Blu-ray is the best option for watching high-definition video content on an HDTV. Also, Blu-ray disc players can do a lot more than play Blu-ray Discs. They also play DVDs, CDs, and some can also stream content from the internet. Check out what to consider when deciding which Blu-ray Disc player is right for you.
Be Aware of Both Blu-ray and HD-DVD Even Though HD-DVD Has Been Discontinued
NOTICE: HD-DVD was officially discontinued in 2008.
However, information on HD-DVD, and its comparison to Blu-ray, is still contained here because players are still in use and movies are still sold and traded in the secondary market.
Blu-ray and HD-DVD both use Blue Laser and video compression technology to achieve high definition video playback on the same size disc as a standard DVD.
The underlying concept of Blu-ray and HD-DVD are the same, but way they are implemented is slightly different, resulting in two incompatible formats (remember VHS vs BETA). However, Blu-ray is the only one still being manufactured.
A large number of films and other video content is available in the Blu-ray Disc and more are released every week. Currently, about 7,000 titles are available on Blu-ray. Prices for the titles are about $5-or-$10 more than current DVDs. Prices for movies, just as for players, continue to go down and basic players it is now common to find basic players priced less than $150.
Currently, all major studios are releasing content in the Blu-ray Disc format, with most smaller studios joining in, resulting in continuous growth of titles. Also, some Blu-ray packages also come with a standard DVD version of the movie as well.
Your Current DVDs are not Obsolete If You Switch to Blu-ray
Blu-ray Player manufacturers have included the ability for their units to playback standard DVDs, this is expected to continue. This means your current DVD library is playable on a Blu-ray Disc Player.
Also, when playing a standard DVD in a Blu-ray Disc player, you can view it at standard resolution or have the player upscale the DVD playback signal to match 720p/1080i, or in some cases, 1080p mode, which will be a better match on compatible HDTVs.
Most Blu-ray Disc Players Also Play Music CDs and Access Internet-based Content
Almost all Blu-ray Disc players will play standard CDs/CD-R/RW discs. However, there are some exceptions to this, most notably on first generation models from Sony and Pioneer. If you desire CD compatibility, make sure you read the specifications or features brochure of the unit you are considering, to confirm this.
Also, a growing trend in Blu-ray Disc players is the ability to access content from a home network, USB flash drives, and/or the internet (from sources such as Netflix, Amazon Video-on-Demand, Vudu, and more).
Know the Types of Connections Blu-ray Disc Players Have
Blu-ray Disc player connections are similar to that of a DVD player, which include some, or all, of the following: Composite, S-Video, and Component video outputs, Analog Stereo, Digital Optical, and/or Digital Coaxial Audio outputs.
Three added outputs:
1. HDMI, which can transfer HD video and digital audio to a TV/AV receiver that is equipped with an HDMI or DVI-HDCP input via an adapter.
2. Some Blu-ray Disc players have 5.1/7.1 channel analog outputs that transfer a decoded surround sound signal to AV receivers that have 5.1/7.1 analog inputs. If you need this option, check the connections before you buy.
3. Most players also have an Ethernet jack for the internet and/or home network.
4. Some Blu-ray Disc players also have either one or two USB ports that can be used to load firmware updates, and/or provide for one or more of the follow: BD-Live memory expansion, access to digital media files stored on flash drives, or provide for the connection of a USB WiFi adapter.
You Need an HDTV to get the Benefits of Blu-ray
Most Blu-ray Disc players can be connected to a TV that has at least Composite video inputs, but an increasing number of players manufacturers in 2012 going forward may only offer HDMI connections. In any case. the only way to access high definition Blu-ray resolution is through the HDMI connection, or, with some restrictions, Component Video connections (component video connections are also being eliminated on a growing number of players).
NOTE: Although high definition resolution can be accessed using Component Video connections of a Blu-ray Disc player, but this is at the movie studios' discretion. In the future, discs may be encoded to limit access to high definition resolution only by the HDMI connection.
Know How Much Getting Into Blu-ray Will Cost You
Blu-ray Players start below $150 and go up as high as $2,000. For $150, you can get actually get a decent player, but as you go up in price, added connection options, better video processing, more extensive networking, and internet streaming are more commonly provided.
As you get into the high-end price points, analog audio playback is emphasized for those that use their Blu-ray Disc player for serious music listening from CDs, and as well as the SACD and DVD-Audio disc audiophile-targeted formats. Also, an increasing number of even moderately-priced Blu-ray Disc players now offer 3D playback when connected to a 3D TV.
Used HD-DVD players can be found for as low as $99, but are very hard to find, since HD-DVD is no more. You may find some used Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo players that were originally made by LG and Samsung.
When you buy a player in either format, take into consideration the cost of connection cables, as well as the $5 to $10 dollars more for each new Blu-ray movie. Keep in mind that no more HD-DVD movies are being released.
Blu-ray is a great, and affordable, choice to complement an HDTV and home theater system, with a growing number of players now running less than $129. However, if you are on a limited budget or just don't to want to make the Blu-ray plunge yet, very inexpensive DVD players (priced below $79) with 720p/1080i/1080p upscaling capability that can narrow the gap between DVD and Blu-ray - but as Blu-ray Disc player prices continue to go down, fewer DVD players are being made available.
Also, you don't have worry about your current DVD library becoming obsolete, as all Blu-ray Disc players also play, and upscale, standard DVDs. In fact, with most Blu-ray Disc players, you don't have to have a separate DVD player, CD player, Network Media Player, or Media Streamer. Definitely consider the addition of a Blu-ray Disc player to your home entertainment experience.
For more on Blu-ray, also check out Carey Bryson, About.com Guide for Kid's TV and Movies: What is Blu-ray and How Will It Impact My Family? as well as our About.com video presentation: What to Look For When Buying a Blu-ray Disc Player.