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How to Choose a Blu-Ray Disc Player

Ready to choose a Blu-Ray disc player? You're likely to choose a Blu-ray disc player based upon generic characteristics such as price, brand name, and aesthetics because most units already offer advanced features such as HDMI outputs and upconversion. Pretty easy, huh?

Keep the following details in mind when you compare Blu-ray disc players:

  • Video output formats: The Blu-ray disc is the only disc-based source of the highest-resolution video format (1080p), and all Blu-ray disc players can send a 1080p signal to your HDTV via an HDMI cable.

    Many Blu-ray disc players are also capable of sending a specific kind of 1080p signal — 1080p24 — to HDTVs that can display this format. The 24 here refers to the frame rate of the video; most movies are filmed at 24 frames per second. If your TV and Blu-ray disc player both support 1080p24, you can get the best playback of movies using this format.

  • Surround-sound formats: It’s worth looking for players that can handle the surround-sound formats that provide a superior surround-sound experience — the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats.

    Blu-ray disc players can deal with TrueHD and DTS-HD in two ways:

    • Internal decoding: With an internal decoder, a chip inside the Blu-ray player decodes the surround sound from TrueHD or DTS-HD (as opposed to a chip inside your receiver doing the decoding, which is typical for regular DTS or Dolby Digital). The internally decoded surround sound is then sent to your receiver over analog audio cables or over HDMI in a PCM format.

    • Bitstream output: A few Blu-ray disc players can send the TrueHD or DTS-HD bitstream — the undecoded audio bits as recorded on the Blu-ray disc — to your receiver over an HDMI connection. This approach allows your receiver to decode TrueHD or DTS-HD internally, yielding the highest possible sound quality.

  • Player profiles: All Blu-ray disc players can play high-definition 1080p movies with great surround-sound performance. Some, however, can do additional stuff that has nothing to do with picture or sound quality.

    Specifically, some Blu-ray disc players support two feature sets:

    • BonusView: BonusView is an enhanced menu and extras system for Blu-ray. BonusView includes secondary audio and video circuitry that lets you do things such as view a secondary video source in a picture-in-picture window, or hear a secondary audio source (such as a director’s voiceover) while you listen to the primary soundtrack.

    • BD-Live: BD-Live brings the Internet to your Blu-ray disc player. With BD-Live your Blu-ray disc player can access Internet sites related to the movie or video you’re watching. BD-Live can be used to provide up-to-date supplementary content to a movie (such as previews and trailers, commentary, and other bonus content). BD-Live can even be used for interactive features such as online chat or content relevant to you.

  • Startup times: A seemingly trivial characteristic that can end up driving you crazy is startup time — the amount of time between pressing the On button on your Blu-ray disc player and the movie starting to play on your HDTV screen. If a Blu-ray disc player has a good startup time, the manufacturer will probably advertise that fact, and reviews will mention it.

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