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Blu-ray Disc Picture Quality Redux

4 Sep, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Earlier this week I wrote a blog entry in which I said our industry needs to do a better job playing up the advantages of Blu-ray Disc over standard DVD, just in picture quality. I noted that the picture really is dramatically better, at least when viewed on a top-notch TV, and that we need to spread the word after several years of downplaying the difference in favor of hyping BD Live and other high-tech innovations.

So now, I'd like to share with you a post I unearthed from last March in which Eric Taub, a Gadgetwise blogger for the New York Times, talks about this difference, one that he frankly wasn't expecting. Taub wrote this piece when Toshiba, which just announced its first Blu-ray Disc player, was still hawking its DVD upconverters —and skeptics like Taub were saying forget about Blu-ray, DVD's just fine.

"I’m a big fan of the DVD format," Taub wrote. "It offers a quantum leap in picture quality as compared to videotape, longer-lasting media and random rather than linear access. But I’ve always questioned the benefits of Blu-ray; picture quality looks very good but I’m perfectly happy with standard-def DVDs. Unless you like Blu-ray’s extra features, like BD Live, the incremental difference in picture quality didn’t seem worth the expense. To check out my assumptions, I did two side-by-side tests. I connected Toshiba’s XD-E500 (a DVD upconverter) and Panasonic’s sub-$300 (discontinued) DMP-BD35K Blu-ray players to a 46-inch Panasonic 1080p plasma set, the TH-46PZ850U. I ran the same movie in both simultaneously, the De Niro/Pacino thriller Righteous Kill, using Blu-ray and standard DVD copies, jogging back and forth between the inputs to make instant comparisons in picture quality. Then I switched out the Toshiba for a simple Sony progressive scan DVD player that cost me $70 three years ago. The results: the XD-E image was better than the old Sony, but not by much. And both looked quite good. On the other hand, the Blu-ray machine simply blew away both standard-definition players. The difference was dramatic. The Blu-ray images were smooth, sharp and rich. Every scene “popped” with a clarity and presence never seen with standard DVD, making the scenes, whether daytime exteriors or heavily shadowed interior club scenes, come alive. The difference in picture quality between Blu-ray and standard-definition DVD was very obvious. But the difference is accentuated when you get the chance to flip back and forth between the two. Just as many owners of rear-projection DLP sets don’t notice that their picture is getting dimmer over time, many owners of standard-definition DVD players will be perfectly happy with the picture quality, and won’t notice what they’re missing, unless they have something better, such as Blu-ray, with which to compare it. Blu-ray player prices continue to fall.... The cost difference between the two is barely more than $100, and once that declines even further, there will be little reason for the average consumer not to choose Blu-ray when looking for a DVD machine."

For Taub's complete blog, click here.

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