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. Blu-ray will not “catch on” until the prices drop, and they will drop. That said, after I spend $400 on my PS3 I haven’t spent any more than $20 for any of the 15 Blu-ray discs that I own. Remember, that’s what DVDs used to cost. Also remember we have Blu-ray to thank (in part) for the current low price of DVDs. Blu-ray prices have been dropping continuously for the past two years and they will continue to do so. Amazon has quite a few at the $13 and $16 price point.

  2. I’ve gone Blu-ray- sort of. I buy a lot of discs from small labels and most of them aren’t BD yet because small companies can’t afford to make BDs yet. But I needed a better upconverting player for DVDs (I have a very large screen) anyway and figured I’d wade in. Picked up the Oppo BD player and now have a handful of titles. Unless all you want is big blockbusters, you can probably wait a while longer for the price of discs to come down.

  3. For those in the market, Walmart has a Magnavox Blu-ray player on sale $98 this week. It doesn’t have optical audio out but it does have Digital Coaxial Audio Out and HMDI. If you are looking to break in easy this could be your chance. The player usually sells for $168 which isn’t too bad either.

  4. The decision to switch to (or add a) Blu-Ray player is not an easy one. A lot of factors come into play, and if everything lines up, I would say Blu-Ray is a great decision.

    Blu-Ray is expensive.

    If in this recession you have the money (HDTV, Blu-Ray player, cables, surround sound and extra charge for rentals and purchases) and time to experience it, I would say definitely make the switch. I definitely notice a difference, especially in picture quality. And with The Dark Knight, you get closer to the IMAX experience it was made for. And soon the Transformers sequel.

    My advice though, even if everything lines up, don’t replace your DVD collection… it still looks pretty damn good.

  5. “(no damm firmware required in a vain attempt to prevent copying thank you very much)”

    So Blu-ray has copy protection? Huh… shocking.

  6. hello ..

    Blu-ray will follow slowly but surely. If you can afford to wait, there’s no problem for the variety of media is quite low and the quality, well you will be dazzled by it for sure.

    By experience i can say all hardware price goes down @ some point. If you want to go for a PS3 (like i did), well don’t do it only for the movies, i did it for the games + movies + DVD upscale + well huh .. it’s not about the big behemoth here ;) (still the HDMI cable is cheap and games aren’t that expensive, and most are value for money)

    Well cheap blu-ray players are coming with upgrade facilities too, just wait a little. The price tag seems the same as DVDs on the net. The quality remains priceless! I already have the TV for the beast, now need a great multi channel home cinema for not that great on a 5.1 system…
    Yet be careful of connectivity issues, check out your existing hardware and buy accordingly, the basic being well HDMI 1.3b+ ;)

    Sure hope contributed for something, moreover if you want to go for a PS3, you won’t regret it.


  7. @David – Whoah boss and Petabyte drive? That’s 1 million, trillion bytes of storage. I have not seen one of those for sale or even made yet. And if you are waiting for the price to come down then the next generation of technology will come out and then yuo will wait for that price to come down. As you wait for the 2nd gen to come down 3rd gen will come out and you’ll start the process over again. Meanwhile, you’ll still be at 80′s tech.

    It’s just like buying a computer, if you keep waiting then you’ll never get anywhere. Prices drop somewhat and level out, that’s true but they also plateau. You just end up getting better tech for the same price.

    Of course, your $$$ situation plays an important role in the whole scheme of things but I’m just saying as a matter of poitn…waiting is not always the answer.

  8. In response to Dean… To quote myself…”Pull that stick out of your ass.” Dean is one of those people who feel inferior so they must prove their point by talking down to people. No one is won over by the fact that you said progressive three times buddy, and it obviously shows you know nothing of what you are talking about. In order to explain a point, we don’t need a lesson on how blu ray works, or in your case, your jumbled attempt to do so. Here, let me explain a few things to you. For starters, blu ray is not that much different from dvd, and like the article said, you need the right equipment to see this difference. It’s just like buying a computer…is there really a difference between those specs besides a thousand dollars…no, not all cases of course, but a majority yes. 720 is not that different from 1080, no matter what you attest, you will not notice a difference that will effect the movie. In fact deany boy, the only thing different between a blu ray set up and dvd for a decent home theater setup is the fact that you are paying around $ 600 more in order to convince yourself that the subtle change in quality is really that noticeable.

  9. I’m in the “wait for digital download” camp. Personally, I think Blu-ray is a consumer rip-off. The technology was obsolete long before it hit the market. If you pay attention to the home video sales market you’ll see a primary concern of the motion picture industry was a leveling out of DVD sales. Now that Blu-ray sales are (very slowly) starting to pick up, they’re beginning to reap the benefits of their new cash cow. As soon as those level out, bandwidth will “miraculously” expand and digital download will “suddenly” become available to consumers.

