The Technology Behind Blu-Ray: Are They Really Better?


Blu-ray discs came on the market in 2006. At the time, the media made a bunch of noise over what they called a ‘format war’ between Blu-ray and its competitor HD DVD. However, this so-called war quickly ended in a truce, and Blu-ray became the mainstream HD disc distributor. Despite that, DVDs still maintained market dominance. Consumers had access to what was marketed as a vastly superior product, and yet most still opted for the tried-and-true DVD.

Now, several years down the road, the dust has settled and we’re stuck with an important question: “Is Blu-ray really better than DVD?” The short answer is: without a doubt. That being said, no one would blame you for wanting to know more. To that end, let’s consider a few of the technological advantages that Blu-ray has over its passé cousin, the DVD player.

But before we get started, it’s important to bear in mind that final video quality depends greatly on equipment you use to display it. If we’re being 100 percent honest here, a Blu-ray player on a notebook with a 17-inch monitor is overkill. However, play a Blu-ray disc on an advanced home theatre, and the video quality can easily exceed that of even the cinema.

The following are some of the defining technological differences between Blu-ray and DVD:

The laser 

Blu-ray gets its catchy name from the blue laser diode that it uses to read discs (DVD lasers are red). Laser beams are measured in wavelengths, which is essentially the space it takes for the beam to complete a full cycle (think sine waves). Smaller wavelengths enable a smaller spot size, and that in turn means greater storage.

Compare the wavelengths for the following disc technologies:

  • CDs – 780 nanometres
  • DVDs – 650 nanometres
  • Blu-ray – 405 nanometres

The shorter the wavelength, the greater the storage capacity. Compare this to writing with a fine-pointed pen versus a thick-tipped marker. With the pen, you can write smaller letters and fit a lot more words on the page. Blu-ray discs operate by the same principle, because the laser beam is shorter and has a finer point.

Image quality 

All of that extra storage space means that Blu-ray discs can deliver a much higher image quality. DVDs can’t deliver a pixel resolution above 720 x 480. Blu-ray discs put this to shame with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (often abbreviated to 1080p).

Blu-ray also makes use of advanced video compression technology, which delivers richer colours and better contrast. Even more surprising, the high bit rate at which a Blu-ray player can read the disc means that videos it plays are vastly superior to HD television available via cable or satellite.

Audio quality 

It’s easy to overlook audio quality, especially when faced with the visual feast that Blu-ray delivers. However, there are major differences between Blu-ray audio and that of previous formats. DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD are two common audio formats. Played on the right speakers, either of these can deliver audio quality that’s virtually identical to the studio master. Audio literally doesn’t get any better than this – at least not yet.

About Niamh Carey:
Niamh Carey is a Tech and Business writer. She loves to write about the latest trend in technology such as DVD Players, 3D TV, LCD TV and LED TV. She also writes about travel and health.

Niamh Carey is a Tech and Business writer. She loves to write about the latest trend in technology such as DVD Players, 3D TV, LCD TV and LED TV. She also writes about travel and health.

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