Despite the buzz about Blu-ray, standard DVD players remain a viable and economical option; many are selling for less than $100. Here are issues to consider when choosing Blu-ray & DVD players:
Most standard DVD players we’ve tested recently provide excellent 480p picture quality to an HDTV. Many new players can also upconvert regular DVDs to pseudo-HD, often with good results. Does it make sense to buy one? If you need a player and don’t want Blu-ray, yes. If your DVD player is fine, maybe not.
Your TV must have an HDMI input to accept upconverted video. If you have an LCD or plasma set, it’s already upconverting the video from your existing player to match its native screen resolution. A specific player might or might not handle the conversion better than your TV. Buying an upconverting model gives you the option of using whichever device works better.
True high-definition images from a Blu-ray disc are inherently superior to video from a standard-definition DVD, even if it has been upconverted. A Blu-ray high-definition disc contains far more picture data, so images look more detailed and lifelike (see Ad Watch). You’ll see the benefits of a Blu-ray player most on a 1080p HDTV, which can display all the pixels in an image, but a 720p TV can display more detail from a high-definition disc than from a standard DVD.
Note that a Blu-ray player can send 1080p high-definition signals from a Blu-ray disc only via HDMI. With an older HDTV that lacks such an input, you can connect to the Blu-ray player via a component-video input to get 720p or 1080i high-definition signals.
When choosing Blu-ray & DVD players, keep in mind that they all support 5.1-channel surround sound (some offer 7.1) and can pass along digital signals. They can also decode the signals and pass the analog output (stereo and sometimes multichannel) to a receiver or TV with analog inputs. Most new Blu-ray players support high-resolution multichannel audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master audio.
If you want to enjoy high-definition movies on disc right away, shop holiday sales. Not in a rush? Wait a bit for price drops.
With Blu-ray there are three profiles, each with different features. If you don’t need the latest bells and whistles, buying an older Profile 1.0 player can save you $100 or more. Willing to spend more? Profile 1.1 models offer BonusView, a picture-in-picture feature that displays bonus content on some Blu-ray discs in a window while the main feature is onscreen. Profile 2.0 players add BD-Live, so you can access online content such as movie trailers when playing some Blu-ray discs.
For more help on choosing a DVD player, see our DVD Buying Guide.