Before streaming became the preferred way to watch movies, many people bought or rented them on video disks that they played on a dedicated device hooked up to their television. The last major iteration of this technology was Blu-ray.
Blu-rays are similar to DVDs except they allow denser storage, better sound recording, and a high definition (HD) picture. DVDs will play on a Blu-ray player, but Blu-ray will not play on a DVD player, so of the two, Blu-ray is more desirable.
But with the widespread availability of streaming services–including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon–it’s legitimate to ask if you need a dedicated Blu-ray player.
One of the main advantages streaming services have over a Blu-ray player is their convenience. While you need a physical Blu-ray disc to access content on a Blu-ray player, to stream you need a smart TV (or cable service) and a subscription to a premium streaming service (though there are free services, too).
Does the Blu-ray have any features that could challenge the streaming alternatives?
Types of Blu-ray Players
There are two types of Blu-ray players. You can get either an HD Blu-ray player or 4K Ultra-HD (UHD) Blu-ray player.
HD Blu-ray Player
An HD Blu-ray player is also known as a standard Blu-ray player. It is a better alternative to the DVD player because it has 1080p quality and displays every pixel in an image. A standard Blu-ray player works best on an HDTV.
Some models have a feature known as 4K upscaling. 4K upscaling is the process of converting content from 1080i and 1080p resolution to 4K UHD resolution. Some UHD TVs perform 4K upscaling, but the standard Blu-ray usually converts better.
4K Ultra-HD Player
If you have a 4K Ultra-HD TV, you may want a 4K UHD Blu-ray player because the resolution is twice as good as a standard HD Blu-ray player.
The 4K UHD Blu-ray player offers the following features:
- High Dynamic Range (HDR). Blu-ray 4K has HDR10, the highest and best contrast between the darkest and brightest images and colors. (Some also support formats like Dolby Vision, but you need a TV that supports Dolby Vision to use the format.)
- Higher resolution. 4K UHD Blu-ray players display four times more pixels than standard HD Blu-ray for twice the resolution: 2160p. It also upscales Standard Blu-ray content to quasi 4K UHD resolution.
- High-quality sound. They also have digital outputs to enable you to connect your audio system. Formats like Dolby Atmos have a more immersive audio experience by interpreting sounds as objects rather than channels. It enables you to hear individual sounds like animal noises or rain.
- Versatility. 4K UHD players support CDs, DVDs, standard Blu-ray, and connect to streaming services like Netflix or Amazon.
How 4K UHD Players Compare to Streaming Services
Despite the launch of streaming services, 4K UHD players still have many advantages:
4K UHD Blu-ray players have a better picture resolution than streaming services. Moreover, they upscale content to 4K resolution. However, it would be best if you had a 4K TV for the Blu-ray player to work.
On the other hand, streaming services do not offer 4K resolution, which costs extra if they do. For example, Netflix charges $8.99 for standard service and $11.99 for premium 4K streaming services. On the other hand, Amazon Prime offers HD (1080p) and 4K (2160p) in one package. A streaming service like BritBox only supports a maximum resolution of 720p.
Some streaming services like Amazon and Netflix support Dolby Atmos. However, some streaming services may lack Dolby Atmos, and you may need to pay more to access it in some other services. For example, on Netflix, you can only access 4K sound on the premium package, which costs more.
Many films are released on Blu-ray before they are streamed, so you have earlier access. Oftentimes they also have bonus features available nowhere else.
Then, some films leave streaming services or you leave the streaming service. Either way, you lose access to them. If you have them on Blu-ray, you can watch them anytime.
Moreover, some movies are never available on streaming platforms. These include international or old movies. People still treasure VHS tapes of films that never made it to DVD. If you have it on disk and have a Blu-ray player, you don’t have to depend on the whims of streaming services.
Furthermore, streaming services need to sign any contracts to get various movies on their platforms. These contracts cost the company a lot of money, and in some cases, they may not generate enough views and revenue.
Does Blu-ray Have Smart Features?
In addition to playing disks, Blu-ray has smart features, too, including:
- Pre-installed streaming apps. If you don’t have a smart TV, a smart Blu-ray player will let you stream on apps like Netflix or Amazon. (They have advantages, too. Many produce their own original content.)
- App Store. Use the app store to download more apps.
- Screen Mirroring. It lets you view the screen of a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet on the TV.
Do You Need a Blu-ray Player?
Some say the Blu-ray player is unnecessary, even obsolete, thanks to streaming. If you have a gaming console with a disk slot (such as PlayStation 5 or Xbox One), you can watch Blu-rays, DVDs, and stream without a Blu-ray device.
However, a 4K UHD Blu-ray still has better sound and picture. There are films and TV shows available (or once available and still in your library) on Blu-ray and DVD that are not available on your streaming service and may contain bonus features.
Not that you should ditch your streaming services, either. They complement each other.
So, yes, there are still good reasons to invest in a Blu-ray player and keep your Blu-ray library. Only you can say if you need one. With Blu-ray player sales forecast to grow over the next five years, the likelihood is that they will continue to improve over time.