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. All high end tv’s are web compatible, or what you could call Tv/Monitors…
    Is all I’m saying… ;-)

  2. Ah…apparently I did not receive such a feature on my TV. Of course I only paid $1000 for mine so it must be up in the higher tier of TV. What purpose would it serve to have your TV surf the web as a stand alone box or am I misunderstanding what you are saying?

  3. Are you kidding me Paul?

  4. Of course not, I never kid…I have on occasion jested and even scoffed but never kid. :)

    DO you have a paticular brand in mind? If you are referring to connecting your TV to your wireless network or even wired network to surf the web, I assume that would be done via remote? I don’t see the appeal there.

  5. @790, doesn’t sound like he’s kidding, seemed like a question… You know, those pesky things where they are expecting you to “answer” them? Psshhhh, SO demanding! *rolls eyes*

    (see, that is kidding :-P haha)


    Yah, if you really want to do anything right, gotta do your research. But that’s the same with anything.

  6. I’m going to assume your not f-ing with me Paul,,, maybe I’m reading your comments wrong at this late hour?

    A lot of people have large files of downloaded movies on they’re PC’s or Mac’s, etc,,, Enabling there large screen tv to view and playback media off their dsl/cable network is a huge benefit. This is nothing new in home computer networking accessibility,,,
    The higher you go with your tv and home systems the easier it is to access all your components. So to speak,,,

    Am I way off on this one?

  7. @790

    That’s cool, mine is more basic than that, but since it’s hooked up to my PC, all I have to do to play my movies on it is to drag my media player into the TV side and then hit full screen, lol. So it works out for me. :-)

  8. AH ok, that makes more sense 790. If mine had that ability I would surely be using it. I do the same as Ken J though. I have a PC hooked to mine via DVI and stream it that way. Dang it! Now I want a new TV with network access ability. Thanks alot 790 you just caused a future fight in the YOung household :)

  9. LOL Paul, sabotage the DVI cable and be like “look! connecting it via DVI dosn’t work! We must have one of those new tv’s with networking!”

  10. so I should spend over a grand to save $100? Wonder if I can swing that by her as a doable idea?

  11. Well I didn’t want to say sabotage the tv itself because if it would have worked i was going to say you can donate that tv to me… :-P

  12. Paul you can link almost any high end (Cat 5 enabled) Tv/Monitor etc to a Xbox 360 or PS3.
    From there you can do whatever you want online…

    (I’m a goof,,,?)

  13. I have a Wii and two small children so I’m not in need of an Xbox of PS3, plus like I said I use a PC with a 1.5 TB drive so space isn’t an issue.

    And yes a goof, at the time I was reading you Zooey Deschanl comment on 500 days lol.

  14. Lol,,, I stand by my musings on Zooey Deschanel…

    Way to kick me in the balls Paul,,,
    ;-) lol,,,
    Ouch I’m down,,,
    Damn the humanity.
    Are you going to be at Comic Con Paul?

  15. Well I WAS going but a fuel pump and pool motor replacement later…plus my father-in-law just went into the hospital with cancer and could be there several weeks so this year just isn’t going to happen for me. Hopefully next year won’t be as dreadful leading up to it. What about you?

  16. Sorry to hear that Paul, didn’t mean any offense…

    I hope things work out in your favor!

  17. Paul Young Your way off on what your saying about speakers. Just because I don’t need surround sound doesn’t mean I should just turn sound off. I want to hear the movie, but I can hear it just fine through TV speakers and don’t need 7 speakers draped across my place to hear the movie.

  18. Again I hope I wasn’t tooo big of a dbag last night Paul nothing personal,,, :-)

    @Daniel do you have a stereo system close to your tv, if so its pretty easy to connect the audio up to your stereo.
    Some Tv’s have pretty good speakers but a lot of the high end tv/monitors don’t have any… Those models are considered componants.

