Why DVD's Better Than Blu-ray
We weigh the pros and cons and render our verdict.
March 18, 2009 - Blu-ray may have won the format war, but with HD DVD now soundly dispatched, an old foe refuses to retreat. Standard-def DVD still has plenty of fight left in it. In fact, there are plenty of ways in which the SD format is -- dare we say -- a better choice than Blu-ray.
Heresy, you say? Listen... We aren't trying to assert that DVD has better picture quality than Blu-ray -- that would be absurd. And of course there are cool features, like BD-Live, that seemingly give Blu-ray the edge. But when you really take an examined look at the big picture, Blu-ray isn't for everybody.
There are hardware complexities, product availability issues, and most importantly -- especially in hard economic times like these -- Blu-ray is significantly more expensive. Taking all that into account, it's easy to imagine a scenario where the majority of casual home video consumers will remain devoted to DVD for quite some time.
But is DVD really better than Blu-ray? Here are some reasons why we think so. Take a look and let us know what you think in the comments.
It's Cheaper Than Blu-ray
Both DVD players and DVDs themselves remain affordable. Blu-ray releases tend to retail for an average of $10 more than their DVD counterparts (depending on the studio and title). Many DVDs are priced so cheaply that they could be considered impulse buys. Think about it... You probably wouldn't own that copy of Renny Harlin's Cutthroat Island had you not seen it in the checkout line display for $8.99. Would you have snatched up a Blu-ray version for double that price? Not nearly as likely.
The biggest obstacle for many consumers isn't the cost of the discs, it's the players themselves. A Blu-ray player will typically set you back an average of $250 to $300 (though the high-end players can go into the thousands). That kind of price tag is difficult to justify when you can find a perfectly decent DVD player for under $50. In fact, the most basic DVD player can be had for nearly the same price as a high-end Blu-ray movie.
And then there are the indirect costs. Most consumers will have to weigh the cost of the features they want against the cost of various players. It can be a headache before you even begin to start to consider other peripherals that will truly make upgrading to Blu-ray worth while. If you don't have a widescreen HD television -- a huge investment -- there's not much point in making the jump. And what about audio? Many home theaters are already at least 5.1 compatible, but to truly max out the new format you'll need a 7.1 system.
The bottom line is that creating an appropriately awesome Blu-ray experience is going to set you back some major skrilla. And if you can't afford to be all in, what's the point?
Mo' Technology, Mo' Problems
Any time you introduce a new piece of hardware into your setup, there are going to be complications. Blu-ray players are evolving, but everybody knows that tested and tried technology is more reliable than emerging technology. Wouldn't you rather have a product that's been around a while?
Then there's playability. We've all heard the complaints about Blu-ray load times. This sort of thing varies from player to player and title to title. The bottom line is that some people value performance and reliability more than innovation.
As long as you've got a basic DVD setup, the chances are pretty good that just about any disc you're likely to bring home will play in your player without a hassle. The advent of BD-Live has led to a disturbing trend when it comes to extras, with some studios relying heavily on online content to deliver the same kinds of special features you used to get right on the disc. And if your Blu-ray player isn't Internet compatible, you're not going to be able to access any of those features, not to mention the frequent firmware upgrades required to play the latest releases.
And what if you want to take your video entertainment with you? Not bloody likely with Blu-ray.
The term home-entertainment is quickly becoming obsolete, as the living room is no longer the only place where you can consume entertainment. There may be portable Blu-ray players on the market now, but standard-def players are still much cheaper and far more common, both in stores and in our homes. So for now -- and for the foreseeable future -- if you want to pop a movie in your laptop's DVD-rom drive, bring it with you on a long plane flight or just need something to keep the kids busy in the back of the minivan, DVD is the way to go.
You Already Own A Ton of DVDs
You probably already own your favorite movies and TV shows on DVD. And if you've been in the home video game a while, you might even own them on Laserdisc and (gasp!) VHS. Exactly how many copies of Blade Runner can one man legally own? And now you're suppose to shell out even more to get it on Blu-ray? Fuggedaboutit.
