Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

8 Reaons not to buy a Blu-Ray player

If you’ve ever asked yourself the question “Should I buy a Blu-Ray player?” the answer is no.  Now before anybody gets uproarious over this, let me add a caveat.  There are three groups of people this does not apply to:

  • People who absolutely have to buy every new piece of technology the day it come out,
  • People who have so much money they have trouble thinking of stuff to do with it and
  • People who were gonna get the Playstation anyway.
Sure, being a millionaire will buy you a lot of Blu-Ray
players, but is it worth it if you have to wear that jacket?

Since none of these people ever bothered asking themselves if they should buy a Blu-Ray, I stand by my opening statement.  For the rest of us, this question crops up more and more as we see the commercials promising us better clarity, sound, menus and extras.  Many of us sat on the fence for a long time back when DVD players hit the market but we all eventually broke down.

Now we are faced with another question and another threat of having to repurchase our favorite movies all over again.  But is Blu-Ray the next DVD or the next Laser Disc?  Here are eight pretty solid reasons to save your money:

 #1: The Cost 

The term “a lot of money” is pretty relative so I can’t say whether a Blu-Ray will dent your budget.  One thing I can say is that it will cost you a hell of a lot more than a DVD player.  Even a used (read obsolete) Blu-Ray player will cost you about a hundred bucks and you aren’t likely to find a quality new one for under two hundred.

Of course, there are dumber
ways to spend your money...

But that’s just the one time cost of the player.  It doesn’t do you much good until you start buying a few discs.  Again, expensive is relative, but they will set you back about twice or three times as much as the same movie on DVD.  In fact, for the price of the new Hollywood blockbuster on the day of its Blu-Ray release, you could buy a DVD player.

So the movies are two to three times as expensive, the player is two to four times as expensive… but state of the art technology cost money, right?

 #2: The Picture Quality 

There is no denying that the quality of a Blu-Ray disc is noticeably superior to a DVD.  The difference in clarity is striking.  Whether this is worth a 250% mark up is a matter of personal taste, but it is better.

The problem is that you might never notice.  Unless you have a pretty state of the art TV you can’t see it at all and the difference is actually pretty minor on all but the highest quality televisions.  I’m guessing that if you have the super-high-def 198-inch backlit Vizio you’re not taking my advice on whether to plunk down a few Benjamins on a Blu-Ray.  For most of us, though, the difference in quality between the two mediums will simply serve as a reminder that our TVs kind of suck.

"I hooked up the Blu-Ray, but the damn thing is still in Black & White!"

 #3: The Sound Quality 

Blu-Ray is pretty much a two-trick pony.  Better Picture, better sound.  With the exception of a few online features that only the geekiest amongst us will ever get any real use out of, this is all Blu-Ray has to offer.  So exactly how much better is the sound?

Unlike the picture quality, the improvement in sound quality is scarcely audible on even the nicest televisions.  Even the manufacturers admit that it is negligible if you don’t have 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound.  And honestly, when’s the last time you said “damn only-slightly-awesome DVD sound”?


 #4: Load Times 

Did you know that Blu-Ray players have to load the movie up?  The movie needs to be held in the player’s hard drive in order to offer the underwhelming feature that allows you to access menu options while the movie is playing.  Of course, you will never ever use this feature.  Instead you will have to remember to pause the movie before opening up certain menu options unless you’re one of those people that just can’t watch Jackie Chan fight unless the upper-left quadrant of the screen is bathed in a translucent language menu.

But you will notice the load times.  They vary by player and by the particular movie but the best numbers I could find suggest that the average is about 88 seconds.  I must always watch long movies on bad players because in all of my experiences the actual load time is much closer to two minutes.

Two minutes might seem like a small thing to complain about, but wasn’t this supposed to be a step forward in technology?  In many ways it feels like the “dial up” of cinematic medium.

A mark of cutting edge technology...

 #5: Portability 

Everyone has a DVD player.  Not only that, but virtually every computer made in the last eight years plays DVDs and every car I’m stuck behind in traffic has a DVD player hanging from the ceiling at such an angle that I can tell what they’re watching but can’t enjoy it.  You can take your favorite DVD virtually anywhere you want.

