Blu-ray: Is It Time To Make The Move?

Published 6 years ago by , Updated July 16th, 2009 at 2:21 pm,

blu ray rant 1 Blu ray: Is It Time To Make The Move?

Our desire for new technology continues to be stoked from every direction: The internet, store sales on every shelf, magazines and postal bombardment abound. While “big box” stores are closing their doors left and right, the unmistakable, always-anticipated internal screams of “time to upgrade” continue to echo throughout consumer minds everywhere. It opens eyes, web browsers and imaginations soliciting the question: What’s next?

So I’ve decided to take you on a Screen Rant-based Tech and Opinion Hunt not only to find out the direction of my next home theater acquisition, but to ask what will make YOU decide when the time will come to “go Blu-ray.” Be sure to chime in with your comments below and help round out the perspective on an often fiery and opinionated discussion that we hope will educate many.

DVDs have been pushing the movie landscape for a good long time now, offering up home-based versions of what you saw in movie theaters, including commentary tracks and special features galore. DVDs recently gave way to HD-DVD and Blu-ray – two formats which had their strange, bitter, little technology war (ironically, just as VHS and Betamax did) as the holidays arrived last year. Ultimately Blu-ray survived as the format of “choice.” As I survey the components beneath my plasma television in my Lord of the Rings-inspired home theater (which I like to call “The Shire”), I see an oft-used but beaten HD-DVD player from Toshiba and wonder… When will the time come to go Blu-ray?

My acquisition of the HD-DVD version of Transformers was my “make a move” moment which (looking back now) was poorly conceived. The price point, with my wife working at Walmart, the pounding “need” to experience high def on my plasma, idiot friends letting me spend money on things I didn’t really need – the reasons are many… However buying that HD-DVD, I saw true high definition for the first time on my plasma screen TV – and it was glorious.

Then came the deciding tire-iron-of-a-headblow to the HD-DVD format.

And so it’s time to consider buying again. A favorite website, The Digital Bits has a great article on the beginning flood of sub-$100 Blu-ray players – which instantly makes me think that the buying point is in my very near future.

Or IS it?

Sub-$100 Price Tags

Last year we were still looking at Blu-ray players that cost $300 and up even after the demise of HD-DVD (of course the fact that they were the only HD game in town probably kept prices up for a while). But now we’ve got players knocking on the sub-$100 door.

Something to consider when seeing these “cheap”(er?) players is that while they’ll play many Blu-ray offerings, will they play them all? “Formatting of the discs based on the built-in active java menu systems is something that needs to be truly considered,” mentions Twisted Lincoln’s Tony Lovasco. “Getting one of the cheaper el crappo players might get you into Blu-ray, but if it’s a unit that doesn’t allow for a firmware update, you could be SOL on some of the Blu-rays that you buy that have updated coding.”

Drat, the always-present spectre of “tech to dollar” ratios. Getting into one of the cheaper available Blu-ray players might not be the way to go, because they’re not capable of being “tech ready” enough.

Who’d have thought that? Did you?

Make a Game of It

playstation 3 game console1 Blu ray: Is It Time To Make The Move?

Ah ha! I know, I’ll purchase a Playstation 3 and get not only the juicy, technological goodness of a Blu-ray player, but also a game system that will take my mastery of MLB 09‘s “The Show” skills to an all new level! And the PS3 has the necessary tech to “upgrade the firmware” because the system was MADE to download stuff. Surely a great benefit. But what about price point?

The price tag of $100 on the “might not work with all formats” player suddenly jumps to $340+ for the PS3. That probably doesn’t include the cables I need to have luscious, high-definition goodness on my plasma after the buy. Add to that the fact that I don’t have – in general – the TIME to play games on something like the Playstation 3, much less the cost of purchasing not only the more expensive Blu-ray discs, but the very expensive growing-variety of games available for the system.

Dammit! What’s a high-def movie buff to do?

The Movie that Will Tip the Scale

All right, so originally I thought it would be Transformers that ushered me into to the hi-def format. And it was. I bought that film on HD-DVD and was given the sweet temptation of high definition video in my home theater. Sadly, I got resoundingly stomped-on by the hi-def civil war. Then came The Dark Knight – the story, the special effects, the resounding performance of a gone-too-soon actor, Heath Ledger, and I thought to myself “Surely that’ll be the one to turns me on to Blu-ray.” But it wasn’t.

