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Blu-ray and DVD: Which Reigns Supreme?

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/30/2011

Looking at the differences between the Blu-ray format and the DVD format, which one will win? The reigning champion or the new contender?

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    To be honest, three years ago with the start of the new format wars between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, it was not easy to call who would be the clear winner. Now, three years later, Blu-Ray is the clear winner, but what did it win exactly? With the economy being as bad as it is, the average consumer doesn’t have enough money to splurge on an expensive setup for Blu-Ray. Consider the things you’ll need to get an experience above DVD-quality out of a Blu-Ray Disc: HDTV, Receiver, Speakers, HDMI connections, and an expensive disc player. So if you’re still on the fence, it’s with good reason, right now, DVD is still the reigning champion inside the local Blockbuster. That being said, let’s take a look at the merits of the DVD compared to those of the Blu-Ray Disc.

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    DVD - King After All These Years

    I still remember when people were on the fence about switching from VHS to DVD players, and that wasn’t so long ago. About ten years ago, VHS was finally supplanted by the DVD format as the standard for everything from movie-watching to movie-recording and file storage. This change was implemented quickly because while DVD players initially were very expensive, it didn’t take too long for people to realize that it was a revolutionary change in quality. The DVD held much more information and in a much more loss-less way, as opposed to the magnetic VHS tape that could be erased on a whim.

    Today, the DVD is still on top of its game. The way DVDs are still making their way into the hands of consumers is because of how cheap they are. Consider that if I wanted to rent a DVD movie for a single night and watch it, that single rental will cost me a dollar. For Blu-Ray, no such option exists, I would have to go to a local movie rental company, pay upwards of $4 to rent the movie for about 5 days.

    The saturation of the DVD in the market today also helps significantly. Almost every house in America has seen or played a DVD at some point in the past year, and for this reason, services like RedBox and Netflix are so useful and profitable.

    But it’s more than just affordability. The common person perceives DVD quality to be sufficiently good that they wouldn’t need to waste money buying expensive equipment to play Blu-Ray or other formats. To an audiophile or those who crave their video in 1080p, such talk is blasphemy, but in the hands of a non-informed person, a $20 DVD player is much more effective than a $200 Blu-Ray player.

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    Blu-Ray – Rookie Upstart or Just a Busted Format?

    I’m a big proponent of the Blu-Ray format. Is it because of the high-bit-rate TrueHD surround sound in DTS? Is it because of the 1080p video that makes the images on the screen come to life? Is it because of the amount of features and quality that can be crammed into a 50 Gb Disc? The answer is that it’s all of the above.The Blu-Ray Disc is a leap forward technologically, and something that was inconceivable about 5 years ago in the heyday of the DVD format.

    Of course, the main barrier of entry to the Blu-Ray Disc “party” is the cost. Currently, a person working minimum wage or a lower-end job can most assuredly afford a DVD player and a $1 rental to have a great family movie night, but they can’t afford the setup necessary to watch movies in 1080p.

    Another problem with Blu-Ray is that it’s still traditional thinking about a market that’s increasingly skipping over into the digital realm. Microsoft earlier this year made a powerful statement about not needing to install Blu-Ray players inside their Xbox systems by offering 1080p streaming video over the Internet. How well this service works remains to be seen, and the cost is still a bit too high, but if it works, streaming video could easily supplant both the DVD and Blu-Ray formats.

    With streaming video, so long as there is an Internet-enabled box underneath your TV, you can access the content you want over the Internet at any time, and hopefully for a monthly fee instead of an individual, per-movie cost. Even better, if you’re the sort that doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty, an HTPC is an investment in the future of movie watching.

    With an HTPC and an Internet enabled Wireless-N card, you’ll send your video watching into new heights. A simple DVR program and a TV tuner will ensure that all the content that you already pay for via cable and satellite can easily be recorded and watched later. Furthermore, for those that have the know-how, the Internet is littered with copies of high-resolution movies, even 1080p movies that, even with a good Internet connection will only take 3-4 hours to download.

    The harsh reality for the DVD and the Blu-Ray format is that physical discs seem to be on their way out. For those that can afford to pay for their video, it seems that streaming is a much more friendly solution that doesn’t involve the use of a physical rental location at all. Just sit down, pop open the bag of popcorn and hit play – your movie should start after only a few seconds of buffering.