Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) arrived in the late 90's and went on to become the most successful consumer electronics product in history. As a result, DVD players are almost as common as televisions in modern living rooms.
The introduction of DVD players heralded the move from analogue to digital video. Unlike our old VCRs, DVD players used discs that held digital data rather than raw video. The data stored on DVD discs is encoded in a format called MPEG2, and DVD players will decode that data and then output the resulting video and audio to your television.
One key advantage that DVD players have over old VCR decks is picture quality. Compared to what you'd get from a VHS tape, DVD players are in a completely different league, with far brighter, clearer and sharper image quality.
DVD players can also playback compact discs, so there's no need to have a CD player in your living room - DVD players can do it all. DVD discs can be dual sided and dual layered, but all DVD players can read all types of disc.
What is Blu-ray?
DVD players have been around a while and when HDTVs hit the scene, a new disc standard was needed. Initially, there was a format was between HD DVD players and Blu-ray players. Eventually, Blu-ray won, leaving HD DVD players obsolete. Now that Blu-ray is the only high definition disc available, it's worth investing in a Blu-ray player.
Just like DVD players, Blu-ray players use discs that are filled with digital data. The main difference is that while DVD players use discs that can store up to 9GB of data per side, Blu-ray players use discs that can store up to 50GB of data per side. It's this extra capacity that makes Blu-ray the ideal medium for high definition video and Blu-ray players the ideal partner for an HDTV.
Blu-ray players will pump crystal clear, 1080p movies to your TV, giving you the best possible experience. Blu-ray players will also happily play DVD discs too, so they can act as direct replacements for DVD players. Just like DVD players, Blu-ray players can also playback compact discs, so can be used for music duties as well as video.
DVD players are very affordable these days, but there are some key features that are worth looking for in DVD players. If you've got a high definition TV you need to look at DVD players with upscaling. Upscaling DVD players will take the standard definition DVD signal and increase its resolution to high definition. It won't look as good as a true high definition movie, but it will look better than a standard DVD.
If you've got an HDTV, you should be considering DVD players that sport an HDMI port. HDMI is a digital interface that ensures that there is no picture quality lost when the video signal is transferred from the player to your TV.
Many DVD players also ship with USB ports, allowing you to plug in a USB memory stick and playback still images and even video without the need to transfer your files to a DVD disc. Different DVD players support different video standards for USB streaming, so make sure you check that your preferred format is supported.
Blu-ray players are stuffed with features, and that's besides the obvious ability to playback high definition movies on your flat screen TV. But Blu-ray players aren't just about better picture quality, they also offer much improved sound quality.
When DVD players launched, they brought with them Dolby Digital and eventually DTS surround sound. Now Blu-ray players have moved the game on again by providing Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS Master Audio HD. These two high definition audio formats use lossless compression, which means that what you hear on the disc, should be identical to what the sound engineers heard in the studio.
Blu-ray players can also connect to the Internet via an Ethernet port, or even a wireless connection. The Internet connection allows the player to keep its firmware up to date, which could add new features. But more importantly, it allows you to download additional content for your Blu-ray discs, like interactive games or new movie trailers.
Some Blu-ray players also support 3D playback. If you have a 3D TV, you'll want a 3D Blu-ray player to go with it.
DVD & Blu-ray players both need a few accessories in order to get the best results. The best way to connect both DVD & Blu-ray players to your HDTV is an HDMI cable, which will transfer both video and audio from DVD & Blu-ray players to the TV.
To get the best possible audio experience you should connect DVD & Blu-ray players to a home cinema amplifier. A home cinema amp takes the audio stream from DVD & Blu-ray players, decodes it and then pumps the sound out to a set of surround sound speakers.
A set of surround sound speakers for DVD & Blu-ray players generally comprises five satellite speakers and a subwoofer. Three speakers are placed to the front of you, while two are placed behind you - the subwoofer can be placed anywhere. Some surround sound systems offer wireless rear speakers, which will make setup far simpler.
DVD & Blu-ray players that have USB ports will require USB memory keys to plug into them, so it's worth stocking up on a couple when you buy. Also, some Blu-ray players require a USB memory stick on which to store downloaded data from the Internet.