For most of Blu-ray's existence, the PlayStation 3 has easily been the best value in home theater. Only recently have we reviewed Blu-ray players that come close to matching its performance, speed, and functionality, while costing about the same amount.
The $300 PS3 Slim changes the marketplace considerably. Standalone Blu-ray players that offer similar performance to the PS3, like the LG BD390 and Samsung BD-P3600, used to offer some savings over PS3, but now they actually cost a little more. How can these standalone players expect us to pay more?
The standalone players have a few points in their favor. The most obvious is the ease-of-use, as they behave nearly identically to DVD players, making them easier for tech novices to use. The players also all have IR receptors, which make them easy to integrate with universal remotes without buying a pricey IR-to-Bluetooth converter.
Blu-ray players from Samsung and LG also feature Netflix and Pandora streaming, which are generally better options than Sony's pricey movie store. More expensive players, like the LG BD390 and Samsung BD-P3600, also feature 7.1 analog outputs, making them better choices for those with older, non-HDMI AV receivers who still want to experience Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio at their full resolution.
Even considering those factors, the PS3 Slim is an easy choice for anyone even slightly interested in high-def gaming or network media streaming. (Some Blu-ray players feature media streaming, but the PS3 offers a better overall experience.) We can still see the LG BD390 (currently our top-rated standalone player) being a better choice for some buyers, but we feel like the price is going to have to drop to stay competitive as the holidays get closer.
Standalone Blu-ray players may not be as overpriced as they were a year ago, but the PS3 Slim makes them seem like less of a value.
What do you think? Does the ease-of-use of standalone players, plus streaming features like Netflix, make them worthy competitors of the PS3 Slim? Or is the PS3 Slim now easily the value for the tech-savvy looking to get into Blu-ray?