Just as there are £150 home cinemas and £70,000 custom installations, Blu-ray players exist to satisfy various hi-def desires.
There are three distinct standards of Blu-ray players in shops, all of which treat discs differently.
Early adopters who bought a Blu-ray player last year are now faced with the latest crop of decks that are cleverer – and often cheaper – than their own.
Some might cry foul and wonder why they should be expected to buy a Blu-ray player that could (and probably will) be considered ‘obsolete’ in the not too distant future.
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It’s a fair point, but how many of us have replaced our DVD players for one that can play Divx files? Or even upgraded our TVs to models with digital TV tuners?
It’s not unusual to have a tiered market for consumer electronics, and the Blu-ray market is no different.
Blu-ray: the story so far
Blu-ray players releases up until October last year were all Profile 1.0 machines. Big-sellers from the likes of Samsung, Sony, Loewe, LG and Sharp all sported HDMI outputs and offered a range of high-end features.
The key advantage of any Blu-ray machine, of course, is that they supply your HD-ready television with sparkling high-definition pictures.
Whatever Blu-ray player you plump for, this innate skill remains, and if you’re the type of person who never watches the ‘extras’ discs in your DVD collection, you’ve absolutely no need to worry about the differences between Profile 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0.
The main reason for buying a Blu-ray player is to enjoy cutting-edge, uncompressed, high-definition picture quality for movies – and all players are capable of doing just that.
It’s those of us who do want to access as much extra content – whether embedded in discs or available online – that should take note of what’s on offer on the new machines.
BonusView and BD Live
The ever-evolving Blu-ray disc format has two distinct platforms: BonusView and BD Live.
BonusView, otherwise known as Profile 1.1, is a minimum specification that all new Blu-ray players must comply with.
Often called ‘interactive’ features, in reality BonusView material found on new Blu-ray discs includes items like new camera angles, director’s commentaries and other extras.
Picture-in-picture display of certain extras is also only possible with Profile 1.1 (or later).
If your Blu-ray player is Profile 1.0 (part of the first wave of decks up until October 2007) you will not be able to see what extra content is on a Blu-ray disc – so you will not know what you’re missing!
You’ll sometimes see the terminology ‘BD Java-compatible’ applied to BonusView players. This relates to the software in a player that can read extra content on a Blu-ray disc that a Profile 1.0 player cannot.
As an aside, there’s absolutely no reason for a Profile 1.1 player to have an Ethernet port for connecting to the Internet.
Some do, but these are used more for features such as updating firmware, or (more impressively) plugging-in to a home network and playing MP3 music files or JPEG photos from stored on a PC on the same network.
The second set of specifications which are starting to creep into the market are Profile 2.0 players. Better know as BD Live, these players must be able to connect to the web.
The idea is to slip in a Blu-ray disc, which will invisibly access a website and either stream exclusive content off the Web to your Blu-ray machine, or download it.
The former requires an Ethernet port and for your machine to be connected to the Internet. The latter demands a hard disk drive on a Blu-ray machine for storing that content.