happens to be portable.

2. LG BD390 Blu-ray player with wireless BD-Live - £229.99

This machine isn't just a Blu-ray player – it's both an entertainment centre and a showpiece for innovation.

There's 1GB of internal storage, so there's no need for SD cards or USB sticks, while clutter is completely eliminated by its built-in wireless internet connectivity.

LG bd390

Able to get onto your broadband home network in an instant (using 802.11n Wi-Fi), the LG BD390 can download from BD-Live, and stream music, photos, and HD video files from a PC on the same network.

Its huge file compatibility even includes DivX HD files from a USB stick or DVD, while YouTube videos can be streamed.

If you're searching for a high-definition entertainment hub for your living room, stop looking.

3. Panasonic DMR-BS850 Blu-ray recorder & Freesat HD receiver - £685.10

It's no exaggeration to say that the £1,000 DMR-BS850 is the most advanced digital recorder ever sold in the UK.

Already down in AV history as the UK's first Blu-ray recorder, it sports a 500GB hard drive and twin Freesat HD tuners.

Panasonic dmr bs850

The 500GB drive can store approximately 77 hours of HD, or 215 hours of SD, and burn them to a BD-R or DVD-R disc if you so desire. HD depends on the broadcaster – BBC HD only lets you burn one copy of any programme.

Panasonic has launched a number of BD recorders globally, but none are an exact match of this pricey model. It's unique and more than a little brilliant.

4. Yamaha YHTS1400 Blu-ray player & front surround system - £849

Yamaha has made a mighty tempting package for audiophiles short on space by combining two of its latest machines.

It's built around Yamaha's BDS-1065, a BD-Live Blu-ray player that can provide Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound – as either direct bitstream or linear PCM – through HDMI or analogue outputs.

Yamaha yhts1400

That masterclass in audio is then routed through the YHT-S400, a 50mm high, 250W soundbar that's designed to go in front of a TV and push out virtual surround sound.

With a built-in subwoofer, the YHT-S400 can also be fitted with an optional iPod dock (YDS-11) or Bluetooth audio receiver (YBA-10). Blu-ray home cinema or ultra modern hi-fi? You decide.

5. Samsung BD-P4600 Ultra-slim & wall-mountable Blu-ray player - £180.78

The 'world's slimmest' Blu-ray player has off the wall and wireless appeal.

Samsung's latest premium player, the BD-P4600, features a radical wall-mounting design, fast disc-loading times and adds wireless networking as the new must-have feature.

An optional £50 wireless dongle is a must – and a slightly messy must, especially since Sony's Blu-ray players are natively wireless.

Samsung bd p4600

There are drawbacks to the BD-P4600: you still have to hide the HDMI, Ethernet, power and optical cables somewhere, and in plenty of home cinema stacks, the side-mounted slot-loading mechanism will be a non-starter.

The BD-P4600 is an interesting solution for anyone with a wall-mounted flatscreen, particularly if you go for the dongle to make BD-Live a breeze.