Blu-ray players stuck above $300

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Pricewatch – HD DVD players are gone for almost half a year and the victorious Blu-ray format is plugging along, but there seems to be few convincing incentives for consumers to actually make the jump to the high-def format. Average retail prices are falling and have broken through the $400 barrier. The next barrier is $300 and it seems that most companies believe that a price of or around $300 is about right at this time.

As far as prices are concerned, the death of the HD DVD format was about the worst thing that could have happened to consumers interested in buying a high-definition playback device. Even the Blu-ray camp engaged in some price-focused competition – by giving away free movies and even free players with new HDTVs. With the competition being buried and no future rival (HD movie downloads?) in sight Blu-ray has been dominating the field. Prices are coming down, albeit at a pace that tells mainstream buyers to check back in 2009.

We consulted Pricegrabber.com’s pricing data to get an overview of the current market situation. The cheapest big-brand-name Blu-ray players you can buy today is Samsung’s BD-P1400 and Sony’s BDP-S300 model with average retail prices of $330 and $333, respectively. Some retailers are offering both players for just under $300 occasionally and if you are looking for a family room Blu-ray player now, then these are the two models to look for.

 

It will take much more than just a new generation of Blu-ray players to drive prices into a mainstream market below $200. Our sources told us that we should not count on a $199 Blu-ray player this year. A price reduction and new entry-level model should be possible for $299 and possibly $249, but certainly not below that.  

The true price erosion appears to be happening in higher price regions. For example, Panasonic’s DMP-BD30K has fallen below $400 for the first time just recently. The high-positioned BD50K has come down from more than $700 to just under $600 within the past four weeks. Sony’s BDP-S500 has also dropped from an average retail price of about $600 to below $500 in a matter of eight weeks.

Considering the current market situation, the price conscious consumer has two clear choices – either to stay with an upscaling DVD player that will cost less than a third of a new Blu-ray player, or to simply purchase a Playstation 3 (which includes a Blu-ray player), which appears to remain the best value in this segment due to its simple upgradeability and its other well-known entertainment features.

Or you can just wait a few more months and find out about Toshiba’s big DVD player secret. The company has reportedly been working on a Cell-processor powered DVD player than can deliver near-HD quality video playback from regular DVDs. The first Toshiba players should be out by the end of the year.