Which Blu-Ray Player to Buy
DVDs are no longer the best way to watch movies at home; Blu-ray players offer an enhanced viewing experience. Blu-ray not only offers excellent picture and sound quality but also comes with a range of other features. Figuring out which player is best for you can be really tricky, but our handy guide will walk you through everything you need to know.
What exactly is Blu-ray?
Blu-ray Discs (BD) are storage devices that are capable of housing more digital information than their predecessors, DVDs.
Blu-ray is therefore now the best format to watch feature films or TV shows at home. Blu-ray media offers three basic improvements over DVDs: enhanced picture, superior sound and better special features.
Can I play Blu-ray discs on my existing DVD player?
Blu-ray discs can’t be played on a traditional DVD player; you will need to buy a Blu-ray player.
This doesn’t mean you will have to throw away your whole DVD collection though, because all Blu-ray players are backwards compatible, meaning they can play DVDs. In some cases they can even improve the picture quality of your DVDs.
Will I need a HDTV to watch Blu-ray?
The most notable difference between the two disc formats is picture quality.
Blu-ray plays movies in HD (high definition). This means they have a resolution of 1080p, whereas traditional DVDs operate at 480p. These numbers refer to the number of vertical lines that are used to create the image on your TV screen, and a higher value means a more detailed image is produced. Blu-ray also uses an enhanced method of video-compression, which results in greater contrast and richer colours.
In order to view Blu-ray discs you will require a HDTV. For the ultimate viewing experience Blu-ray needs to be played through a Full HDTV which will optimise the picture quality. Blu-ray can also be viewed through HD Ready TVs; however, these only operate at 720p and will not show the movie in full resolution.
What sort of audio equipment will I need?
Blu-ray players have ultra high quality sound, which offers another vast improvement over DVD, whether you listen through your TV’s speakers or attach your own audio set-up.
Blu-ray uses a technology called Dolby True-HD to deliver sound that is 100% identical to the master copy. All Blu-ray players can be hooked up to a surround-sound system. However, you will need to ensure that the output on your Blu-ray player is compatible with the input on the surround-sound system or hi fi you are planning to use.
For the ultimate viewing experience Blu-ray needs to be played through a Full HDTV which will optimise the picture quality.
What online features do Blu-ray players offer?
The BD-live function indicates a player will come with an Ethernet port.
This is a fairly standard function but one that’s important to look out for if you want to hook up a wired internet connection. Other machines come with a USB dongle for online access. If you use Wi-Fi at home you may want to spend a little bit more for a machine with wireless connectivity. Once online, Blu-ray devices offer a range of features including catch-up TV services (like 4od and BBC iPlayer), web browsing, and access to downloadable content.
It’s important when purchasing a Blu-ray player to think about what you need from its online functionality. If you have a Smart TV you probably already have access to plenty of online entertainment services like YouTube and Netflix, and might prefer a player with fewer online capabilities. Alternatively, if you are just looking for different online content you should buy a different brand of Blu-ray player from your Smart TV because manufacturers tend offer similar online packages across all their devices.
Do Blu-ray players offer any other features?
In-movie features on Blu-ray discs offer some slight improvements over traditional DVDs such as pop-up menus that appear whilst the movie is still playing, and picture inside picture video commentaries (commentary footage appears simultaneously alongside the movie).
If you want to watch 3D movies, keep an eye out for players with 3D compatibility. 3D Blu-ray discs offer the most immersive home cinema experience; however, 3D Blu-ray decks with this function tend to cost a little bit extra. Blu-ray players can also be used for other media playback, such as playing music from CDs through your TV. If you have music stored on a PC, you can transfer it across to your Blu-ray player via a pen drive; however, you will need to buy a machine with a USB socket to do so.