Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 14, 2012
What is your opinion on Blu-ray?

I was looking for a Christmas present for my wife, the Star Wars Trilogy on DVD. To my surprise it turned out that this isn't produced any more. The last remaining Star Wars DVDs on the secondary market on Amazon go for over a 100 bucks. The only version still in production is Blu-ray. That of course makes me wonder if I need to switch over anytime soon.

Technically I do have a Blu-ray player, in the form of my PS3. I just never used it as such yet, and it isn't on the living room TV. I am not a specialist at all, but I would assume that an on-purpose Blu-ray player isn't all that expensive by now any more. And I would hope it would be able to play both DVDs and Blu-ray discs. One additional problem is that I own DVDs with different region codes, having sometimes imported them from the USA. I know most DVD players can be made "region free" with a few button presses on the remote. Does anyone know if the same is true for Blu-ray players?

Ultimately the question is whether Blu-ray is already confirmed as definitively being the future, so that in a few years time it won't be possible to get anything on DVD any more. I'd hate to invest in a future that doesn't come to pass, that would be like having bought a Betamax system. What do you think? Should I get a Blu-ray player for Christmas?

I'd say get one within whatever device you're next going to buy; lappy, game console, etc. I have not purchased one yet, and I'm hoping that befoe I'm force to the digital download ownership model will get resolved to be practical.
I don't think there's much question Blu-Ray is the next DVD. I do use my PS3 and it works fine (if it is a bit windy; the fan is loud, IMHO). Here in the States they give away Blu-Ray players with the purchase of HDTVs these days, so I imagine they're very affordable...compared to PC hardware, anyway!
Everyone I know who has a PS3 uses it as a Bluray player :) It's fine.
^ On one hand, is DVD the future? No. Digital is the future. (Latest iMac does not include an optical drive.) OTOH, the mass-market future arrives much more slowly than the pundits (and PR firms say.)

A well-know consumer advocate/save money/cheapscate host I listen to said a year or two ago that the DVD was doomed when the $80 Blu-Ray disc players were available at WalMart. (I just checked and they have an LG for $39.)

Anyone who re-bought their LP/Cassette music on CD and their VHS/Beta tapes on at least DVD with perhaps an interim laserDisc is motivated to minimize last format.

If one were to replace a DVD player, why would you not buy a Blu-ray if they are double digit US$ prices.

Most people's media purchases/rental dwarf the player cost, so going forward there is considerable temptation to get media that will last longer. I.e., start buying BR over DVD. Although few people I know buy much anymore with digital and rentals. Not that there won't be DVD sales for many years, it's just that now/soon you would prefer BR.

The good news is that the annoying HD standard has gone away so Blu is the clear winner. The bad news is how far away some next gen is going to be.

IDK about region codes, a really annoying DRM.

P.S. the SW editions are a source of much nerd-rage. I think some of the prices are to reflect purist trying to avoid some of George's "improvements" - a/k/a the Han Shot First crowd. In fact, the $100 DVDs may be that.

I bought the BR set last year to rewatch them all prior to the SWTOR launch.

I don't own a Blu-Ray player, but I've often heard that the PS3 is the best Blu-Ray player out there. It gets updated a lot more often for one thing.

So my advice would be to hook up your PS3, and not waste money on a dedicated player that may or may not be worse than the PS3.
I am just being told that the ps3 has a pretty good value for its price as a blu ray player. It is a bit loud and there is no remote control (though it seems one can buy one), you would be using the game pad to navigate.

As for the latest Betamax, that was the already mentionned HDTV standard which is gone.

We've been buying blu-rays for years. That is not to say that there won't be a new standard sometime in the future, with discs that have even more space. But maybe, just maybe, they'll be compatible just like you can play your DvDs on a blu-ray player. But as far as I know there is no new media standard in the works - yet. There is only a new codec called 4k that cinemas are using now, which has higher resolution than the blu-ray video standard 1080p (aka Full HD).

I think in the long run we won't own any medium, we will just license or rent digital versions online: see Kindle, iTunes, Netflix (yes I know neither you nor I have Netflix in our respective countries right now)

... at least that's where I see the future going.

So right now my advice would be: buy blu-rays and don't worry ;) and test your PS3 before buying another cheap player.

I'd switch your PS3 to the living room so you can use that as a blu-ray player until you are convinced that they are the future. Or you can buy one now, as commenters above said they aren't expensive.

