Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Is It Time to Buy a Blu-Ray Player?

As a movie buff and an avid DVD collector, I've been asking myself this question ever since HD-DVD went the way of the Beta player. So I turned to an expert - Bill Hunt, Editor of TheDigitalBits.com. Many thanks to Bill for being kind enough to answer my questions. Be sure to visit his site - it is great! (And they have contests!)

Now that HD-DVD has fallen, is now a good time to invest in a Blu-Ray player?
Yes, there’s never been a better time. And if you wait until summer, or later this year, the prices will drop significantly, and profile 2.0 (final profile) players will be available as well. If you just can’t wait, the Sony PS3 is a great player and it can be firmware updated to final profile later this year.

When do you think Blu-Ray disc prices and players might go down?
Summer and fall, as we head into the holiday shopping season. You’ll see lots of deals and sale prices. I expect there will be HDTV/Blu-ray player combo deals. Several models of Blu-ray player will be available for around $299. Samsung is preparing a player that could sell for as low as $250 this Christmas.

Do you see the PS3 Blu-Ray player as being the best on the market? What else would you recommend?
It’s definitely an excellent player, and as I said above, you can firmware update it all the way to profile 2.0, which means it’s future proof. The other model I can really recommend is Panasonic’s BD-30 and BD-50. I have the BD-30 right now and it’s great (it’s profile 1.1). The BD-50 (which is profile 2.0) will be out in May or June. Profile 1.1 means it does picture-in-picture. Profile 2.0 means it can connect to the Internet and can deliver online features.

Are the Blu-Ray discs just like the standard discs, only with better picture quality? Or do they have different content?
Same basic idea – the disc contains a movie and extras, simply with the highest possible quality video and audio. Extras are going to be potentially more interesting too – more advanced interactivity.

What do you think of the upconverter players?
They’re good, but not as good as Blu-ray players. They may be good enough for some people, who just don’t really need the highest quality. The good news is that all Blu-ray Disc players upconvert your existing DVD discs too, so your current movies not only won’t be obsolete, they’ll look better than ever on Blu-ray players.

What else is on the horizon for DVD or home entertainment? Have you seen what Netflix is doing now? Members of their "unlimited"plans have access to 7,000 movies for viewing online. It works great - instantaneous streaming, great picture. Could this be a sign of things to come?
Eventually, streaming or downloading will be a big thing, but not for a long time will it dominate. There are a lot of technical hurdles, like bandwith issues and compression. I expect that downloading will really make in-roads in the rental market, but collectors aren’t going to be interested in it. Downloading isn’t anywhere near the quality of Blu-ray.

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