Now, Watchmen is on the way (3X) with the standard “movie only” version; the “Director’s cut” extended version; and of course, the “die-hard-fan-with-all-the-Watchmen-geeky-goodness stuff” edition. Is Watchmen going to be the film that will help me finally pull the trigger on the next purchase for my home theater? Will that allow me to see Nite Owl II truly test the inertial dampening system aboard his flying lovecraft? Is there a similar movie that has YOU considering the hi-def digital upgrade of Blu-ray?

The Longevity of Blu-ray

The quality is high, the availability and price point of the equipment are both within reach, but just how LONG will Blu-ray be around as the medium of choice? Fellow Screen Rant writer Paul Young remembers, “It took years before people switched from VHS to DVD. In  2002, Best Buy made the 80% DVD and 20% VHS switch and then finally in 2004 they went 100% DVD. It took about nine years for the consumer audience to switch to the new format.”

I believe that the changeover to Blu-ray will probably experience a shorter transition time, but the best part of that equation is that you still have a decent presentation even if you only have regular DVD. The conversion from VHS to DVD was – I think – much more significant because even the best edition VHS ALWAYS paled in comparison to the quality and clarity of DVD. I’ve always been of the opinion that Blu-ray isn’t the type of format to make you re-purchase your entire movie collection – it’s simply an opportunity to get a higher quality, feature-ridden, ga-ga film experience that’s one step better than DVD not only in quality, but also bang-for-your-buck satisfaction. Also, with most (all?) Blu-ray players, DVD movies look better than they do when playing on their native machine.

As far as the longevity of Blu-ray: The HARDWARE is where the question marks are come into play. As features, additions, downloads, content size, etc. all increase and blossom as the years go by, some people speculate that digital streaming/downloading will eliminate the need for any kind of media disc player at all. Of course, others believe that the forecasts on digital downloading are overly optimistic and very premature (bandwidth capacity and cost are two big issues), and that a Blu-ray player is going to a worthy investment for years to come.

Regardless of whether or not the rise of digital downloads occurs sooner or later, for now, having a Blu-ray player with the option of firmware upgrading is simply a MUST for anybody hoping to enjoy long-term returns on their tech investment. LG, the Playstation 3 and the $200+ model  Blu-ray players currently available all offer up the option of firmware upgrade (only further cementing my desire to buy one).

Revving the Pinto, Hard Core…

Our own Paul Young also addresses the required quality of the overall home theater system when considering a Blu-ray player:

“If you hook a Blu-ray player up to an inferior TV and Sound System, (32” CRT with TV Speakers), it’s like putting 93 octane into a beat up Ford Pinto. Sure, it’s higher quality going in but you’re only going to get so much coming out without the proper equipment to fully utilize it.”

shire 1 Blu ray: Is It Time To Make The Move?

"The Shire": Home to movie viewing awesomeness

Thankfully, I’ve got a great sound system and a high-end 42″ plasma screen in “the shire” – everything I need to take advantage of that 93 octane Paul refers to.  He really is giving sound advice: Those of you wanting to make the turn onto Blu-ray boulevard have more than just finding the cash for that sub-$100 player and $30+ for your favorite, most-recently released feature film in Blu-ray format. Getting the most out of your Blu-rays truly IS a bigger investment than most people initially think. A Blu-ray disc playing on a standard-def TV looks no better than a DVD.

So, I’ve dusted off the empty space where the next component will fit in my golden-leafed equipment rack. I’ve begun collecting all of the options that I need to start the consideration process and am wondering what YOU think. What am I missing? Is the concern all for naught and is it really time to buy? Or are the holidays and even lower prices around the corner?

Tell me what YOU think or have done in regard to entering the realm of Blu-ray. Help me make the best move for my digital buck!

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  1. Funny part is, the next dvd based technology has already been developed and exclusive rights sold to Samsung for the “5D” or “Multi-Ray” DVD that can store 1.6 terabytes. Me, I’ll just stick with my media box and hard drive storage. Discs are just an annoyance to me these days.

  2. I’ve already made the upgrade. I got my PS3 because I’m not only a huge movie buff I’m also a gamer. So for me it was just the logical decision. I will say I don’t buy all Blu Ray. I make my choices very carefully and usually only buy action films for Blu ray and everything else tends to be regular DVD. Lets face it DVD still looks great and yes Blu Ray is a very good upgrade still it really only matters at least to me in those massive action scenes. I have no need to see Shawn William Scott and Paul Rudd make me laugh in High Def Blu Ray format. I don’t need to watch Garden State in beautiful HIgh Def because it still looks great on DVD.

