Monday, August 25, 2014

What Else Can You Do with a Blu-ray Player?

Everyone got excited when Blu-ray discs first appeared: here was a way to see a movie or TV show in Full HD resolution and take advantage of the “HD” of a HDTV in a way that a DVD could not. But while Blu-ray discs continue to sell, much of its “thunder” has been taken away by TVs that can stream movies/TV shows through the Internet. As a result, the idea of buying a Blu-ray player has lessened. But the fallacy in this is that a Blu-ray player can do a whole lot more than just spin a disc inside; in fact there are things a Blu-ray player it can do that you can’t get elsewhere. It’s about time we noted them, so here they are.

4K Upscaling
There are no Blu-ray 4K discs on the market as yet, but should you be lucky (or smart) enough to have a 4K Ultra HD TV, watching what’s on a Blu-ray disc will give you a high-end picture for sure. But if the Blu-ray player has 4K upscaling, then the video being displayed will match the visual resolution aspects of the display. What that means simplified is that the video coming from the Blu-ray disc, while not actually of 4K resolution, will more perfectly match what the 4K TV expects to have on its screen. That doesn’t come as a result of streaming a picture or just connecting a player to the 4K TV; the 4K upscaling has to be built into the player. And since wanting a superior picture is what it’s all about, having this type of upscaling is a definite plus.

Smart TV
Blu-ray players include “Smart TV” features that parallel the TVs made by the same company. You might want to access an app or type of function through the TV, but the TV doesn’t have that feature. But there could be Blu-ray players that include the features you specifically want. Also there’s the GI (graphical interface) to consider too — for example, you might like how Sony does their interface, but don’t have a Sony TV. So by getting a Sony Blu-ray player you’re tapping into those features you want.  Another factor is the speed of the interface and those apps, streaming and other features. What if your TV has a “slow” processor — that makes accessing “Smart TV” features slower. Get a Blu-ray player that highlights having a fast processor and you no longer have to be so patient.

Independent HD Audio Out
Those who have home theater systems know that buying the A/V receiver isn’t something that’s done every year — the receiver is going to be working for a long time. Many use the receiver as a “switcher,” having video from cable boxes/satellite receivers, Blu-ray discs and other video source devices going into it using HDMI connectors and then having a single HDMI going out to the HDTV or 4K UHD. But what if you want to watch a 3D Blu-ray movie but the receivers isn’t 3D compatible. That’s where a second HDMI output on the Blu-ray player struts its stuff: the video can go directly to the TV while the audio goes to the receiver separately. This also means that you can play high-resolution audio off a disc without having to turn the TV on. That’s a double win-win.

Web Optimized
Videos from YouTube and other online sources share a common problem: the quality varies from one to the other and there’s no way to be sure just how good it’s going to be. TVs do their level best to display web videos decently, but it is much better to have specific technology that “looks” at online video and optimizes for viewing. A Blu-ray player that has web optimization built-in will boost image quality and so sharpen the image to make it look as good as is possible.

Of course not every Blu-ray player will provide every feature noted, but it’s easy to see that Blu-ray discs are just one of the many good points that can be found by getting a Blu-ray player for your home or home theater. And with prices so eminently reasonable, there really is no excuse not to have one.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Look Ma, No Disc: Digital Streaming Is More Than Just Convenient

In the beginning there was the videocassette and the consumer said it was good — now you could watch a Hollywood movie at home at your leisure. This was followed by the optical disc, first the DVD with resolution better than the analogue TV, and then the Blu-ray disc for high-resolution viewing on a high-resolution HDTV. The next, and perhaps last stage in this evolution of ownership of viewing is streaming. Streaming is like magic because it’s there when you need it, and not there when you don’t. It has no physical presence. Is that good? You bet it is!

So let’s look at the reasons why streaming content is superior to having to own a physical disc.


“Where’s the disc” is a game few want to play when it is time to watch something. Nor is there any joy in opening a DVD box to find it holding the wrong disc or, worse yet, empty. Streaming content is kept for you on the “Cloud” — a fancy way of saying it’s on a server that is being maintained and cared for by another (such as a movie studio or streaming content provider). When you want to watch your content, the server provides it to the viewing device (be that a TV or a mobile device like a tablet or a laptop, etc.). The server is responsible for knowing that the content belongs to you, for getting it to the device and for playing it. All of these responsibilities have been taken out of your hands.


A disc needs to be kept in a safe place away from prying hands (i.e., kids) or chewing teeth (i.e., pets). You go to get the disc but your significant other has put it somewhere that you don’t know where — and he/she isn’t around. Sure it would be great if you could beep your keys to find it like your car, but nobody’s thought of doing that yet. So you look and if you’re lucky, you find it. If luck isn’t with you, you get to go back to doing the accounting for the month’s bills. But if the content is being streamed, it’s being held for you where you can always access it. On the “Cloud.” And it doesn’t matter if you are at home or in a hotel or wherever. It’s your content and it’s being kept for you to watch when you want to.

And for those ask why they should still get a Blu-ray player when they can stream content — the response is “Yes” because not every bit of content has been digitized and put online yet. Plus it’s a lot easier to take a Blu-ray player to somewhere else — for example, when visiting the in-laws or at a friend’s house, because this will make streaming your content easier to do once connected to the home network (especially since most BD players now feature wireless WiFi connectivity).

Screen Resolution

This is the only area where user sensibility must come into play — because the resolution of the video being seen on the TV isn’t guaranteed for streaming like it is on a disc. What must be considered are variables that affect the “speed” of the Internet connection sending the movie or TV show to the TV. The viewer will need to consider whether the server is being requested by many, many people looking to view the same content, for example. The home network must be allowed to concentrate its efforts on receiving the most stable and highest resolution signal possible: others using the home network (smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) need to desist for the duration of time in which the content will be viewed. This will make sure that the streaming (also being buffered by the TV) can be of the highest resolution possible.

Streaming is attractive because it’s convenient. Having a HDTV or a 4K Ultra HD TV to take care of the streaming means using the latest technology to ensure a quality image. A quality image that is going INTO the TV as well as being displayed ON the TV.