Obviously the same cannot be said for Blu-Ray.  Those things are shackled to your living room so don’t even think about watching that new movie in your bedroom.  You want to unplug all that junk and carry the player upstairs?  If you have the surround sound and wireless plugged up it might be easier to carry your bed to the den.
Alexander the great would use a sword here...

 #6: Online Features 

I know, I know, this is supposed to be one of the good things about Blu-Ray.  The ability to access online features allows every Blu-Ray you buy to have, theoretically, unlimited bonus material.  But since your computer already gets online, there isn’t much to this.  You’ll play with it once in a while, sure, because you went to all the trouble of setting up the online capacity and you have to convince yourself that it was worth the headache.

Alright so it’s a pretty useless feature.  So what?  I mean, when I first saw that I could zoom in with my DVD player I did back flips over it, but I’ve used it precisely zero times since.  But that’s just a useless frill and that by itself is not reason enough not to buy one.

Some of us will get plenty of use
out of those online features, of course.

There is, however, a disturbing trend in Blu-Ray where more and more of the features are online and fewer and fewer of them are actually contained on the disc.  This means that you are simply banking on the continued service to get these features.  Even if Blu-Ray does take over the way DVD did, eventually it will be replaced which means eventually you will not have access to all the cool, useless extras that you paid for.

 #7: The Selection 

This is probably the biggest problem with investing in Blu-Ray and even the techies, millionaires and geeks agree on this one.  There aren’t enough movies on Blu-Ray.  The local Blockbuster might have 100 or so titles on Blu-Ray compared with thousands upon thousands of DVD choices.  And, of course, you are limited to things that just came out or a handful of classics that have already been reformatted.

Why would you want Star Wars when
classics like this are already available?

“So what?” say the manufacturers and studios, “They’re still new.  Give us time.  After all, there was a time when there were only a few titles available on DVD and now look at them!”

But this might not be true of Blu-Ray.  DVD was by most measures the fastest growing consumer technology of all time.  The pace of growth in the Blu-Ray market is laughable compared with the speed with which we converted to DVD.

There’s a reason for that, of course.  DVD offered a qualitative difference.  There was no more rewinding, no more fast forwarding to find the scene where Jackie Chan jumps off the building hand-cuffed and spins down in the bucket, you could actually see a still frame when you paused, you had bonus features, longer movies could fit on single discs, they were smaller, lighter, easier to transport and they had better picture and sound.  The advantages of Blu-Ray pale in comparison.

But even if there were substantial differences, the Blu-Ray player is a transitional technology.  All technologies are transitional, of course, but the Blu-Ray will be replaced much sooner when all movies go to…

 #8: Digital Downloads 

Even the pessimists admit that in another seven to ten years the technology will exist to stream and store movies in 1080i.  You can already hold three or four of them on your iPod nano so it won’t be long before you have something iPodish connected to the back of your TV that holds thousands of movies.  More likely you will subscribe to a service that allows you to watch movies from their massive library for a few bucks a month.

Of course, new technology has to be perfected to make this functional.  The most optimistic estimates say we are four or five years away from practical commercial application here.  So do you really want to spend upwards of a thousand dollars on a Blu-Ray and a modest collection of movies so you can have moderately better picture quality for the next half of a decade or so?

Aaron Davies

Do you disagree?  Do you just want to tell me how awesome I am?  Please leave a comment below.


  1. LOL! So entertaining and very informative! I have actually been wondering what the big deal is about blu-ray but too lazy I guess to find out. Since you posted your blog and enlightened me, I now know that I made the right choice in not buying one. So thank you very much for comparison shopping. (And, I will add that you are able to purchase movies thru netflix on the Nintendo Wii.)

  2. Having been burned by eight tracks, I was leery of transitioning to DVD. When Blu Ray came out I looked at the price and thought, "Fool me once........Thanks for encouraging me to hold the line at DVD.

  3. Was on the fence about blu-ray and I think you just pushed me over! I'm not a gamer so I was only thinking of changing because I assumed DVDs would be totally replaced, now not so sure