The arrival of
EARLIER THIS YE AR, Blu-ray emerged as the w inner in the highly publicized high-definition format
war, edging out its rival, HD DVD. What does this
mean, exactly? Blu-ray Disc—which can deliver true
high-definition (HD) 1080p resolution on a compatible television—is now the universal standard as
a replacement for the DVD. All of the major
Hollywood studios are supporting Blu-ray.
As Blu-ray becomes more popular, it’s a good
time to take a look at this new format: what it is, what
you need to get going and what Blu-ray player features
are worth looking for.
What is it?
DVDs look good, sure, but Blu-ray Disc looks
spectacular. Going from DVD to Blu-ray is like slip-ping on a pair of prescription glasses for the first time.
Because of its unprecedented level of detail, Blu-ray
movies can look so real it’s like being there.
A movie on Blu-ray delivers up to 1,080 lines of
resolution on a compatible high-definition television,
compared to 480 lines of resolution on a DVD-based
movie. A more accurate way of thinking about it is a
Blu-ray Disc can display up to about 2 million pixels
(the little dots that make up the image), compared to
about 345,000 pixels for a DVD.
This is possible because a Blu-ray Disc can hold
up to 10 times more data than a DVD—even though
they look virtually the same. This extra space on the
disc is required to deliver gorgeous visuals, along with
other benefits, including better-sounding audio tracks
and many bonus features.
What you need
You don’t need to have an HDTV to see Blu-ray
movies, but a 1080p HDTV enables you to enjoy the
full benefits of Blu-ray.
What is required, however, is a Blu-ray player.
Available from many manufacturers, such as Sony,
Panasonic and Samsung, Blu-ray machines are “
backward compatible”—they’ll play your current DVD
movies. In fact, these high-definition players can also
“upconvert” your existing DVDs to essentially double
their output resolution, which means they will look
much better than when they are played on a regular
DVD player. A PlayStation 3 video game console can
also play Blu-ray Discs.
Finally, for an immersive movie-theater-like
experience, you can connect the Blu-ray player to an
audio-video receiver instead of the TV.
This allows you to hook up a 5. 1 (or
higher) speaker setup: a center speaker
for most of the movie’s dialogue; left
and right front speakers; left and right
rear speakers; and the subwoofer,
which delivers the rumbling bass.
10 80p, BonusView and BD-Live
There are a few other bu zzwords to
know when researching a Blu-ray player.
• Blu-ray players are capable of displaying movies in 1080p resolution, the highest-quality
video available. The “p” refers to “progressive,” meaning all 1,080 lines on the screen are drawn simultaneously. The older interlaced (“i”) method draws the
even and odd lines in a quick alternating fashion. The
bottom line is that progressive resolution produces a
sharper and smoother picture than interlaced.
The caveat is that you need a 1080p-compatible
HDTV to take advantage of this feature. Otherwise,
the lines will be drawn in an interlaced fashion. (Don’t
worry, it will still look great.)
• One of the newest Blu-ray player features is pic-ture-in-picture functionality, also known as
BonusView. This allows for simultaneous video and
audio streams, such as having a small window with
video commentary while watching the feature film.
• The latest Blu-ray players add online connectivity
with a feature called BD-Live. When the player is connected to a high-speed Internet connection—via a
wired connection or wireless, as with the PlayStation
3 console—you can do neat things, such as access
trailers for current theatrical releases, download language packs for the film, text-chat in real time with
friends in another city during films, get free movie-related ring tones, play online multiplayer games or
upload custom-made content such as your own audio
commentary. Features will vary by movie title.
As you can see, Blu-ray has a lot to promise. Are
you ready to jump on the Blu-ray bandwagon? C
The Costco Connection
Costco carries a variety of Blu-ray Disc players
and movies in the warehouses and at costco.com.
HDTVs, cameras and many other electronics purchased at Costco are backed by free technical support through the Costco Concierge program.
electronics or computers
you purchased at
Costco? Send them to:
The Costco Connection
P.O. Box 34088
Seattle, WA 98124-1088
Or fax to (425) 313-6718,
or e-mail to
in the subject line. Marc
will answer selected ques-
tions in this column. We
regret that unpublished
questions cannot be
a leading high-tech
reporter, contributes to
more than three dozen
prominent publications, appears on radio
and TV, and is the
author of 14 books.