by Staff Writer
Are you thinking about switching to Blu-ray but you're not sure what it's all about? You're sure to have some questions about making the switch, and here are the answers to some of the frequently asked questions about Blu-ray discs and Blu-ray players.
What is Blu-ray and what does it mean?
At its heart, Blu-ray is a technology for enjoying high-definition movies in the home. Of course, its abilities go beyond movies; like CDs and DVDs, Blu-ray discs can be used in the computer for data storage as well as other similar uses. Blu-ray was developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association and was originally a competing standard against HD-DVD (which has since been effectively scrapped, leaving Blu-ray as the format of choice for HD movies). It's called Blu-ray due to the blue-violet laser used to read the discs, in contrast to the red laser used in early optical drives such as CDs and DVDs. You may also see it referred to as Blu-ray Disc (BD).
Why should I upgrade to Blu-ray when I have a great DVD player?
Blu-ray is a vital part of the high-definition experience. While progressive-scan DVD players brought exceptional video quality to standard-definition televisions, DVDs simply can't hold the amount of data required to store a high-definition movie. If you want in-home movies that make the most of your high-definition television, you'll want to switch to Blu-ray, which has ample storage for movies in high-definition formats up to and including 1080p, as well as several surround-sound audio formats.
Can I use a Blu-ray player even if I don't have a high-definition TV?
Yes, most Blu-ray players have video outputs for standard-definition TVs, such as component outputs (for 480p resolution, the same as a progressive scan DVD player), S-video, and RCA outputs. If you're looking at a Blu-ray player but you don't yet have a high-definition TV, you'll want to make sure that player has an output for the highest-quality video connection that your TV supports. In most cases, that will mean component video, sometimes called YPbPr. Older televisions may only have S-video or RCA (also called composite) connections.
Is Blu-ray backwards compatible?
Nearly every Blu-ray player can play existing DVD movies. To help ease the transition from DVD to Blu-ray, many Blu-ray players include technology that helps DVD movies look even better on your high-definition TV when played through your Blu-ray player, as opposed to being played on an HDTV through an existing DVD player. No Blu-ray player can change the fact that DVDs simply don't contain high-definition video streams, but a Blu-ray player with up-sampling technology can help DVDs look their best on your HDTV.
How much data can Blu-ray discs hold?
Early Blu-ray discs held 25 gigabytes (GB), about three times the capacity of the largest DVD. Blu-ray discs that can store 50 GB are available and even higher-capacity Blu-ray discs are on the horizon.
Is Blu-ray available for computers?
You can find drives for your computer that can both read from and write to Blu-ray discs. Just as CDs and DVDs were in their day, Blu-ray discs are a good choice as a portable, reliable storage medium.
Does Blu-ray have a region code system like DVDs do?
Blu-ray has a set of regional code standards that is a bit different from DVDs. This code system was intended to be easier to follow than the DVD regional code standard.
Region A: North and South America, Japan, Central America, East Asia (except China and Mongolia)
Region B: Europe (except Russia), Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania
Region C: China and Mongolia, Russia, Central Asia, South Asia, Central Eurasia