Standard DVD player or Blu-ray?

Experts agree that a Blu-ray player is the way to go for most people, but standard DVD players still have their place, especially for those on tight budgets or without an HDTV. Most standard DVD players can upconvert DVDs to near-HD quality (though you won't see additional details), so you can still take advantage of an HDTV. Here are some other things to consider if you decide to go with a standard DVD player:

  • Upconverting DVD players can fill the gap for buyers who aren't yet ready to purchase a Blu-ray player. At the same time, Blu-ray Disc player performance has improved and prices have dropped. Blu-ray Disc players that do an excellent job with DVDs can be regularly had for less than $150, and sales and promotions can occasionally drop those prices even further. Budget players that are light on features but still produce excellent picture quality, especially with Blu-ray Discs, sell for less than $100. Still, if you are on the tightest of budgets, or simply don't want to make the transition, DVD players continue to have a role, and while the best upconverting DVD players won't provide all of the details of a high-definition disc, they will rival their picture quality in many other ways.
  • Upconversion allows you to see standard DVDs in near-HD quality on HDTVs. Reviews say the amount of image improvement you'll see with an upconverting DVD player depends on your HDTV. Some HDTVs can do a better job of scaling DVDs than upconverting DVD players themselves. Still, because upconverting DVD players aren't much more expensive than non-upconverting players, most reviews say it's a worthwhile feature -- as long as you don't expect miracles.
  • Use the HDMI output if possible with an upconverting DVD player. These are standard on upconverting DVD players, and are required to see video that's been upconverted by the player. For HDTVs without an HDMI input, you can also use component video, S-video or composite video, but you'll need to rely on your TV for any upconversion. If your HDTV has a DVI port but not HDMI, you can get an inexpensive adapter. HDMI is an all-digital connection that protects signal quality as it passes from deck to display. It also carries the audio signal, allowing for one-cable setup between source and destination. Most manufacturers do not bother to include the cable, although HDMI cables are readily available for less than $10.
  • For standard players, look for component video outputs. Now found on most models, these outputs break down color signals for better accuracy, but they can only be used in conjunction with TVs that have corresponding inputs.
  • These standard and upconverting DVD players can't record movies or videos onto a DVD. If you are interested in making your own DVDs, see our report on DVD recorders. These models are more expensive than the players discussed here, however, and many are challenging to use.

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