Over the winter I spent some time in this space talking about high-definition televisions (HDTVs) and high-definition video formats. You’ll remember that blue-striped Blu-Ray “won” the format war. Brown-striped HD DVD boxes have disappeared from video rental and consumer electronics superstore shelves.
Many (including me) predicted that once the market settled on one format, player and media prices would drop considerably. So far, this has not been the case. A quick check of a local blue-and-yellow-flavored consumer electronics superstore web site indicates that Blu-Ray Disc players are still around $400, which is roughly what I paid for mine back in October. Blu-Ray versions of recent films released on DVD still command a $10 to $15 premium over the standard-definition versions.
Technology research firm NPD reported recently that U.S. sales of Blu-Ray players (excluding PlayStation 3 game consoles, which include a Blu-Ray player) dropped 40 percent from January to February. Sales only grew 2 percent from February to March.
All this while the HDTVs used to watch Blu-Ray disks are flying off the shelves. NPD Group reports that in the fourth quarter of 2007 HDTV sales in the U.S. grew about 60 percent. 95% of LCD units and 98% of plasma units were HD. About 2.4 million HDTVs were purchased just in the sales run-up to the Super Bowl back in February, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
So, why are people buying HDTVs at a rapid clip but avoiding the only real purchase (a Blu-Ray player) that shows off the full potential of their new, expensive TV? If you recently purchased an HDTV and are considering purchasing a Blu-Ray player, or are thinking of an HDTV purchase and wonder if you should just get the whole “ball of wax” (TV and player) while you’re there, here’s some things to consider. Coming from someone who’s made the leap to HD.
When NPD surveyed consumers late last year, most responded that they weren’t buying Blu-Ray players because “their old DVD player worked well”.
Well, yes and no. If your “old DVD player” has the “upconvert” feature, then standard DVDs will look OK on your HDTV. An upconverting DVD player (in layman’s terms) basically converts the 720x480 pixel image on a standard DVD up to the 1920x1080 pixel image required to “fill” an HDTV, and changes the way the picture is presented to make it smoother. Upconverting DVD players can be found for as little as $79.
However, make no mistake about it. There’s no way an upconverted standard DVD comes close to the resolution, quality, and almost 3-D look of a Blu-Ray disk played on a Blu-Ray player. Blu-Ray disks deliver true 1080p (1920x1080 pixels with progressive scan - the “p” in 1080p) images. By the way, Blu-Ray players are also upconverting DVD players, so you can ditch your old upconverting DVD player if you get a Blu-Ray unit.
What about Blu-Ray content? Many (note I didn’t say “most”, necessarily) recent theatrical films are released on Blu-Ray concurrent with the standard DVD release. Studios are also going back and re-releasing some of their catalogs on Blu-Ray.
With some notable exceptions. No “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings” trilogies which you would think would lend themselves to high definition quite nicely. For every film you’ll be surprised to find on Blu-Ray, there’s another that’s not been released yet that you’ll want.
Here in the mid-coast, you can rent Blu-Ray disks from local rental establishments (their catalogs, for now, are spotty at best). Best Buy and (surprisingly) Bull Moose both have better selections for purchase than Wal-Mart.Next time: reasons NOT to buy a Blu-Ray player.
|© 2008 Peter F. Zimowski|