On a different note: you sometimes touch on the fact that you blog for free, apart from the 'buy Tobold a coffee'-button. But this is a definite perk of having a large reader base: you can get answers to questions like these by typing a small blog post, instead of going to stores, searching online, or posting on forums. All of those would take more time than it took you now.

Anyway, enjoy the Star Wars Trilogy!
I have a PS3 (and an XBOX) and will switch to the the stand alone blu-ray player for movies etc.

It's quieter, basically. If all you watch on blu-ray is non-stop crash bang wallop stuff the PS3 would be fine I suppose, but during any kind of dramatic silence you will be aware of the PS3 whirring. At leat I am aware of it.

Your mileage may vary of course. A friend just has the PS3 for blu-ray and it doesn't seem to bother him.
Optical media is not the future, Digital is. So I think Bluray will be the last of its kind. There are cheap region free players out in the market, just pick the cheapest. A feature that might be worth getting is the ability if the drive to read BD Data (the equiv of DVD data on Bluray) in case you burn your own stuff to the medium. PS3 is a fine choice to start with but you may not be able to play those US region DVDs on it. Good luck!
Blue-ray players have plunged in price over the past year or two, so they're pretty cheap. Most new computers come with a Blue-ray drive, for instance, and I don't think that's going to change any time soon. (Apple is the notable exception, because their strategy is to get you to rent digital content from them instead of purchasing it yourself. That's great if you've got the bandwidth and your ISP doesn't set data limits, but I digress.)

Blue-ray won the HD competition over HD-DVD, and I expect that it'll be around for a while. Even the pricing for Blue-ray discs has plummeted, which is the one thing that surprised me the most. However, I don't think there's been as quick a migration to Blue-ray from regular DVD as there was when DVD quickly overwhelmed VHS video. Part of that is that DVD was so superior to VHS that it was a no-brainer to migrate. While Blue-ray is better than DVD, its not as dramatic, particularly with a DVD player that can upconvert decently.

So yeah, you can get a Blue-ray player fairly cheap, but also get one with digital streaming capability so that you'll have an eye on the future.
LOL. Whats next are you going to get electricity and a air conditioner? Where the hell have you been for the past 5 years?
One thing to keep in mind if you have an HDTV is that a blu-ray player will produce a higher quality picture, even if you're not watching HD content.

I would get one. I just recently purchased a blu-ray player for ~$30 that not only plays my DvD's, but content off of USB drives and has apps for internet streaming services (read: Netflix)
Whats next are you going to get ... a air conditioner?

What would I need an air conditioner for in Belgium?

And up to now there was zero need for me to get a Blu-ray player either. Everything I watched in the last 5 years was on DVD or online. The mere existence of a technology doesn't justify investing in it.
The future is buying it off of Itunes or from Amazon and running in through your Roku or Apple TV. No reason to start a blu-ray collection at this point. To the degree you need one, the PS3 is entirely satisfactory (although new ones are fairly cheap).

Secondly, nobody needs to own the special editions on any format. You can easily get a quality version of the OG Star Wars. I know your stand on piracy, but in this case they actually won't sell you a copy. Donate 20 bucks to a charity or something instead.
And up to now there was zero need for me to get a Blu-ray player either. Everything I watched in the last 5 years was on DVD or online. The mere existence of a technology doesn't justify investing in it.

Now, if you can explain that to some tech pundits....
When I want to watch something on my LED TV (1080HD) I just plug it to the web and use one of the many movie-streaming service "pay per view".

I am one of those who don't collect stuff, so I'm happy if I can save space at home and use my hi-speed connection.

So far so good, 1080 movies are awesome (even streamed).
When I want to watch something on my LED TV (1080HD) I just plug it to the web and use one of the many movie-streaming service "pay per view".

I so envy you for having those movie-streaming services. And I can't understand why we the offer is so limited over here in Europe. Isn't this supposed to be the INTERnet, where I should be able to watch American TV shows from the original supplier or a US streaming service if I want to? Instead I get a tiny choice of second-rate movies, no TV shows, and barely anything in English.
The Ps3 is fine as a Blu-Ray player. I've been using it as such for years.

As for whether Blu-Ray in general is worth it: if you've got decent upscaling on your DVD player, it's my experience that you'll only notice the quality improvement if you're using a 42" or larger TV. On a new 48" TV, films like Avatar (probably the best Blu-Ray showcase at this point, regardless of what you think of the plot) look stunning in Blu-Ray.

- Hugh @ MMO Melting Pot
Do NOT buy a standalone blu-ray player unless it is from SONY. Lots of other manufacturers either never update, or stop updating the firmware after a year. After that point, your standalone blu-ray player will not play new blu-ray disks.

