One of the great things about Blu Ray players is that they are “backwards compatible,” which means that they play many earlier disc formats.
During the high-definition video format “war” of 2000-2003, in which HD DVD and Blu Ray standards competed for marketplace dominance, one of the advantages of Blu Ray players is that they were able to play the HD DVD format discs as well as Blu Ray discs, while HD DVD players were only able to play DVD discs.
The reason that Blu Ray players are more versatile is because they have two lasers: a blue-violet laser that reads Blu Ray discs (so named because of the blue laser), and a red laser that reads standard DVD and other disc formats.
While this initially made Blu Ray players much more expensive than DVD players, it ended up being a good choice for consumers, who didn’t have to choose a single video disc format when they bought a Blu Ray player.
Since then, the cost of Blu Ray players has decreased dramatically. The end result is that a Blu Ray player can play a wide variety of discs with video, audio, and even image formats.
What Kind of Discs Can You Play on a Blu-ray Player?
While your specific model may vary, here’s an overview of the kinds of discs you can usually play on a Blu Ray player.
Video disc formats
- Blu-ray disc
- DVD video disc
- Ultra HD video disc
- DVD-R, DVD-RW and other authored DVD discs with DivX, MP4, and other video formats
Audio disc formats
- CD-R, CD-RW and other discs with wma or MP3 audio formats
- Image disc formats:
- BD-R, BD-RW
- CD-R, CD-RW
- DVD-R, DVD-RW and other discs with jpg and jpeg image formats
*Not all R/RW discs can be read by all Blu Ray players, because they may have been recorded with unreadable disc types, file formats, or bit rates.
It’s important to note that not all non-Blu Ray disc features will work seamlessly in a Blu Ray player, depending on how the disc was encoded.
For example, a Blu Ray player may be able to play a movie on a DVD-R as a video file, but may not be able to access or play bonus features like director commentary audio tracks, additional camera angles, and other advanced interactive features of the disc.
Can a Blu Ray Player Upscale Video to HD?
Another great feature of Blu Ray players is that they will “upscale” the resolution of older video disc formats to make them look better on your TV. Back when DVDs were first marketed, in the late 90s, many videos were created at 720p resolution.
At the time, that was an excellent video quality for what TVs were able to display. But today’s televisions are capable of resolutions many times better than that, up to 4K resolution.
A Blu Ray player will “upscale” lower resolution video files to the maximum format your television is capable of. In other words, if you are watching a DVD that was authored at 720p, but your television is capable of HD 1080p playback, a Blu Ray player will augment the video quality to look better on your television.
Be aware that no Blu Ray player can exceed the resolution your TV is capable of. In other words, if your Blu Ray player and your Blu Ray discs are both at 4k resolution, but your TV is only capable of 1080p, your video quality is limited to 1080p.
In a side-by-side comparison, “upscaled” video will never look as crisp and high quality as video that was originally authored at the higher resolution. However, a Blu Ray player’s ability to scale up video content is incredibly helpful for people who have a library of older DVDs and discs that they still want to access and enjoy on newer devices.
A Blu Ray player is an incredibly versatile entertainment device that helps you make the most of the capabilities of the latest television and monitor resolutions, while still being able to access all of your old favorite movies, music, and more.
Because a Blu Ray player can play almost any type of disc, it lets you take advantage of the years of investment you have made in building a home media library.