Is Now the Right Time to Upgrade to Blu-ray?

Making the Switch to Blu-Ray

The Cost
When Blu-ray players first came on the market, the initial selling price for disc players was at least a whopping $400. To make matters worse, movies, depending on the title, went for at least $35. However, the prices of both the players and movies have recently decreased significantly. Depending on the brand name of the player, you can now find one for at least $60. And with the movies, many titles are now under $10. As you can see, the cost gap between Blu-ray and standard DVD's has narrowed considerably.

However, if you have yet to purchase an LCD or Plasma TV with at least 720p resolution, this can put a dent in your total upgrade cost. Blu-ray’s big selling point compared to DVD is its greater resolution, but if you don’t currently have a television to support this resolution, you won’t notice the difference. The good thing is that there are some fantastic deals available on TVs of all sizes this year, covered in our television buying guide. Especially impressive is Target’s Westinghouse 40” 1080p LCD for $298, a deal we consider among the best you’ll find this Black Friday. This will likely be your greatest cost when upgrading, especially depending on what size you're looking to get or if you want to purchase a 1080p television.

In addition, to truly get the noticeable sound difference that Blu-ray fans rave about, you need to also add a sound system that supports the audio formats on the discs. You can listen to Blu-ray movies through your television speakers, but the audio quality will sound roughly the same as it would with regular DVD. This is because Blu-ray supports “lossless” audio and standard DVD does not. The term refers to the fact that Blu-ray audio does not have any drop in sound quality from the studio to the home. To truly capture the audio experience that Blu-ray can offer, you need to get a home theater system that supports these “lossless” audio formats.

The best deal you’ll find on one of these systems on Black Friday is at Wal-Mart where they’re offering a Philips Blu-ray home theater system for $198. If you’d like to look elsewhere, Best Buy, hhgregg, and Kmart (theirs is part of the Thanksgiving sale) all offer systems between $250 - $300.

If you consider the added cost of a 720p or 1080p LCD television as well as a home theater, your total cost for hardware alone can run you at least around $550 – and that’s if you were to pick up the best deals on Black Friday. This, of course, is estimated cost if you plan to experience the full capabilities of Blu-ray technology and need to upgrade everything. If you already own a HDTV, or aren’t necessarily concerned about hearing lossless audio, your upgrade cost will not be as high as our estimate.

Should You Make The Switch?
As with any new technology, the prices of Blu-ray players and movies will continue to drop. You’ll eventually be able to pick up a Blu-ray player for the same price as a traditional DVD player, which retail now for around $25. But by that time, there may already be even better technology available, showing the trade-off that comes with lower prices for once cutting-edge technology.

The most important thing to consider before investing in the switch from standard DVD to Blu-ray is how much you enjoy watching movies. If popping in a flick for a night of entertainment is important to you, and you think you would benefit from the increased audio and video quality, then purchasing a Blu-ray player is something to consider. Right now, it's only an extra $30 or $40 in upfront costs for the player, and the Blu-ray discs themselves are quite affordable. You can still play your old, standard DVDs as well, so there is no need to replace your existing DVD library unless you want an upgrade in image quality.

The big problem comes with the cost of upgrading your television and/or home theater system. With these upgrades, you will see a noticeable difference compared to standard DVD, but it’s quite the expense if you don’t spend a lot of time in front of your TV. If you’re not all that concerned about an increase in sound quality, you may want to think about just looking into a 720 or 1080p television if you don’t already own one. You won’t be watching movies in their optimal setting, but a Blu-ray home theater will be quite the extra expense to those looking to upgrade on a budget.

Final Words
Now is a great time to consider the upgrade, especially since Blu-ray is one of the technologies a lot of retailers are focusing on this Black Friday. Just remember to avoid some of the pitfalls related to Black Friday deals shopping and look through the ads of both brick and mortar stores and online retailers to find the best possible prices, especially since there are multiple items to consider.

Traditional DVDs will be around for a while longer, but an upgrade may be the way to go in the long run. Since Blu-ray is becoming increasingly popular, and affordable, Black Friday may be the right time to think about making the leap to Blu-ray. Investing in the full experience will cost you, so if you aren’t an avid film or television person, you may want to consider leaving out the home theater system, at least for the time being.



This is a guest article by David Bakke, who writes about personal finance on MoneyCrashers.com. In addition to financial topics like budgeting, smart shopping, and getting out of debt, David enjoys covering other areas including technology and entrepreneurship based on his own personal experiences.

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November 21, 2010
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