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Final verdict

We hoped that placing these five, quite disparate decks into the mix would throw up some surprises, but inevitably the pecking order is determined by price.

On the lowest rung of the ladder are our two budget entrants, the Sharp BD-HP22H and Sony BDP-S360.

The former finds itself at the bottom due to its barren feature list (which doesn't even include MP3 playback) and sluggish operation. Its picture quality is impressive, but no more so than any of the other four decks and, therefore, isn't enough to save it from last place ignominy.

The Sony nips in front with a slightly better array of features and a vastly superior user interface.

Picture quality is also impressive, which will make the £150 price tag all the more appealing if you're on a
tight budget, but despite this the Sony's bog-standard spec sheet won't be enough to persuade you to choose it over any of the remaining three players.

If you can find the extra £30 or so, it really is worth opting for the Philips BDP7300 as you get more connections, built-in memory, a USB port and more extensive multimedia support.

Although it's not quite in the same league as the Pioneer or Oppo when it comes to picture quality, it's strong enough to ensure that you won't be disappointed when you get down to the business of watching movies.

Deciding on the top two places was tricky, but just beaten into second spot is the Pioneer BDP-LX52.

With its movie star looks and a decent feature list, this player delivers truly sensational picture and sound quality, but despite its undoubted talents in the key areas it's not quite the all-singing, all-dancing Pioneer player we were expecting for the money.

X-Factor revealed

That means our Blu-ray champion is the Oppo BDP-831, which comes equipped with many features missing from the Pioneer (DVD-A and SACD playback, USB multimedia support, ultra fast disc loading, multichannel audio outputs) and offers a level of performance equal to that of its Japanese rival.

But most remarkably, it does so at a lower price.

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