With streaming apps providing instant access to 4K content on TVs, game consoles, computers, and streaming sticks and boxes, it’s easy to forget about the Blu-ray Disc. But, as old-fashioned as it sounds to reach the movie shelf and slip a disc into a drive, there are still some major benefits that come with physical media.
From improving picture and sound quality to the joys of keeping a collection of movies on a living room shelf, physical media like Blu-rays still have a place in the most connected smart home. . Here are some of the reasons why you should always consider buying Ultra HD Blu-rays.
Improved image and audio quality
The main reason to stick with discs, at least for your favorite movies, is to ensure perfect picture and sound quality. This is all due to the compression and how streaming services like Netflix are constantly struggling to strike a balance between picture quality and the smoothness of each stream.
Readers will surely be familiar with the drop in resolution of streaming movies when your internet connection struggles to keep up. And even if you have a super-fast connection with a waterproof Wi-Fi (or, better yet, an Ethernet connection between you and the movie catalog), the compression is still in progress.
Compression is where individual frames in a video are adjusted or even removed to reduce the overall file size, making it easier to stream regardless of your internet connection speed. If fully decompressed, a 4K movie would be huge – too large to fit on your computer, let alone on a Blu-ray disc – so even those on the disc are compressed to some extent.
But streaming movies are compressed more, with the quality changing dynamically as your internet speed increases and decreases. In comparison, the compression and quality of a movie on an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc never changes. It’ll also play at the highest quality possible, every time – and that quality is, for now at least, still better than a stream.
Higher bit rate means improved image qualityiStock
How much higher, you may be asking. There is no definitive answer, as a 4K Blu-ray and a 4K stream will both display an image with a resolution of 3840 x 2160. But where they differ is the amount of data sent to your TV. every second, known as the bit rate. . Netflix streams plunged in 2020, with 4K dropping from around 15 Mbps (or megabits per second) to just eight in some cases. At the other end of the streaming spectrum, Apple TV’s 4K content can reach 30 or even 40 Mbps, according to tests conducted by Flat panels HD.
In comparison, a UHD Blu-ray disc can reach over 80 Mbps or even 100 Mbps, which means more data is sent to your screen, resulting in a smoother and better picture.
Like 4K streams, 4K Blu-ray movies also have HDR and benefit from additional video formats like HDR10, HDR10 +, and Dolby Vision. The throughput and additional data contained on a disc means they are all improved over their counterparts on a 4K stream.
Another plus here is the fact that the disc often includes the lossless audio option, so if you have a quality surround sound system your ears will benefit as much from the physical medium as your eyes.
When it comes to getting the best possible quality, you might not care about buying older movies on UHD Blu-ray, but when it comes to epics like Lord Of The Rings, who was remastered in 4K by Peter Jackson himself, your TV is surely your TV. deserves more than a low rate stream.
A digital copy is included
It’s true that UHD Blu-ray movies generally cost more than digital purchases, and sometimes a single title on disc can cost up to a month of 4K Netflix. But most of these discs also include a digital 4K version, ready to download and watch from services like MoviesAnywhere and Vudu. This way, you can enjoy high-quality, high-speed movie on your home theater system with the Blu-ray disc, and watch the same movie on your computer or mobile device elsewhere using the digital code.
They will always belong to you and are region-free
The physical medium is still yours iStock
Buying a physical medium is to appropriate a good that really belongs to you, to do as you wish. You can store them on a shelf, lend them to friends, resell them, or take them to the charity store for someone else to enjoy. This is not the case with streaming services, which often modify their movie catalogs.
Content comes and goes regularly from services like Netflix, so you never really know if your favorite movie will be there when you want to watch it. We love Roku in this situation because its global search feature helps you find movies on as many streaming services as you have accounts. That way, if a movie goes missing from Netflix, Roku could find it for you on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, or elsewhere. It will also offer options to purchase a digital version.
While this is certainly convenient, there are still some shortcomings when comparing downloads with discs. Indeed, the film catalogs offered by streaming companies vary from region to region. The collection of Netflix movies in the United States is not the same as that in the United Kingdom, for example. The same goes for digital purchases, where you may have to switch between regions of the Apple Store if you move to another country and want to re-download the movies you bought years ago. . It is possible to recover old deleted purchases, but it is not always as easy as putting a disc in the drive.
Where DVDs and Blu-rays were region-locked, often preventing you from playing them in countries other than where they were first purchased, UHD Blu-rays do not. They are region-free and can be played anywhere in the world, regardless of where the disc and player were purchased.
UHD Blu-ray players to consider
UHD Blu-ray players are available from under $ 200Sony
Big names like Samsung and Oppo have all left the UHD Blu-ray player market in recent years, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid buying one from another manufacturer.
As with most technologies, prices for UHD Blu-ray players have dropped significantly since their arrival a few years ago. The LG UBK80 currently (as of March 2021) costs around $ 120, while the Sony UBP-X700 is just over $ 200. There are several options around $ 250, and some stretch beyond $ 300 due to their enhanced HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos capabilities. Some also have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections to access streaming apps.
The Panasonic DP-UB820-K currently costs $ 500, as it has Ethernet and Wi-Fi, as well as support for 7.1 surround sound, in addition to being compatible with CDs, DVDs and DVDs. Classic Blu-rays, which it goes to 4K.
It’s also worth remembering that today’s game consoles also play UHD Blu-rays. This includes the PS5, Xbox One X, and Xbox Series X.
As for the films themselves, most cost between $ 15 and $ 25 when new, with prices dropping a bit over time. Boxsets can still be cheaper per movie, with some titles dropping to just $ 8 each, which is less than downloading a lower-quality 4K movie from a digital service.
Buying a UHD Blu-ray player and movies on disc can seem like a step backwards, and potentially expensive too, at least to begin with. But if you have a high-end TV and sound system and enjoy great cinema when you see it, the improvement in quality alone should justify the extra investment, especially when it comes to contemporary blockbusters.