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With HD-DDV now officially joining Betamax in that great unwanted media dump in the sky, Blu-ray is definitely the way to go for high-definition DVD viewing. With capacities between 25GB and 50GB, and bigger discs on the way, plus full 1080p playback, it's now safe to say that Blu-ray is here to stay, and prices are much more reasonable than they were before.

Before you go for a Blu-ray player, however, make sure you have a TV that supports high-definition images (most will have a sticker on them somewhere with HD-ready'?written on it. Some 'HD' TVs, however, won't support the full image quality of Blu-ray discs, so check that yours supports 1080p playback, although those that provide 720p playback will handle Blu-ray just fine, but with a slightly reduced picture quality (see our TV Buyer's Guide).

Now that you've checked your TV can handle its end of things, make sure you get a player with multiple ports. HDMI (uncompressed digital video and audio signal) and Component (uncompressed video signal) are the only ports that support HD, though you can watch the content through Composite (A/V, RCA) or S-Video (video only). And it must have the digital audio output option, to take advantage of the incredible sound available through Blu-ray and surround sound. A digital AV receiver is also a very good idea, especially if you want to get 5.1 or even 7.1 channel audio.

Some of the earlier Blu-ray players aren't compatible with each other, although retailers and manufacturers aren't keen to point this out to you and may offer a fantastic purchase price for a machine that isn't always compatible with the discs or peripherals you want to use it with. So look for a 'profile 2 player', which avoids nearly all these problems, coming with a network connection, which lets their firmware be updated automatically. They also tend to be newer, and have had the bugs ironed out. Profile 2 also allows you to interact with the internet, so you can do cool things like downloading the latest previews or live updates to a disc. If you're not sure whether the player you've got your eye is profile 2 or not, look to see if it has an Ethernet port. If it does, then it's probably profile 2.

Some Blu-ray players work on a slightly different platform in different geographical areas. It breaks down like this: Region A: The Americas (including Canada and Latin America) as well as east and south-east Asia; Region B: Africa, Europe, The Middle East and Oceania (that includes Australia) and Region C: China, Russia, India and the former Soviet nations. If you plan to buy discs from countries in different regions, or travel with your player, it's worth checking that any discs you buy will work for the format where you bought the player.

When you decided on a player, check to make sure that it comes complete with the HDMI lead that connects it to your TV, as these are very expensive to buy separately. Oh, and if you've got a Playstation 3, put your money back in your wallet, because the console comes with one of the best Blu-ray players available already built in.

Author R. Germain
date added Tue 04 08 2009

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