You may be itching to buy a Blu-ray DVD player now that the format has won the high-definition disc-standard war. But you may want to hold...
You may be itching to buy a Blu-ray DVD player now that the format has won the high-definition disc-standard war.
But you may want to hold off. By waiting a few months, you may save yourself some irritation — and a few bucks.
Blu-ray players are theoretically ideal complements to high-definition televisions because they can play movies formatted to take full advantage of an HD display. But until recently, a battle raged between two competing formats: Blu-ray and HD DVD. The competition limited sales, in part because consumers worried about getting stuck with an obsolete machine.
That fear went away after Toshiba, HD DVD’s main backer, pulled the plug on the format recently, announcing it would no longer make new HD DVD players.
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But Toshiba’s decision took away only one of the reasons consumers might want to hold off on buying a Blu-ray player. Another reason to hold off is price. The least-expensive new model available on Amazon.com costs about $360.
That’s significantly cheaper than a comparable player would have cost a year ago. But industry figures and analysts predict prices will fall by up to $100 more by the holidays. Prices are expected to continue dropping after that as the parts that make up the players become less expensive and more manufacturers start to make them.
The number of different Blu-ray player models is expected to double to 26 in coming months, potentially offering consumers a better range of prices and feature choices.
Another reason not to rush is that only about 500 movies are available on Blu-ray, compared with thousands on standard DVD. Unless you are looking for a recent hit or a popular classic, you probably aren’t going to find it on Blu-ray.
Again, that’s changing. Now that all the major studios are on board with Blu-ray, the number of film titles available is expected to grow steadily. But the longer you wait, the more movies you’ll have to choose from.
Waiting could also save you some headaches and ensure that your player is future-proof. Few DVD buyers in recent years have had to worry about updating their firmware, the embedded software program that controls how the device functions. Yet many owners of Blu-ray players have found that some movies won’t play if they don’t update their firmware.
Updating can be a complicated process of downloading files from the Internet and potentially burning them to a CD. Amazon devotes an entire page to tips on how to do it. Many consumers may not want to bother, and probably won’t need to as the technology matures.
Likewise, DVD owners accustomed to popping in a movie and watching it right away — or at least as soon as they bypass all the trailers — may be in for an unpleasant surprise with a new Blu-ray player. Many take 30 seconds or more before they start playing, a noticeable lag. As the technology improves, load times should get faster.
Better features ahead
And then there’s the issue of features. One thing Blu-ray movies can offer that regular DVDs typically can’t is the ability to display director’s and other commentaries in a “picture-in-picture” format, where you get to see the person talking, not just hear them.
Similarly, future Blu-ray movies are expected to offer interactive content, including the ability to download new movie trailers and to play multiplayer games.
Unfortunately, most stand-alone Blu-ray players sold to date aren’t capable of doing picture-in-picture commentaries or playing the interactive content, and never will be. They don’t have the right technology.
All new Blu-ray players are supposed to include the picture-in-picture technology. But you’re likely to find older players on store shelves, and you might have to read the fine print to know which is which. The first Blu-ray players that will be able to play the interactive content won’t be available until later this year.
A cheaper option
Some might find it hard to resist buying a Blu-ray player now. It does offer stunning pictures on your TV. But there is a cheaper, reasonable alternative.
You’ll find a number of DVD players on the market that can “upscale” a standard DVD movie to look good on a full-HD screen. The picture doesn’t look pixelated and the colors look fairly sharp. You can buy a good upscaling DVD player for less than $100 — and it will play any DVD on the market.
Is it perfect? No. Does it give you the full HD experience? No. The picture provided by a Blu-ray movie is sharper and more vivid, and the sound is much fuller.
But few folks are going to be doing side-by-side comparisons. And unless you are watching a movie on a large screen — say, 50 inches or larger — from a short distance — say, 8 feet or less — you may not notice much of a difference.
What you will notice is a good-looking picture on your HD screen.
For now, that’s probably good enough.