Blu-ray Player Prices Hit 2008 Highs As Competition Dwindles

Pricewatch - Blu-ray Disc players from Samsung, Sony and Sharp are now the most expensive they have been all year, presumably because HD DVD's exit from the high-def disc arena has removed some of Blu-ray's pricing pressure.

Although HD DVD was always seen as a distant second in the HD format war, it constantly received attention because of the lower cost of its players. Because of this, standalone Blu-ray players were not moving off store shelves very steadily.

The majority of Blu-ray Disc movie purchases have to date been for consumers who own a Playstation 3, which has BD playback capabilities.

In a move to expedite HD DVD's downfall, Blu-ray manufacturers and retailers aggressively cut prices earlier this year, to the point where it was possible to buy a standalone BD player for less than $300.

Now, however, according to's most recent information, the average price for Blu-ray hardware is around $400, which is right around where it was last year. The players from Samsung, Sony, Sharp and Panasonic included here are the least expensive on the market and also the most widely available. LG's BH200 is a dual format player with support for Blu-ray and HD DVD.

Within just the last two weeks, te average prices for LG's BH200 player and Sharp's BD-HP20U have climbed significantly. Every standlone Blu-ray-specific player in the chart above is now more expensive than it was at the beginning of the year.

Sony's S300 seems to have settled pretty calmly at the $400 point, despite being closer to $300 at the beginning of the year. With Sony's PS3 at the same price point, it is hard to justify buying the standalone Blu-ray player. That goes for all the devices listed here.

By looking at these prices, it is pretty clear that the PS3 did in fact almost singlehandedly declare the winner of the format war. Another point worth noting is that all of these players will reach a certain level of obsolescence later this year, as soon as the new BD Profile is released.

Later this year, Blu-ray movies will carry a new slate of advanced features, most notable being the ability to connect to the Internet. However, none of the Blu-ray players on the market today (with the exception of the PS3) can connect online. This means that not only will they be unable to access Web-enabled features in the future but they also cannot receive firmware upgrades.

With that reality looming, it surprises me that current players are still price as high as they are, and especially that they continue to rise. Obviously they are rebounding from the HD DVD competition, but if these prices don't come down soon, they will be forced down significantly more when the new wave of players comes out.

Meanwhile, the HD-A3 HD DVD player set a new low today, with the average Pricegrabber price at $98. It is interesting that this and other HD DVD players continue to plummet in price, because they do after all still function as DVD upconverters.

Ironically, although Blu-ray has been declared the winner, it is right now about the worst time to invest in a standalone Blu-ray player, because of the high prices and looming obsolescence. Many of the current Blu-ray manufacturers have announced new players that will support BD Profile 2.0, so my advice would be to buy a PS3 or wait for the next-gen players. In the meantime, buy a dirt cheap HD DVD player and some even cheaper HD DVD movies.