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How to pick a Blu-Ray or DVD Player - The Features

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  So you have some spare cash around huh?  You want to watch some movies and TV shows that are available on the shelf at every store, but what's right for you?  What do you need in a movie machine?  Well, hopefully this article will help you out.

Miss my "How to pick a Blu-Ray or DVD Player - The Basics" article?  Click here to go back and check it out FIRST!

It's time to explore some features of DVD and Blu-Ray players and make that decision on which one is the right buy for you!

But first, a little on display resolution and why DVD and Blu-Ray players are different...
The biggest difference between the two types of players is the output resolution.  Output resolution is the measure of the number of pixels that a TV displays as it makes the picture from the top to bottom - higher resolution = more pixels = higher quality display.  As a TV makes it picture, it does so just like the words on page of a book - the pixels start on the left and go right.  As the pixels reach the right side of the TV, they form a line.  This line is a measure of the quality of a TV.  Older style CRT TVs have 480 lines, while new HDTVs have 720 or 1080 lines.

As the screen gets bigger, more lines are needed to display a good picture, otherwise the images on your TV will end up looking pixelated.  To see an example of pixelation vs smooth (non-pixelated) images, look at the following image:

As you can see, the image on the left that is 1 pixel x 1 pixel (1x1) is indescribable compared to the non-pixelated one on the right that is 100x100.

DVD vs. Blu-Ray Resolution
DVD players output a video signal which is intended for the smaller, basic old CRT TV sets that have 480 lines.  Most newer DVD players have something called "up-conversion" which increases the resolution of the DVD from the original 480 lines up to the HDTV standard of 1080 lines.  This up-converting does a decent job of making DVD movies/tv shows look better on your HDTV; however, it is NO substitute for the native (original) resolution of a Blu-Ray player which matches the HDTV capabilities of 1080 lines.  On a smaller HDTV (around 32" and below), this doesn't make much of a difference at all, but as your HDTV approaches 40-50" and larger, this will make a big difference.

The last of DVD for this article...
DVD players are typically a basic device to play DVDs with.  Some offer advanced features like DVD recording (sort of like a VHS tape player could do), and some of them also offer combo units which have both DVD and VHS slots for using both formats.

Many DVD players are simple and cheap - they do not have the "fancy" features that the latest Blu-Ray players do; so for further discussion, we will concentrate on the features of Blu-Ray players ONLY.

To this point, it is worth mentioning here that Blu-Ray players are backwards compatible, meaning that a Blu-Ray player can play both Blu-Ray and DVD discs.  So if you have a large DVD collection already, have no fear, your new Blu-Ray player will still be able to play them!

Blu-Ray Features - Internet Connection
Originally, Blu-Ray players were made to be the DVD players of the HD world, but as time has gone on the manufacturers have been including more and more functionality in them.  The single feature that really enables a lot of other features is internet connection.

Blu-Ray players are able to connect to the internet just like a computer can.  The two methods of connectivity are wireless (WiFi) and wired (Ethernet).  Almost all available Blu-Ray players today have at least wired (Ethernet) capability, but you will pay more for your player if you want wireless (WiFi) too.

When you are purchasing a Blu-Ray player, watch out for things like "WiFi Ready".  Unlike having wireless (WiFi) included, "WiFi Ready" means that you will have to purchase an additional adapter (~$80-100) to make the wireless work.

Blu-Ray Features - Internet Video
Heard of Netflix?  Are you subscribed to their streaming service?  Lots of newer Blu-Ray players let you use Netflix and other internet video providers right on your player!  You may pay more for your Blu-Ray player to get the video service you use/want, but if you don't already have another way to watch them on your TV, it may be worth it for you.

Common internet video services that are available on Blu-Ray players:
  • Netflix Streaming
  • Amazon Instant Video
  • Hulu Plus
  • YouTube

Graphic for internet video (and other) features offered by a popular Sony Blu-Ray player:

Blu-Ray Features - 3D
Do you like your movies to jump off the screen and be in the room with you?  Then 3D is for you!  3D is what it sounds like - Blu-Ray players with this feature can play things in 3D.

Okay, so 3D is really cool, BUT, be careful about buying a 3D Blu-Ray player!  YOU WILL NEED OTHER THINGS TO MAKE IT WORK.  At this time, the following is required to watch 3D movies:
  • 3D Blu-Ray player
  • 3D HDTV
  • 3D glasses (special ones that come with your 3D HDTV)
  • 3D Movie
Without even one of these things, your movie won't be in 3D...probably.  I say probably because some 3D Blu-Ray players combined with the right 3D HDTVs can convert normal movies into 3D.  Your player and TV manuals should tell you how to do this if your electronics are capable.

That said, if you don't have a 3D HDTV, you may not want to bother buying a 3D Blu-Ray player because you won't be able to use the 3D features AT ALL until you do buy a 3D HDTV.

Also of note is the 3D glasses.  When you buy a 3D HDTV, typically only one pair of 3D glasses will be included.  Additional glasses are available for purchase (usually ~$100-200 each).  These are not the red and blue 3D glasses from the 50's; instead, these are special glasses that require batteries and work ONLY with the TV that they are intended for.

Blu-Ray Features - DLNA Media Player
One of the newest trends in Blu-Ray players is the ability to access and play media from other DLNA compliant devices.  What?   Well, basically, if you have music, photo or video files on your computer, you can share them over you home network to your Blu-Ray player for play/use on your TV.

Blu-Ray Features - Brand
Okay, yes, this is not a real "feature".  But brand does matter when you are purchasing things.  Brands like Sony and Samsung are the most popular and proven out, but brands like LG are getting better and often offer a bit of a price savings given the same features.

Another thing about buying a particular brand of Blu-Ray player is the ability to match it up with the same brand of HDTV.  Samsung, Sony, and LG (among other brands) offer special features when you pair a Blu-Ray player and HDTV player of their brand.

There are other features to look at when purchasing a Blu-Ray player, but these are the most common features available today.  Happy shopping, and feel free to write comments, questions, or pertinent observations in the comments below!
fradyphoto posted Feb 27, 2012