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So You Want A Ray Disc Player?

Jul 29, 2008
In the format war, the Blu Ray disc by Sony has triumphed over Toshiba's HD DVDs. However, there are still many choices to make.

Do you want the Blu Ray disc player version 1.0, version 2.0, a Sony PlayStation3 with Blu Ray compatibility, or just a DVD up-converter? These days, buying your next movie player will be similar to purchasing a computer. You will have to decide what features are worth paying for and consider the idea that upgrades may be necessary in the future.

If you were an early bird buyer, then you have the original prototypical Blu Ray disc 1.0 player. "The earliest Blu-ray player, Profile 1.0, are dinosaurs already," reports The Courant's Kevin Hunt.

"Consumers who dropped $1,500 on a player a year ago cannot update their players." These bare bones players offer the high-definition 1920x1080 pixels with superior coding and 7.0 surround-sound audio, but offer little in terms of extra features and menu options. Developers admit they probably should have just waited a year for the unveiling, but they were compelled to hurry up and compete in the Sony vs. Toshiba bidding war.

The 1.1 Blu Ray disc player quickly followed, featuring "BonusView" picture-in-picture commentary, like the surfing menus on Dish Network, secondary audio-video decoders and 256 MB of local on-disc storage.

Experts say that buyers who bought the earliest version will still be able to play BR 1.1 movies, although some of the bonus features may not work. As of right now, all the Blu Ray disc releases have been in 1.0, though, so no worries. "Sunshine" is the first 1.1 release scheduled for the first quarter of 2008. Panasonic has 1.1 Blu Ray players for about $500 and market research analyst Paul Erickson says Profile 1.1 players will become the standard by next Christmas, with prices likely dropping below $200.

A lot of people call the Sony PlayStation3 a "best buy in Blu Ray players." In addition to allowing firmware upgrades, like the other Profile 2.0 Blu Ray disc players, the PS3 can also play some of the most advanced video games ever developed, stream media over the internet, play DivX videos, send photos and video over a home network and allow BD-Live functionality. "It will be the cheapest BD-Live player by the end of the year," predicts Paul Erickson of DisplaySearch market research. While stand-alone Blu Ray players range from $400 - $1,000, you can get a PS3, which can be upgraded, for just $399.
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