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Picture Quality Comparisons Between Blu-ray, Apple TV HD & SD, HD Cable VOD, and DVD

Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2008 6:35 PM and updated on Thursday, February 14th, 2008 8:24 PM

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With Blu-ray becoming the HD heir-apparent to DVD home video, it has to deal with four major issues facing it before it can achieve mainstream success. The first two are the price and quality of Blu-ray players and the number of titles available. These two issues will hopefully work themselves out in the coming year. The last two, however, are topics that I've raised before:

  • many people consider DVD to be good enough
  • HD downloads are becoming more possible than ever

Many people, including one person close to me, think that DVD quality is completely acceptable and have been unimpressed with the enhanced picture quality, sound quality, and other features made possible by the Blu-ray (and HD DVD) formats. If they can discern a difference, they do not feel that it is worth the price of the upgrade necessary to enjoy it.

I say that this is a challenge that the big box retailers must face, but are failing horribly. Walk into any big box retailer or department store in the mall, and you will see shining examples of incompetence and/or carelessness when demonstrating the potential of HDTVs and the HD home video formats.

For some additional thoughts on whether DVD is good enough, please see a previous post of mine titled "Upconverted DVDs are not HD."

Apple fired a warning shot in a big way about the future of HD downloads in January when it announced downloaded HD rentals to the AppleTV via the iTunes Store. In my article about the announcement (see the link), I said that Blu-ray had something to worry about, because Apple was going to make downloading movies in HD a possibility that the companies behind the format were going to have to worry about. As with MP3's and the mid-bitrate music on the iTunes Store, people in general have shown a preference for convenience over quality.

But how much quality will one have to sacrifice if they download a movie from iTunes in 720p HD capped at 5Mbps vs. watching it on a 1080p Blu-ray disc that is capable of data rates greater than 30Mbps? Popular Apple product review/blog site iLounge compared the picture quality of five formats of home video consumption:

  1. Blu-ray
  2. AppleTV HD
  3. AppleTV SD
  4. Cable HD Video on Demand (VOD)
  5. DVD

They took screenshots of the same scene from Live Free or Die Hard and compared full-screen and cropped closeups. Many examples are provided for your viewing pleasure.

Check them out at the Read link below. I think the AppleTV gives Blu-ray a run for its money when all things are considered. A discerning eye can also see the difference between the HD and the SD examples, and I just feel sorry for the people viewing Cable HD VOD...

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