What is Blu-ray?
Blu-ray (or Blu-ray Disc) is the disc format for high-definition content. A Blu-ray Disc may look similar to a standard DVD, but it delivers five times more information. This is largely possible because a Blu-ray player uses a blue laser with a shorter wavelength than the red laser used by a DVD player.
While DVDs and DVD players have done an excellent job of delivering digital content for many years, they were designed with standard-definition TVs in mind. The fact that a DVD player cannot produce a true high-definition picture becomes very clear when connected to a large flat-panel HDTV.
The expanded capacity of the Blu-ray Disc allows for a superb high-definition picture, one that takes full advantage of your HDTV's display potential. You can also output as many as 7.1 channels of native, uncompressed surround sound for crystal clear audio. With a smart Blu-ray player, you can even access instant entertainment like movies, music and social networking sites.
Blu-ray and 3D:
Blu-ray and 3D are not the same thing. A standard Blu-ray movie will not appear in 3D on your HDTV. There are, however, some 3D-ready Blu-ray players now available. This will allow you to play both standard (although not in 3D) and 3D Blu-ray movies. To watch a 3D Blu-ray movie in full HD 3D, you will also need a 3D-ready HDTV and compatible 3D glasses. Standard Blu-ray players have no ability to play 3D Blu-ray movies in 3D.
What do I need for my Blu-ray player to work?
You'll need an HDTV to display the high-resolution picture of a Blu-ray Disc. As a Blu-ray player can deliver up to 1080p output, a 1080p HDTV will obviously deliver the best possible picture. If you own a 720p or 1080i HDTV, Blu-ray movies will still look great, they just won't display at the highest possible resolution.
If you want 1080p video output and the finest possible sound transfer in one convenient cable, HDMI cable is the only choice for your connections. (DVI and component video cable are less desirable options for video output, plus you would need to use separate connections for the audio.)
To get your smart Blu-ray player communicating with your modem/router, you'll either need Ethernet cable (best choice), powerline Ethernet adapters, a wireless adapter, or a Blu-ray player with built-in Wi-Fi, or that is Wi-Fi ready.
Can I play DVDs/CDs in a Blu-ray player?
Absolutely. In fact, you can greatly improve the playback quality of your current DVDs when using a Blu-ray player.
A standard DVD player plays your DVDs at a video resolution of 480i. That produces a good quality picture, but it won't take advantage of your HDTV's higher resolution.
A Blu-ray player can upconvert your DVDs to 720p, 1080i or 1080p, depending on your HDTV and the connections you are using. While this will not provide the same high-definition quality of a Blu-ray movie, it should definitely improve the look of your DVDs when compared with a standard DVD player output.
Why should I connect my Blu-ray player to the Internet?
Simple, you'll get access to a huge amount of instant content. The services that are available differ from player to player, but a few of the possibilities include:
- Stream movies from Netflix (subscription required)
- Stream music from Pandora
- Watch videos from YouTube
- Access Facebook and Twitter
- Study your fantasy sports info
- Read news, weather and sports
- Access BD Live on compatible players
In addition, an Internet connection provides the easiest way to receive important firmware updates for your player (see the next question: "What is a firmware update?").
Connecting to the Internet
There are several options for linking up your smart Blu-ray player with your Internet signal (please confirm with your Internet service that you have a high-speed connection):
- A wired connection using Ethernet cable
- A wireless connection using a compatible wireless adapter
- A connection using powerline Ethernet adapters
Get a video overview of each of these in "Linking TV to the Net."
You can also purchase smart Blu-ray players that are Wi-Fi ready (compatible wireless adapter required) or that have Wi-Fi built in (wireless capability is built in, or wireless adapter is included).
Note on connecting wirelessly:
Older wireless networks using "G" or "B" technology are not recommended for home theater streaming and gaming applications. We recommend that you upgrade to an "N" router for the best experience.
What is a firmware update?
Firmware is a computer program inside your Blu-ray player that makes it possible to play movies and access other features. Occasionally, this firmware needs to be updated so you can get the latest enhancements and correct any minor glitches in performance. In essence, firmware "future-proofs" your player (to the extent that the hardware can support it) by letting you add features that weren't available when it was originally manufactured.
I'm having trouble with my new Blu-ray Disc
In order to provide the best possible picture and sound, many new Blu-ray Discs use advanced technology that may cause compatibility issues with some Blu-ray players. For example, a player may freeze when pausing or accessing special features. Blu-ray players that experience these kinds of problems will need a firmware update, after which playing your movie should work just fine.
How can I update the firmware on my Blu-ray player?
- The easiest solution is to get an automatic update over the Internet. When your player is connected to the Internet and you turn it on, you should be alerted via your HDTV screen whenever a new firmware update is available and then asked whether you want to install it. There should be an option in your menu settings to check whether an update is available, as well. Read more about connecting your player to the Internet.
- If you can't connect, the following steps should work for a majority of players:
- Go to your manufacturer's Web site and download the proper firmware onto your computer hard drive:
Visit this Geek Squad® page for links to even more Web sites.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions to update your player. Generally, this is done by copying the firmware update onto a USB Flash drive, or onto a CD using a program like Nero.
- Insert the USB drive or CD into your player and follow the instructions on the screen. (Note: It is very important to not interrupt the firmware update process once it has begun.)
Have other questions? Get them answered here.
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