I got bit by this with Cyberlink PC Blu-ray player. I have two PC's with their software (including a 1 year old laptop) which don't play new blu-rays anymore.

Assume that region unlocking will not work on blu-rays. Sony is constantly updating the DRM (despite it being thoroughly beaten.)

That said, the picture on blu-ray is mostly amazing. Companies are remastering films to spectacular effect - the James Bond blu-rays are a great example (as is Star Wars.) They look way better than the DVD set and Dr No never looked that good even in theatres.
In the US blu-ray players are now cheap enough (less than $100) that it isn't worth agonizing over the decision anymore.
I ended up buying a Blu-ray player for my wife this Christmas, because what I wanted to get her (the Bond 50 anniversary box set) was half the price on Blu-ray as DVD, so it was actually cheaper to buy a blu-ray player and the blu-ray set, than the DVD set alone.

So yes, Blu-ray is the future (more like the current emerging standard) for physical media. In the long run, I suspect physical media will be replaced by digital access through "the cloud", but I'd guess we're still a decade or two away from that, if not more.
OMG, so it's a good thing I bought it way back when it was first released on DVD (enhanced edition).

In a related note, I moved all my DVDs to a container near my desk. Off the shelf. Not sure what to do with them.
I also can recommend the PS3 as a BR player Tobold..I did some googling when i bought it and it seems it does the "upscaling" of dvds like no other. Sure this is a dvd only aspect but since i have 100s (1000s?) of dvds and only a few BRs this was important when i bought it. Also it is upgradable. Ive used it for a few years as a BR/DVD player and like it a lot. My ps3 is totally quiet when i watch a disc, ymmv..
It isn't like a Blu Ray player is a serious investment decision with a significant opportunity cost. So you might as well buy one.

If it gathers dust you can always sell it as I did with my PS3. In all the time I owned it I watched one Blu Ray movie and that was one I borrowed.

My favourite gadget at the moment is my Apple TV. I rent HD movies from the iTunes store and use some trickery to connect to the US Netflix library. My shelves have been cleared of physical media and I will never go back.

As to the future of Blu Ray - I don't think it will achieve the success of DVD as the market will be split between physical media and downloads. I'd also seriously question general public interest in the product.

A lot is made of the quality of output but it seems to me that most people prefer to buy SD pirate DVD's from the back street market or download copies themselves.

The market appears to favour convenience, price and time from cinema to home version over ultimate quality. I think that is the greatest problem that the product has to overcome.
> I so envy you for having those
> movie-streaming services. And I
> can't understand why we the offer
> is so limited over here in Europe.

Actually... I live in Italy :) and we have some pretty good HD720 and HD1080 streaming services. Of course you don't have access to EVERYTHING you want (yet) but you can spend a good night by cashing out 2-4 EUR and relax on your couch/bed.

Surely he could use a service like Unblock Us?

I don't think anyone in the UK would bother paying for Netflix for example if all they had was the UK Catalogue. I signed up for a trial and immediately cancelled when I saw how poor the offering was. I assume his countries library is as bad as mine.

Now that I have the US Catalogue I seem to spend more time watching Netflix than I do regular TV.
I used the PS3 for Blu-Ray for several years and like others said, it worked just fine. It is a bit noisy though, so last year I bought a BR unit for my computer, and now I rip all the discs I buy, then use Plex to keep them sorted. It takes a little bit of work (and LOTS of time to code the films), but the convenience of having all my films online at all times makes it well worth it.
As for whether Blu-Ray in general is worth it: if you've got decent upscaling on your DVD player, it's my experience that you'll only notice the quality improvement if you're using a 42" or larger TV.

40" tv and I can tell the difference depending on the quality of the master used for the BDMV. Some movies look the same, informally, as they did on DVD. Some movies are night and day difference better.
Before you put complete faith in streaming vs. Blu Ray, do some research on the audio and video quality of both. There's more to HDTV than just screen resolution. Streaming HD video has a long way to go before it can match what a Blu Ray is capable of.
I skipped bluray completely and went digital with a media device. Unfortunately I have yet to find a place where I can buy movies in an unlocked format. This solution can get quite expensive as well. You can use an existing computer hooked up to your network and buy a media device (Boxee, WD, Apple TV) but eventually you run low on hardrive space and most people I know buy small network servers. Mine currently has 6TB of media and I'm running out of room.

It is VERY nice to be able to browse your own library of movies like you would Netflix and watch anything you want without having to worry about finding a disc and putting it in a machine.
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