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Blu-ray Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Man watching a Blu-ray movie on his home theater system

If you're still using a DVD player, now may be the right time for you to upgrade your home theater system to Blu-ray players. This Blu-ray buying guide will help you determine how to buy a Blu-ray player that will fit nicely into your existing home entertainment setup.

About Blu-ray:

  1. 1080p picture resolution: Any movie enthusiast with a high-definition television will appreciate the incredible picture quality that a Blu-ray player is capable of producing. Blu-ray players provide video with a resolution as high as 1920 x 1080 pixels. By comparison, DVD players only support up to 480p resolution. If you've seen an HDTV and regular TV side by side, you know the difference that the higher resolution makes; the colors are brighter, and the picture is vivid and crystal clear.

  2. A variety of audio tracks: You can expect all Blu-ray discs to support Dolby Digital and DTS audio tracks, for use with audio receivers that use these formats. Linear PCM audio tracks on Blu-ray also work with a multi-channel connection. If you plan to use a stereo connection to your TV, your Blu-ray player will still provide superior sound. You can check Blu-ray players and individual discs for the major audio formats that they produce to make sure they're compatible with your sound system.

  3. Greater storage capacity on the discs: While the largest DVDs generally held about 15 gigabytes, Blu-ray discs hold almost 50 gigabytes, with even larger formats in the works. That extra capacity means that Blu-ray discs can hold high-quality video, multiple audio tracks and more Blu-ray disc extras, like bonus scenes and director commentary, as well as interactive features that aren't possible on DVD.

  4. Backwards compatibility with DVDs: You don't have to worry about your DVD collection falling by the wayside. Most Blu-ray players not only play your DVDs, but also convert them into a clear, high-resolution picture. Your old DVDs get a new life with your Blu-ray player.

  5. A powerful home theater experience: A basic Blu-ray setup is fairly easy to build, and all you need is a few components. You'll need a Blu-ray player to play Blu-ray movies and up-convert your existing DVDs. Blu-ray movies are the only way to get the full picture and amazing sound from your Blu-ray player. The large capacity of the optical Blu-ray discs is what lets them store the extra data that is needed for that higher quality. Both new and old releases are coming out on Blu-ray all the time.

  6. HDTVs and Blu-ray movies: Even if you don't have a high-definition TV yet, you can still use a Blu-ray player. The quality will generally be about as good as a DVD player with progressive scan, depending on what kind of video connection your TV has.

  7. Supreme sound: Home theater systems are optional, but they provide amazing sound. Blu-ray players and discs provide good sound quality for most major audio formats, so no matter what codecs your home theater system uses, Blu-ray players will produce stunning sound for you.

  8. A/V cables: The right audio and video cables make all the difference. Your HDTV has multiple connection options for connecting your Blu-ray player and other devices. Different cables have their own strengths.

  9. HDMI or DVI cables: These two cable types will send 1080p resolution video from your Blu-ray player to your HDTV or home theater receiver. Unlike a DVI cable, an HDMI cable will also carry the audio signal, making HDMI the simplest way to connect your Blu-ray player. Not all HDTVs and Blu-ray players support DVI, but HDMI is nearly universally accepted.

  10. Component cables: Also sometimes called Y/Pb/Pr, this is typically your best option for non-HDTVs. You can sometimes use this connection with high-definition TVs to get 1080i and other lower-resolution analog signals.

  11. S-Video cables and other connections: If HDMI, DVI and component are not options, then S-Video is your next best choice, followed by the basic RCA connection. These cables will generally provide 480i standard resolution video.<

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