    The only Blu Rays I currently own are The Dark Knight and Iron Man which both look awesome. Watchmen is my next Blu Ray purchase. I’m Picky about my Blu Ray purchases.

    I don’t need surround sound or any of that so I’m one of the schmucks that use TV speakers. I’ve never been to impressed with the massive sound system set ups and some times with certain movies I would go as far as to say it annoys me. I will however say I really need to upgrade my TV. I’m currently using a 26″ LCD that only supports 720P. Yes still a high def TV and much better than a CRT, but still it’s not as good as I like. I am not a fantatic for huge TV’s I personally don’t like the 50″ screens and I think they are a waste of money, but I would like a nice comfortable 32″ with 1080P that’s my next purchase plan.

  3. I should add I’m no looking forward to a move toward digital. I hate the idea of not owning a physical property and it makes my purchase seem like a waste of money.

  4. @blipvert – That’s a great point. I thought about bringing it up during our internal Blu-ray discussions but just didn’t. I’m slowly moving away from discs myself. I believe most if not all of Plasma and LCD TV’s now have the ability to function as giant ass monitors. I know mine does. I recently hooked up a spare PC to my 50″ plasma, hooked it up wirelessly to my network and BAM! on a 50″!

    I would have preferred to connect it via Ethernet cable but alas I did not install a port in my den and there is no way my fat butt is getting in the attic to run a cable. So 54MB will have to suffice.

    But here is the kicker, I can buy an internal Blu-ray player for in the $100 – $150 range and install it along with a video card capable of HDMI output (they exist and aren’t as expensive as you would think), a good aftermarket sound card for 5.1 audio, bluetooth keyboard and mouse and now I have the ability to watch Blu-ray AND use my PC on a 50″ monitor. You don’t even need HDMI, I have DVI inputs and they work great for picture quality.

    I throw in 2 or 3 SATA 1.5 TB drives with a couple more as network storage and then transfer all of my DVD’s them in ISO format, install Daemon Tools Lite on the HTPC (Home Theater PC), mount the image and watch the movie all without having to take out the disk or move my ass from the couch. Not only does it keep my DVD’s in good condition but it takes away a lot of clutter.

    The Tech world would have you think “Buy a player and hook it up” but there are so many more options available right now.

    Sorry, Mike I kind of just wrote an article :) Loved yours though and thanks for the quotes :)

    BTW, WoW on a 50″ plasma kicks as much ass as you would expect it to.

  5. I’m with Daniel, I like having discs. I can see the appeal of music on a drive because you want that to be portable. But have no desire to watch a movie on a 3″ screen.

    Movies also take up a LOT more space than music when it comes to data.


  6. ^^^^ TEACH ME!!! I wanna turn my tv into a computer monitor!!!

  7. sorry that was aimed at Paul

  8. I’ve already gotten into blu-ray. Like Daniel, I am a gamer and a movie buff, but I’m a REAL gamer so that means I have a decent PC, lol, just kidding Daniel and other console players 😛

    Anyway, I have my PC and I bought the LG blu-ray/HD-DVD/DVD+-RW drive for $100, and now I can watch blu rays AND HD-DVD’s on my LCD HDTV. Why bother with HD DVD when it’s dead? Well, it’s BECAUSE it’s dead. And I got the drive for $100, it’s not like I wasted my money on it. But because HD-DVD is dead, stores are more or less getting rid of them. So movies that were released on HD DVD you can buy them for like $5, lol.

    But anyway, the thing I really don’t like about HD-DVD and Bluray is the whole HDCP BS. If you BOUGHT the movie with your money, why can’t you play it on any device you want?? My HDTV is HDCP ready, so it’s not a problem, but my computer monitor isn’t. Sometimes I watch movies or parts of movies on my monitor when I’m bored or whatever, now I HAVE to play the movie on the tv, if I try dragging the movie into the monitor, it’ll stop playing and give me an error saying the display is not HDCP compatible… wtf…

    Anyway, that’s my only beef with it, other than that, I think it’s worth it, the amount of detail you see on 1080p is incredible, especially in nature documentaries like Planet Earth, that is GORGEOUS on bluray…

  9. I’m sorry, should have typed “wth” instead of f, I know it’s just an acronym, but don’t want to be too suggestive of the f word on here…

  10. Ken I play PS3, the 360 and a PC I have a nice gaming computer. I try to not miss any great games… That’s why I don’t have a Wii lol JK kidding Wii fans.

