All upsampling DVD players are pretty much par for the course nowadays. You aren’t going to get HD quality video out of it regardless of what brand it is.
I use my PS3 as a Bluray player and it’s as good as it gets. The differentiation in Bluray players has more to do with other features (photo galleries, stuff like that) then it does with image quality.
Plus nowadays you can get a PS3 for sub $350 if you check slickdeals.net on a regular basis.
In general for reviews I trust the CNET reviews site http://reviews.cnet.com/ seem to cover a lot of different brands an models with a pretty good unbiased and technical tone.
Either that or something like Engadget.com can help though it’s pretty informal and doesn’t cover many products, though often the newer stuff.
Personally, I don’t get the added draw of BlueRay. I haven’t seen that much real difference in quality, and when I already have 200+ DVDs, I certainly wouldn’t want to start the collection over again.
In general, I always believe in spending as much as you can afford on technology as it’s no secret that cheaper stuff is usually crap. That $20 Colby Radio Shack special DVD player you just know is either gonna break or suck. In the end you get what you pay for and often the nicer stuff looks nicer too which is always a good bonus for ID aesthetes like us.
Are you watching on a HD TV? On smaller screens I can see not noticing as much of a difference, but once you start getting into the 40+" range the difference between a Bluray and a DVD (esp for movies with a lot of special effects) is unbelievable. Try watching Transformers or Planet Earth in 1080p and then cmopare it to the DVD and you’d be sold.
Plus the PS3 is an upsampling DVD player.
I download 90% of my media so the PS3 works great for me, and it’s at least much more attractive (and quieter) than my Xbox.
Best thing to do is look into the audio/video forums. There is an enormous wealth of info on avsforum.com.
That being said, I will give my opinions. If you go with standard def (DVD), then check out Oppo. They are regarded as some of the best quality you can get in an affordable price point. Hell, you can find a used one for $70 (most people that buy these take good care of them. They just have to get the newest one).
If you go with Bluray, as others have said get the PS3. I know people that have over $30,000 in audio/video using a PS3 as the main transport. Although the gaming and media center is a nice feature, the biggest plus is the upgrade ability. “Sony has been frequently releasing firmware updates for the PS3. Unlike standalone BD players, the PS3 uses a very capable general-purpose processor (i.e., Cell processor) and many of the audio and video capabilities are performed in software running on the unitâ€™s processor, rather than in dedicated hardware as used in standalone BD players. This has allowed Sony to easily add many new capabilities to the PS3 via firmware updates.” (taken from AVS)