    Hey, we’re already there. Why would I spend all that money on a Blue-ray player and replace my library when I can get a TB or a PB hard drive and just store my movies there (and transfer them from place to place with a flash drive)?

    Not to mention that, unlike the VHS-to-DVD conversion that took so long to take hold, the DVD to Blu-ray conversion is all virtually being forced down consumers throats.

    Yes, Blu-ray looks great. But you know what? So do my DVDs. The big impetus for me to go DVD from VHS wasn’t so much the picture quality (though it was great), it was the sudden explosive availability of OAR titles and special features. With Blu-ray, it’s pretty much more of the same with greater quality.

    Additionally, I just don’t have the coin to plunk down on all the equipment necessary to take advantage of an HD system. I’m still watching a 27″ analog TV and, considering the economy, I’m a long way from upgrading. When I do, I’ll be loathe to replace my library with new (and vastly more expensive) software.

  10. I was late on the DVD crazy and I was early on the Blu-Ray turn. However, I do not purchase BRs. I will rent them. DVD is still king and will be so until BR is cheaper. You need to give a better benefit than a disc format that is already out – DVD. “Hey it is high def and sounds great.” So what? My DVD player upconverts and I have a decent sound system. I am not impressed with another disc format. Make it a flash system or a download and I will be impressed.

  11. If you own a larger screen HD TV (50″+) and you enjoy film you should definately own a Blu-Ray
    I’ve had all the various HD dvd players since they came out. Had HD DVD, bought a PS3 and now own two other Sony standalone Blu-ray players. I have them hooked up to a 65″ and 73″ Mitsu Diamond DLP and they look friggen phenominal. Best blu-ray experiences has been Star Trek TMP, Blade Runner and 2001

  12. Does anyone see the marketing strategy on the dvd digital copies. Most if not all of them require you to log on to a site address before you get the digital copy.
    Seems to me there trying to gauge how many people will opt to go online to download a movie.

  13. Anything and everything that asks for any kind of demographic information is just “marketing collection” efforts.

    it’s insidious, and yet, maybe necessary.

    So far, I’ve avoided any and all digital versions of movies…

  14. Ken I think you can argue it being better. You can’t argue that it’s different because it is different, but I wouldn’t call it better. My step dad has a nice big expensive surround sound and is constantly trying to sell it to me, but every time I watch a movie there I’m not impressed. Hell sometimes I’m flat out annoyed with all the movement from speaker to speaker.

    David there were people saying exactly what your saying when DVD came out. They were crying just as much that VHS was being pushed out. Hell I heard people crying about it still in 2003 because they couldn’t find VHS almost anywhere anymore.

    I’m slowly growing HATE and I mean intense hate for everyone pushing for Digital Download. Because they are pushing us to an inferior market where you will not own anything you buy again. You will no longer own the movie. I imagine I will care about movies a lot less when it becomes the norm. With out my collection I’m lost with out my hard copies I won’t care nearly as much.

  15. I’m amazed that people spend thousands on Entertainment equipment when the upgrades are overall very minor and the technology is constantly changing. ..
    I know this co-worker who has spent thousands on Big Screen tvs. Its almost like an addiction to him.
    The technology is still so new most continue to replace and upgrade like its a way of life.

    HD DVD player isn’t good enough now that BluRay has won the format war (HD / BR are virtually the same).
    Must now own a PS3, so I can watch my BR discs. What the hell I’ll get a few more Bluray players. And upgrade my 65 to a 73inch plasma.

    All this so at the end of the day I can really enjoy The Dark Knight. Lol,,,
    I guess everyones got a hobby. I’d rather spend the thousands of dollars on other things.

  16. While the value of Blu-Ray is still certainly a debatable issue, I can make a solid argument for NEVER supporting a digital download option, at least as long as DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) is used.

    Why support the idea of “buying” something you don’t really own? DRM takes away your freedom to watch the content on your terms — it either “dials home” each time you play, or links the content to a particular piece of hardware. What happens when the content provider goes out of business, or stops supporting the older content? Your “purchase” becomes worthless. What happens when your PC dies? The same result.

    Sadly, Blu-Ray players have a ton of DRM features built in, however at least their schemes function locally — if Blu-Ray doesn’t take off, and goes the way of HD-DVD, at least you can be confident you can still play back the discs you’ve purchased. Can you say the same about digital downloads?

  17. I feel the same about digital downloading. Don’t care for it at all. I don’t watch movies on my computer or my phone? Come on how lame and trendy is that bs…

    I think its going to be a while before that takes a hold of the market. But it will eventually. I can see it being part of the expanded new Web 2.
    The market research is ongoing with these digital copies included in your 3 disc collectors versions. Not to mention all the studios have been compressing all their old shows/movies into digital so that when the time is right they can sell it online.
    This was a major issue in the last writers strike. They see it coming.