  11. I’m also on the verge of diving into the Blu-Ray pool. I’m not much of a gamer anymore, so my Xbox with the 12 games I have is fine for me when the mood strikes. I love watching movies, however, and I am patiently waiting for the prices on Blu-Ray to move a bit lower. I currently have my eye on a Panasonic player whose only downfall (to me) is that it doesn’t have a Netflix player on it. I have a 46″ Panny plasma which has such a GORGEOUS picture in 1080i, that I am chomping at the bit to watch Iron Man or The Dark Knight in full 1080p. I’m with Daniel and Vic on this too, I want to actually own a solid disc or SOMETHING with the movie on it. There are certain films I just want to own. I might only watch them every couple of years, but I still want to have it there in my collection. For everything else, there’s Netflix. I just hope that they eventually will go hi-def with their d/l’s.

    After I go with the new player, I will need to upgrade my 15 year old Yamaha receiver. It still sounds great, but it is only Dolby Pro-Logic, so even with DVD sound I am losing quite a bit. SO right now, if I went after EVERYTHING I need (er, want), I’m looking about $800. That’s a tough pill to swallow at the moment. So once that Blu-Ray is down to $200, I will buy that and start saving for the receiver.

  12. @Oscar – If you are serious send me your email address through the comments section and Vic will forward it to me. I’ll talk you through how to set it up.

    Guys I still want to own the disc I just don’t want to have to use it over adn over. Too many chances for scratches. If you make an image of the DVD or Blu-ray disc then you can watch it constantly.

    @Vic, – You can compress a DVD into 3.5 to 4.5 GB without losing video or audio integrity. A 1.5 Terabyte drive will cost you $120 and you can store over 3000 movies so space is really not the issue you think it is. The hardest part of the process is the transfer of movie from DVD to Hard Drive because it’s time consuming but you just have to click go and then change out the disc.

  13. I have a VHS player, SA disc player, DVD player, Blu Ray (PS3), HD DVD player and a cassette player. I use them all. I have a use for them as they were great to do the things they were designed. going from DVD to blu ray is like going from VHS to DVD. WHY NOT CHANGE?! the audio tracks are better (for those that can listen to DTS MA, and Dolby THD.
    DVDs still look “good” for many people because they are watching it on the hardware it was ment to be, a Cathode TV. For those with a 1080p HDTV, then Bluray is the way to go. The crisp picture, lossless audio and new features are just awesome. I beleive the market still has a strong appetite for hard disc medium. Bluray is here to stay for a while. I do not feel downloads will take over for quite a while as people dont feel confortable with a hard drive medium for fear of loosing the data( i do, a disc will always play). besides, for many movie collecting people, at over 15Gb of space for 1 HD movie alone, will mean you can easyly fill 1 Tb of HDD with just under 50-60 movies.

    For those with HD cable or satellite that watch an HD channel, like HBO and get to see a movie like Pirates OTC, can tell you that OTA HD is way inferior than the real disc quality. besides, the ISPs here in USA are not willing to open the bandwith for us consumers to be able to download these files, let alone stream then to thousands of customers and not have quality degradation or skipping.

    When its all said and done, i urge everyone to save some cash, make sure budgetting and get a Blu Ray player and a 1080p HDTV. get a decent viewing experience and make yourself future proof for a while.

  14. @Mike,

    Your “Shire” is a pretty sweet setup. You can use a 50″ or more though, buddy!! My living room is smaller than yours, and the 46″ is great, but I could have easily fit in the 50″.

  15. Yeah folks, just to point out 1080P isn’t really gonna be noticeable on a screen 40 inches or under.

  16. The way I see it,until movies in the theater are being projected in Bluray format,I really don’t give a damn about it.Sure it looks really good,but there is something about it that looks really fake to me as well.I’m not sure what it is about it that looks fake to me,maybe it’s just the overall motion or something,but I’m not going to worry about if my movies that I buy are on Bluray or not.I really just don’t care at this point.

  17. I’m patient… I can wait for this faze to pass and the 3-d holographic version comes out… I just hate re-buying the same movie over and over and over for each and every new tech that comes along…

    How many times have we sent money to a studio to pick up the latest version of our favorite movies?

    Well, whatever keeps the wheels turning.

    This message sent from my i386 XT box.

  18. I’ll hold out on BluRay until the next format takes over. Shouldn’t be too long now,,,

  19. I’m in the process of re-training to become an RN (should graduate in December), so upgrading is out of the question for me until next year, when I’m actually making money, since I don’t have an HD anything except for my poor XBox 360. So, no point in a Blue Ray right now. I figure it’ll be a year before we can do anything about getting a TV the size I want, especially if we contemplate moving to a new house.