The DVD has been around since 1997 -- near ancient in tech years. In the 12 years since the format was launched, home video buyers have snatched up movies on DVD at an astonishing rate. The DVD has even been called the most successful consumer product of all time.
Even the most casual movie fan has amassed a sizable DVD library. And the collections of avid film buffs can stretch into the hundreds of titles -- or even thousands. With that many movies in a collection, it's not likely that most people are going to rush out and try to upgrade every title -- not that they could even if they wanted to, because the product just isn't available. And sure, Blu-ray players will play DVDs, but with the upgrade comes the feeling that you're rendering your entire collection obsolete.
To paraphrase Roy Batty himself, are all those discs to be lost in time like tears in rain? No way.
Up-Conversation Really Works
There's no denying that, visually and technically speaking, Blu-ray is undoubtedly a higher-quality home entertainment experience. That said, most people – the average, non-uber-geek viewer – have already invested a lot of money in a respectable DVD library and dread the idea of forking over the cash to re-up their collection as they once might have done in the latter days of VHS. This is especially true for those who can afford the minor investment of an up-converting DVD player, which to most of the general masses can offer an HD-quality visual experience close-enough for comfort's sake.
DVD upscaling works by creating a new line of pixels -- this is accomplished by a process that copies parts of the surrounding pixels. It's essentially a technologically-enhanced guess at how a true high-def picture should appear.
Toshiba's XD-E500 player, for instance, brings close to HD quality to DVDs by using this advanced edge-enhancement technology. You can pick one up for less than $99. That's a helluva lot cheaper than most Blu-ray players. And it really does work.
You Can't Get That on Blu-ray
Content is king. And while studios are working to make more video product available on Blu-ray, the fact remains that there are innumerably more titles on DVD. There's also no indication that manufacturers will cease production on DVDs in the foreseeable future.
If you're particularly into something non-mainstream, like Hong Kong cinema, what's the point of upgrading when most of the movies you love aren't available in the new format.
Collectors of special edition movies and boxed sets of TV shows are also currently getting the shaft when it comes to Blu-ray. While Blu-rays are starting to get the fancy slipcovers and whatnot, DVD still gets the really creative stuff. If you're a nerd about packaging, DVD is still for you.
And in the online rental, the chances of you getting a DVD quickly from Netflix are significantly higher. With a Blu-ray disc, you might even run into a "long wait" or the dreaded "very long wait."
Blu-ray is A Stop-Gap
It's a fact. It may not happen tomorrow, or next year, or even five years from now, but sooner or later digital downloads are going to replace physical media for the most part. Sure, you'll have the classicists who still collect their old LPs (or, ahem, standard-def DVDs), but Blu-ray is going to fall by the wayside when high-definition downloads become fully available and affordable.
With services like the IPTV-based Verizon's FIOS and AT&T's Uverse expanding more and more quickly, the shift to digital over physical media may happen sooner than later.
In the meantime, it's your prerogative (apologies to Bobby Brown) if you want to invest in another eventual boat anchor, and fill the coffers of the major studios yet again by indulging in their latest technical stunt -- Blu-ray -- and all the double- and triple-dips that are sure to come with it.
Don't worry, we won't say, "We told you so," when the time comes.
Think back to the late 1990s -- if you can remember back that far -- when DVD replaced VHS. It didn't take long then to realize how dramatically superior the new technology was. It's clear now, in the case of DVD vs. Blu-ray, that we're dealing with a much more incremental evolution in video entertainment. The mass adoption of Blu-ray is going to take place much more slowly, if it happens at all.
Are you among the multitudes that are resisting the urge to move up to Blu-ray? Or are you a Blu-ray early adopter? Tell us where you stand in the comments. And be sure to check our Blu-ray counterpoint.
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