SANDY BERGER: Blue-ray Disk Players Offer Improved Quality
By now, you probably know that Blu-ray won the format war and is now the only format available for the new high-definition DVD players and DVDs.
Most folks, however, don't know exactly what Blu-ray is or what it can do for you. So today, I'd like to shed a little light on the subject.
First, let me explain what Blu-ray actually is. It is an optical disk format that has more than five times the storage capacity of our old DVDs. While a standard DVD can hold about 4.7 GB of data, a Blu-ray DVD can hold 25 GB. There are also dual-layer Blu-ray disks that can store up to 50 GB of information. This is more than 10 times the amount of data that a standard DVD can hold.
This extra storage space allows Blu-ray disks to accommodate high-definition movies, which are considerably larger than the standard DVD movies. Blu-ray movies have six times the image detail of a movie on standard DVD. Blu-ray disks also have added audio capabilities. They can hold up to eight channels of digital sound.
While a Blu-ray disk looks just like a regular DVD, the quality of the video and audio of the movies it holds is much better. For those of you interested in the technicalities, a blue laser is used to store and read data on a Blu-ray disk, while a red laser is used in regular DVD players.
The blue laser has a shorter wavelength, which, when combined with other technologies like a smaller aperture lens and a thinner cover layer on the disk, allow the writing of the laser to be more targeted, fitting more data on each disk.
To take advantage of the improved quality that a Blu-ray DVD player can offer, you will need to have a hi-definition television. For the best quality picture and sound, you will also need an HDMI cable and an HDMI connector on your television. While you can use a three-wire analog component connection to hook up most Blu-ray players, the HDMI cable will give you better image quality and better audio, as well.
Blu-ray disks cannot be played in regular DVD players. However, Blu-ray players can play regular DVDs as well as CDs. Most Blu-ray players will up-convert regular DVDs, making them look better than when they are played on a regular DVD player.
The up-conversion process processes the lines and pixels in a movie so they look better when displayed on a high-definition television set. Some Blu-ray players do this better than others. So if you have a lot of old DVDs, you may want to investigate the quality of the Blu-ray player's up-conversion before you purchase one. Remember that the type and quality of the television will also make a difference.
I recently hooked up a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player to our Samsung high-definition television with an HDMI cable. Blu-ray players transmit at 1080p. While many high-definition televisions can handle 1080p, my television can handle only 720p. Even with that restriction, the quality of a Blu-ray disk in the Blu-ray player was spectacular. My husband and I were blown away as we watched "Amadeaus" on Blu-ray and listened to Mozart on our five-speaker surround system. It was a true theater-like experience.
We were equally amazed by the improvement that we got when viewing regular DVDs. Our old DVDs looked noticeably clearer and crisper. I have read a lot of advice saying that you need to repurchase your old DVDs in Blu-ray format. We won't have to do that. In fact, we are now ready to watch our entire DVD collection over again just to see how much better each one looks on the Blu-ray player.
If you have a DVD collection and can get this kind of up-conversion results, I would say that the investment in a Blu-ray player is very worthwhile.
Since Samsung made both the television and the Blu-ray player that we used, we didn't even have to adjust the settings to get a great picture. On top of that, the new remote that came with the Blu-ray player can control both the television and the Blu-ray player right out of the box. This will not be true if you purchase a Blu-ray player from a manufacturer other than your television manufacturer. And it is not always possible to purchase from the same manufacturer since not all television manufacturers are producing Blu-ray players.
In fact, there is a lot to know about purchasing a Blu-ray player, but that will be the topic of another column. In the meantime, prices on Blu-ray players are falling, so if you are a movie lover, it may be time for you to start investigating Blu-ray and what it can do for you.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compukiss.com/happycomputing.
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