    Anyway, I agree with the above comments about Blue Ray not being the same kind of quantum leap that DVD was. Multi Ray sounds like more of the same. The next true quantum jump will be some sort of 3D projection, but that’s on the horizon. Short of companies no longer making standard DVDs, I just don’t see the need to upgrade yet.

    I think the only movies that might convince me to go Blue Ray or Multi Ray in a hurry would be the original Star Wars trilogy being issued in one of those formats. And I haven’t heard anything about when those might be coming. Has anyone else?

  20. @daniel

    Lol nice. But to be honest the only console that I even was tempted to buy was the wii. Because what exactly does xbox and ps3 offer a gamer like myself? How would they improve or change my gaming experience? Crappier graphics and a slower and less precise control scheme? Ooh how tempting lol.

    The wii never tried to advertise their graphics. You say the graphics suck on the wii, true, but imo they suck on the xbox360 and ps3 as well except they cost more. Plus wii has mario galaxies which is freakin awesome and the metroid games. But ultimately a few cool games and a nifty control scheme isn’t enough to make me pony up the cash for one. But I’m even less likely to buy one of the other ones lol.

    You guys should check out that drive, cheapest route to get bluray in my opinion.

  21. DVD player prices fell at pretty much the same rate. It really depends on HDTV adoption. The higher % of HDTV’s in homes, the more people will begin to go Blu-Ray.

  22. The solution to your issue: If you have an old PC lying around (or are looking to buy one), go to (or CompUSA if you live in the South) and hook yourself up with a $90 Blu-ray drive. You would then need a DVI-to-HDMI cable to complete the circle of awesomeness that is a Blu-ray player to your TV. Added bonus: If your computer’s hooked up to the internet, and you have netflix, you can utilize the “Watch Instantly” service to view films and TV shows.

    To keep it in LOTR terms, One Computer to Rule Them All! It’s going that route sooner than later anyhow. (Besides, it’s the cost of the discs, not the player, that’s keeping me at a modest amount of Blu-ray films thus far)

  23. Nicholas You could not be more wrong. You can easily notice a huge difference on as small as a 19Inch TV. My Step dad has a 19″ LCD in his bedroom with a Blu Ray and easily notices a huge difference from regular DVD’s. I have a 26′ and I notice a major difference in quality from BR to regular DVD.

    790 I gotta disagree I say it’s gonna be a pretty good while before another format takes over.

    Bruce it’s not like you need to repurchase your entire library. The Players will play regular DVD’s as well. Just make your new purchases Blu Ray and maybe if you want pick out some of the major action flicks as well. Personally I’m fairly picky about what I get on Blu ray and I refuse to repurchase my entire DVD library I own over 300 films and there is just no way I’ll re buy any of them.

  24. Nice article, I think that the best option is the PS3… even if it is expensive, you can play, you can watch blue-ray and everything else, music, videos, photos, I wouldn’t change that for nothing, really.

  25. I’ve already got my blu ray player, I didn’t get a ps3 b/c I can couldn’t care less about video games, and I got my home theater system all I need now is a tv w/ 1080p.

  26. @Longshanks

    what you call “fake” is the 120hz and 240hz engines on the new TVs

    what you see is a 3D and pop up effect on the film, its not the natural 28fps the movie was recorded at.

    turn these options on and a good quality movie looks fake, turn it on in a animated movie and it looks great, its all down to taste, the normal 1080p projectors and HDTVs dont have it will look just fine

  27. What’s the issue? At $99 or less(Wal*Mart), that’s only about $30 more than everyday $69 price of an upconversion player. I’m one of those that has always believed that the removable-media hi-def formats are worth no more than $99. So what the heck, take a chance, live it up. $99 is pocket change, chump change, really. If you buy it and con’t like it, either return it or chuck it. In either case, you’re out almost nothing. But just be sure you don’t pay any more than $99.

  28. @Matt…

    I highly recommend looking at the Panasonic Plasma TV’s. I got a GREAT deal on my 46″ and it looks fantastic with HD tv shows and even with my regular progressive scan DVD player. The glare issue is ridiculous because it’s no worse than the CRT tube, less in fact. I’ve had the TV 7 months now and have no burn-in issues, either. Also, the “refresh rate” of the plasma is 480hz, which is way better than the LCD’s, plus you can sit off angle up 45 degrees and still see a crisp, clear picture.

    My buddy, though, swears by his Sony XBR LCD tv…of course he paid more than 2x what I did….

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