  19. Na I don’t have a stero system I listen to all my music on my computer. I’m very content with my TV speakers.

  20. @790 – what are you talking about? I didn’t think you said anything out of line but thanks for the concern.

    @danielf – I’m not putting your setup down, but I only use 3 speakers, 2 fronts and a center, no sub or rears and I love it. All 3 are Klipsch, and I have them connected to a Onkyo Intergra DTR5.5 receiver. People think I run a sub but nope, the Klipsch Synergy series F3′s have 2 8″ woofers in them and a horn tweeter each and they drop really low. You gotta buy for what you personally enjoy though. Glad you like your setup, I assure you I wasn’t coming down on you or your gear.

    The turning the sound off comment was just a joke. My receiver blew a circuit and it took a month to get it repaired and I was FORCED to listen my tv speakers the whole month ARGH!!! I don’t see how you do it man?

  21. I can hear everything crisp and clear out of my TV speakers. It’s fairly easy to ‘put up’ with. There is no static or buzzing and I can hear every piece of dialogue and explosion just fine. I don’t need to hear it surrounding me and I don’t need to hear a car in one speaker and slowly move to the next. All I need is to clearly hear what is happening.

  22. You’re right Daniel. A good story doesn’t need tricky, cool effects.

    But I have to tell ya, the moment I accidentally bought a surround sound system, it was addicting and awesome to have those location based sounds.

    It really did make it a fascinating experience.

  23. @Daniel F – I’m not talking about a listening to aural special fx. I’m talking about hearing and feeling what is going on in the show/movie. heck, I have my regular TV shows playing through my audio system. It makes a tremdous difference in just listening to the voices as they are reproduced through the center channel. Right now, I’m watching USA women’s softball World Cup and the commentors are so crisp and clear.

    Bruce how do you “accidentally” buy a surround sound system lol? Where you meaning to buy a trash can and when you got home found a Sony speaker system instead :)

  24. I’ll pretend I didn’t read that you are watching womans softball world cup.

  25. LOL Daniel, that is a strange sport to point out…

    I know it’s all opinion and I’m sure you’re fine with your tv speakers, I do just want to say that for me personally I think to properly experience a movie it is about the WHOLE experience, not just one aspect over the rest. It’s not just hearing what they have to say, sometimes being able to “experience” WHERE some sounds are supposed to have come from makes a difference in the experience. Or even without surround sound, maybe having enough bass to hear the rumbling of approaching doom can make a difference in the experience compared to simply seeing the people look up in horror and then something crashing down on them.

    But not saying you can’t enjoy it without an upgraded sound system, but I think it will be hard to argue that it is somehow better without a surround sound system, but not all of us can actually afford one, so we might have to settle for tv speakers. I have a cheap surround sound system I bought from Wal-Mart, it’s pretty crappy, but it’s better than nothing, lol.


    Many many many years ago, I had bought an AIWA system. When I got home, it turned out to be 5.1.

    I set it up, and whoa! That was cool. My first effect was the airplane from Con Air flying over and behind me. I was hooked.

    Even though movies were impressive, cartoons, oh, maybe I should say “animated films” made more use of surround. (Animated Batman and other movies.) That turned out to be even better.

    Any how, that’s how I accidentally found surround sound. Then I was cursed, headed out to replace my video tape movies with DVD’s and such.

    I hate addictions.

  27. (Quoting) “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.”

    Kevin Spacey said it best:


    Let’s go over this one fact at a time:

    1) Blu-ray Disc is ***progressive***. This means that the whole picture updates at a stroke, instead of in interweaved halves as with SD formats. Something you neglect to mention in your article. This means that when a film is transferred properly from a progressive master into a progressive transfer and displayed on a progressive television, the single nastiest artefact that DVD offered up is curiously absent. Ask anyone who knows the full facts about video which format they would rather watch The Thing on, to cite one of the nastiest PAL SD releases of all time, and they will invariably answer Blu-ray Disc because of this one… (not so) little… artefact. Even if you want to refuse to acknowledge having the resolution increased by a factor of five as a big deal, you only look like a moron when you refuse to acknowledge that progressive formatting is the most important thing to happen to television since colour.

