Updated: Is a Blu-ray player really worth buying?

The Feedster

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High-definition TVs are everywhere but the vast majority of what people watch on them is still old fashioned standard-def material. There are now plenty of choices for getting spectacular HD content onto the screen, not least of which is Blu-ray.
However, there are also lots of HD movies on Sky, you can upscale any DVD to near-HD levels of quality and there's the promise of Freeview HD by 2012. Blu-ray might have won the format war, but is a Blu-ray player really worth getting?
"No," says Ian Calcutt

Blu-ray is not the only way to enjoy an HD quality picture. A good upscaling DVD player (like the Denon DVD-1730 ) will cost a fraction of the price of a next-gen disc spinner, even producing 1080p resolutions in some cases. DVD is hardly about to die out.
Blu-ray hardware is expensive. It's all very well if you're a gamer and have a PlayStation 3 (by far the best Blu-ray player, by the way), but home cinema buffs have to pay over the odds for a decent standalone player.
Ok, so the format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD did create consumer confusion. But the competition did drive hardware prices down to almost ludicrously low levels. Did you know that since HD DVD bowed out, prices of some Blu-ray players have actually gone up?!
HD DVD was pretty finalised as a spec, but Blu-ray's hardware and software are still evolving. Some older Blu-ray players have no Ethernet ports for accessing upgrades and interactive disc features via broadband. Many also lack outputs to make the most of the picture and sound that discs can deliver. Some players don't support 7.1 channel audio and many don't meet the latest v1.3 spec of HDMI , allowing for better colour and lip-sync. Don't buy a Blu-ray player unless it supports the full Profile 2.0 spec.
You can get HD movies, sport, drama and documentaries from satellite and cable TV. Both platforms also use PVR technology for on-demand HD viewing.
Finally, the internet will become an increasingly important way to deliver HD. So, unless you really must build up a collection of discs on your shelf, why do you even need another disc player? Microsoft's Xbox Live already offers HD downloads to subscribers and you should expect other download services (including Apple's iTunes) to follow suit in the future. Why do we need another disc format, when digital delivery is obviously the next big thing?
"Yes," says Matt Hastings

Blu-ray won the high-def disc war, so it's the only way to watch true HD movies on your TV (unless you're a Sky HD or Virgin Media subscriber).
Even the best upscaling DVD players are no match for genuine HD source material. Why stick with DVD's dated video system (based on very lossy MPEG-2 compression) and rely on an upscaler's guesswork at what bits of the image are missing? Get the whole thing for real on Blu-ray disc. For those movies you still own on DVD, Blu-ray players upscale too, so you get the best of both worlds.
The average TV is getting bigger as technology improves and relative prices come down. Normal DVD pictures are going to start looking increasingly worse in the months and years to come. As a delivery system for HD, Blu-ray is a natural fit for big TVs.
Blu-ray can support films in the higher quality 1080p progressive scan format. Some players also offer a 24 frames-per-second output for as close a match to the original cinema copy as possible. You don't get 1080p with HDTV broadcasts and HD DVD players are not yet 24fps-compatible.
The audio capabilities of Blu-ray also far exceed those of DVD. Lossless high-end formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD are making movies sound as good as they did to the engineers in the mastering suite.
Like computer memory, you rarely realise how much you're going to want until you're outgrowing your system. At 50GB, Blu-ray has the highest capacity among disc-based media. And its future potential for storing top-notch pictures and high-bandwidth sound is currently unbeatable. Blu-ray can also be put to many other uses, from HD computer games on Sony's PS3 to backing up massive amounts of PC data.


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