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Blu-ray Players Buying Guide

While Blu-ray is far from new technology, it's something a large number of people haven't yet embraced. There are various reasons for this, from price, to people not wanting to leave their comfort zone, but the main issue is simply a lack of understanding. We're used to DVDs, it's what we've had for years, and taking the plunge to buy a new, fancy Blu-ray player can be less than appealing to most. The aim of this guide is simple - to clear up some of the confusion surrounding Blu-ray players, and to make choosing the perfect system that much easier.

What is Blu-ray?

The idea behind Blu-ray is simple. While conventional DVD's store close to 5GB of data, Blu-ray allows for 25GB on a single layer disc, and 50GB on a dual layer. In English? It fits more movie. Or, as is the standard use for Blu-ray, it fits the same length of a movie, just in much, much better quality. While a standard DVD plays at a maximum resolution of 720X480, more commonly known as 480p, Blu- ray plays video at 1920X1080p. The numbers make more sense than they seem to at first glance, trust me. 1,920X1,080p simply means that there are 1,920 pixels (or dots of colour) horizontally, and 1,080 pixels vertically. Common sense would say that the more pixels there are, the better. And as usual, common sense would be right.

Now even though there's a huge quality increase over DVD, that's not where the differences end. Blu-ray is generally packed with extra features, from pop-up menus to picture-in-picture commentaries. Absolutely pointless for a few people, but for those of us who like to look beyond just the movie itself, they're fantastic. The extra capacity on a Blu-ray disc is what makes that possible, and with 50GB to play with, there's plenty of space to add those bonuses.

There's Blu-ray players, and then there's Blu-ray players.

Yes, I repeated myself there. What I'm trying to get across that not all Blu-ray players are created equal. Not even close. But not to worry - the differences are relatively easy to make out. First and foremost, we'll start with speed, since that's the thing most likely to catch people out. Yes, you can pick up a Blu-ray player for $50. Yes, it will work. No, it won't be very good. The biggest thing that catches people out with low-cost players is how long they take to load a disc. With a DVD, you pop it in, and the movie comes on, pretty much instantly. With Blu-ray, and all the extra information that comes along with it, there's much longer load times, and cheap players with slow read speeds are just going to add insult to injury, so to speak. Forking out for a more expensive, faster player will not only save you up to 2 minutes every time you sit down to watch a film, but more than likely comes with other fancy features.

Such as 3D playback, which is becoming more and more common. The technology has been here for a while, and as always happens, over time, production costs drop, so wholesale price drops, and that's reflected in the end buying price that consumers see. Because of that, 3D TVs are gracing more lounges than ever before, and more films are being filmed with an extra dimension in mind. But a basic Blu-ray player may well not support 3D, so be sure to look for that in a player. Even if you don't have a multi-dimensional goggle box yet, it's a safe bet to say that someday you'll either voluntarily upgrade, or your current TV will kick the turkey and you'll have no option but to go a-shopping.

Recording is back.

Just like the good old days when we all had those fancy VCR's that would record what we were watching, Blu-ray is set to renew that tradition in the form of players with built-in hard drives. I know, there were DVD recorders as well, but, in my experience at least, they never really took off. There's not really too much to talk about here, a recorder is a recorder, so I suppose my only word of caution would be to make sure that you buy a capacity to suit you. It's no good buying a 10GB Blu-ray player if you intend to record all 8 seasons of Criminal Minds. Even better, hunt for one that accepts external storage devices, such as flash drives or the classic USB powered HDD so many of us have.

And in closing...

That's really it. It's not as scary as it sounds, and investing in a decent player can make a huge difference to the quality of both the video and audio in your setup. Take the plunge, embrace the future, and get a hold of high-definition. It's worth it.

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