    Oh yeah, and the upsampling crap? Does not wash. 720 by 480I upsampled is ***not*** 1920 by 1080P. It is merely 720 by 480I upsampled. Numerous A-B comparisons between the two have been posted online, but it is also a simple matter of physics. Any photographer worth his salt knows that if your source is a certain resolution (say, 35mm), you can convert it down as far as you like without too many complaints. But if you try to blow it up, all the “upsampling” in the world will not add any extra resolution. Open a 720 by 480 graphic in PhotoShop sometime and “upsample” it to 1920 by 1080, put it on a disc, and try to play it on your television, if you think I am kidding.

    Humanity’s biggest problem these days is people who want to spread their inferiority by convincing the rest of the populace that near enough is good enough.

  28. BRUCE SIMMONS: Heh that’s great! I only do a 3 speaker setup because I can’t afford the rear speakers that i want right now (In-the-wall Klipsch flat front speakers at $250 each) but I still enjoy my movies and especially my music through what I already have.

    Dean: Calm down boss. This is merely a “I think this format is better than that format” article/comment thread. No need to start throwing out moron and talking about peoples personal opinions as inferior. But to address your “concerns”:

    Upsampling works just fine to give you a better picture than what you originally started with. Will it take an A-Team DVD and make it 1080p? Not a chance but it will go from 360i to 720p and with that you WILL see a difference. Combine that upsampling with the digital processor your TV has and the image becomes smoother, less grainy and more enjoyable to watch. Now there is only so much upsampling can do but there’s no need to bang your fist on the table and yell at everyone for accepting that as sufficient.

    Dean you actually remind me slightly of Neil Young when he started complaining about people listening to “low-quality” digital recordings of music.

    Why must you be hatin’ on what other people find PERSONALLY APPEALING?

  29. Dean seems to suffer from the “must have the best and newest” disease….and in these economic times that is not possible for a luxury that many will find out of reach and not a priority (either that or he works for SONY…lol)

    I work in TV as a producer, and as my wife can attest. I do love my movies. I have a 50″ plasma 1080p…Yamaha 7.1 receiver, with Polk Speakers…and OPPO up converting DVD player and now an OPPO blu ray. Yes…the blu ray can look quite amazing (my disc of ZULU…remastered and on blu is one of the most dramatic examples of what HD can offer) However….I also have many films that can and do still look quite excellent on regular DVD up scaled by my OPPO (easily the best brand out there…with multi region to boot) My KING KONG and LORD OF THE RINGS DVDs look…and sound fantastic. Would the blu ray be better….yes….is it worth it….perhaps for some…but not for others. I have only rebought a handful of films, most of which I felt the regular DVD was lacking. THE DARK NIGHT…Order of the Phoenix…ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD….all which were Warner Brother discs that seemed to suffer some over compression. Strangly..the other Harry Potter DVDs looked better than Order of the Phoenix…making me a bit suspicious that Warners was shortchanging buyers on the regular DVDs to help push blu ray….

    I save my Blu Ray dollars for the films that really show off the format…when NORTH BY NORTHWEST or MOULIN ROUGE come out…I will buy them…but many films just don’t (imho) require the full HD resolution to be fully enjoyed. And for that matter…who needs an ADAM SANDLER or the latest Romantic comedy on Blu. And honestly…many titles will not see the light of day for years…if ever. So I will be very happy with my DVD collection, that can be played on any DVD player (no damm firmware required in a vain attempt to prevent copying thank you very much) As for the blu ray “fan boys” as I have seen them labeled….guys…take a break and recognize that not everyone has the money…or needs the “best” to have a totally wonderful movie experience. Stomping around and calling people morons will not change anyone’s mind and just makes you look foolish.