  18. I have an LG. It was a Christmas gift. I use it mainly to watch movies on Netflix but they recently upgraded it to stream from youtube as well.

    My main complaint [as a hearing impaired person] is that I can’t always get the captions to play. My regular dvd player plays them automatically in most cases. With some discs I can’t even get them to play if there is a menu option for them

  19. Umm Brodie PS3 has a wireless network card. If your internet is wireless you can get on the internet with the PS3. It picks up wii fi signals.

    790 I agree some people do get to addicted to upgrading. However I feel Blu Ray is a valuble upgrade. I waited to upgrade until Blu Ray beat out HDDVD’s. When it won the war I bought my first ever Blu Ray. The difference in Blu Ray and regular DVD is fairly huge. You can see the difference even on a crap TV and if you actually invest in a good one its amazing.

  20. I don’t believe that Digital Download will come into play for a long, long, long while from now… Why? Because most ISP currently can’t support massive download, even got 10GB/month limit.

    Another point blocking DD is that most ISP can’t offer, to a reasonable amount, the speed required to download a 30-50Gb Hi-Def movie.

    Overall, Disc-based movie releases will still be in effect for years, if not decades to come.

    Also, in response to 790, “HD / BR are virtually the same” quite not so… Simply the fact that a BR holds up to 50Gb instead of 25 on a dual layer is a big difference for those compression loss.

  21. well IMO, i own a PS3 and yet i only own the 3 Blu-ray discs that came with it. i continue to purchase DVD’s because of the cheaper price tag. and other than that, the majority of my internet connection is whireless and therefore the firmwear update thing is only do-able if i take it over 2 my buddy’s house to use his DSL, like i do when i hop on X-box Live.

    but all in all my 1st major Blu-Ray Purchase will be the Ultimate Collectors Edition of watchmen.

    but my question is this should i buy the Director’s cut on DVD or Blu-Ray ?

    im aware that the Blu-Ray has more Space on the Disc there4 it should have more features.
    but i prefer the price tag of the DVD.

    any suggestions ?

  22. True Sahio, I meant mainly the visual aspect of HD vs BR.

    I also agree that todays bandwidth can’t sustain a Downloadable market, however I think when the new Web 2 is unveiled downloading media will be one of its selling points.

  23. kudos on the Rock’in media room Mike .
    the Shire looks Amazing.

  24. @Daniel F

    thanx, what i ment by wireless was i run off a Sprint wireless card.
    wi-fi dosent reach me way out here.
    thanks for the info tho

  25. To anyone thinking that they can enjoy copied Bluray movies (or even home movies on bd-r discs burned using a pc) prepare for some serious disappointment.

    The most recent PS3 upgrade removed the facility to play bd-r discs – that is “home-made” blu ray movies. many new players will now refuse to play discs which have not been manufactured in a facility which pays a hefty licence fee to Sony.

    This isn’t just bad news for consumers, it’s bad news for thousands of producers who have been fooled into thinking that HD or blu-ray have been democratised. While I can still produce a pro-level DVD at work (although I lack the encoding tools owned by all the big studios), unless i pay out over $100,000+ for a copy of sony blu-print then I cannot produce Blu-ray movies myself.

    I was all for bluray until I learned this – now I’m just p***ed off.


  26. “While I can still produce a pro-level DVD at work (although I lack the encoding tools owned by all the big studios), unless i pay out over $100,000+ for a copy of sony blu-print then I cannot produce Blu-ray movies myself.”

    You also forgot to mention the mandatory $3,000 + AACS DRM encryption license for each title you produce, as well as the patent fees covering the format, etc… Blu-Ray isn’t close to being affordable for small producers. Plus, what if you actually want the end-user to copy and propagate your work? With DVD, it’s not big deal to make a disc without DRM. With Blu-Ray, ALL replicated discs must have AACS, or players will refuse to play them. So forget about sending out product advertisements or demos and encouraging people to pass them on.

    I really want to like Blu-Ray. I was completely ready to jump aboard HD-DVD before it went under. But Blu-Ray’s dependence on firmware updates (and with them possible new DRM schemes) makes me very cautious. I think Mike’s point about PS3 might be the best — at least if you bail on the format, you can still use the box to play games…

  27. Well, I’m a student, but my family doesn’t have the time, money, or desire to see and hear movies on Blu-ray. If I could I would run out and trick out our room with the best equipment available, but, fact is, it just isn’t that high n our priorities list. Plus, even if we just got a player, we only have a decent, 3-4 year old plasma screen without any surround sound or anything.

  28. All good factors to consider.

    May I add 1 more.

    The price not only of all the hardware but the Blu-Ray discs THEMSELVES!!

    A new release can run upwards of $40!

    But oh well…you only live once.

    Dig the Shire btw…but c’mon…42”!?!?!?

    The Shire demands minimum 50″