Just when you finally ditched all those VHS tapes in favor of DVD, another technology comes out promising even better picture quality and gobs of storage capacity - Blu-ray technology. But what exactly is a Blu-ray disc and is it worth the upgrade?
If Blu-ray sounds like a sci-fi laser beam to you, you're on the right track. No, it's not an alien death ray gun. While Blu-ray discs are sure to feature plenty of B movies crawling with aliens, the technology behind the format is high tech. Traditional DVD players use red laser beams to read and write the data. These red laser beams do the job however the blue-violet lasers that Blu-ray recorders and Blu-ray players use is far superior. The shorter wavelength of the blue lasers allows for greater focusing precision and tighter packaging of data.
A Blu-ray disc can hold more than five times the amount of data than a DVD disc, up to 50 gigabytes. And the Blu-ray technology promises to evolve with rumors of a multi-layer 200GB Blu-ray disc in the works. Now that's impressive! Imagine getting the entire Star Wars series on a single disc. The technology supports additional layering so today's Blu-ray players will be able to play tomorrow's multi-layer discs.
A key reason to consider investing in a Blu-ray player or recorder is to take advantage of its high definition capabilities. What good is that 50-inch HD plasma TV if you can't enjoy your movies in all their HD glory? Major movie studios support Blu-ray technology with many now releasing movies exclusively in the Blu-ray format. You won't have to toss your DVD collection either as Blu-ray players are backwards-compatible with DVDs.
If you remember the days of Betamax versus VHS, you may be concerned about format wars. Get over it! Major manufacturers including Sony, Apple, Hitachi, HP, Dell, JVC, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, LG, Pioneer, TDK, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, and Thomson are all on board and each played a part in the joint development of the Blu-ray technology.
The future is here folks. Now, if only someone would come out with an affordable jetpack.
Martin Wyman is a contributing author on Blu-ray News at http://www.mangotango.co.uk/technology-news/