DVD & Blu-ray buying guide

These days you’ll find DVD players and recorders with a whole host of clever and convenient features to simplify your viewing and recording. And with HDTV becoming the norm, a Blu-ray player is the perfect complement. We’ve detailed the different types of machines and features below to help you choose the box that’s right for you.

View our Panasonic sound bar and John Lewis sound booster videos, if you want to enjoy the big movie experience even more.

DVD Players

HD upscaling

Nearly all DVD players now feature technology that ‘up-scales’ DVDs for improved picture quality. When connected to a High Definition Ready television, you’ll enjoy breathtaking images that are almost as good as high definition, from a standard DVD. These players all output through a HDMI socket, which can be linked to the HDMI or DVI socket on a HD Ready TV.

Combis

If space is at a premium a combi machine with both VCR and DVD is a compact solution.

DVD Recorders

With a DVD Recorder you’ll be able to record in the same way as a VCR with blank DVDs. Many DVD recorders allow you to choose to record at a lesser quality for a longer recording time. Look out for the following features:

EPG

An EPG (electronic programme guide) makes it easy to plan what you want to watch and record. You’ll be able to view TV listings on screen for the next 7 days (or more) and simply select what you wish to record at the touch of a button.

DV input

A DV input will allow you to connect your digital camcorder and burn your home movie footage to a blank DVD.

HDD recorders

Simultaneous record and playback

This allows you to watch a programme that you’ve already recorded while you’re recording another.

Pause live TV

If you’re halfway through watching a film and you’re interrupted, you needn’t miss anything. Simply press the pause button to freeze the action and then press play when you’re ready to resume watching.

Dubbing

This means transferring footage from one place to another e.g. from hard drive to DVD and vice versa.

Memory card slots

These allow you to insert your memory card to view photos from your digital camera, save them to the hard drive or burn them onto a DVD to keep.

Blu-ray

Blu-ray players are the high definition equivalent of the DVD player, taking entertainment to the next level with superior pictures and sound. With the advent of high definition TV, it was soon realised that hi def movies would take up too much space on a regular DVD disc, and a new format would be needed to improve upon and eventually replace the DVD standard.

One Blu-ray disc holds the equivalent of 35 CDs’ or 5 DVDs’ worth of storage. It’s the same size as a DVD disc, but by using a shorter wavelength and a narrower (blue) laser beam spot, it can hold greater capacity.

Blu-ray players are growing in popularity and can play your existing DVDs – so there’s no need to throw them away. In fact, Blu-ray players will ‘upscale’ them, giving them a near high definition makeover, revealing detail you haven’t noticed before.

Many new models feature the BD Live profile which allows you to access extra content via an ethernet port or Wi-Fi. Depending on the pre-recorded Blu-ray disc, when the player is connected to the internet you can download a variety of up-to-date content (e.g. refreshed previews and special exclusives).

Blu-ray recorders are also available. If your computer has a Blu-ray burner, you can use it to transfer your high definition camcorder footage to blank Blu-ray disc media.

And don’t forget, you’ll need a HDMI cable cable to connect your Blu-player to your HD TV. This delivers crystal-clear, all-digital audio and video via a single lead - which you won’t get by using an old-fashioned analogue connection.

Find out more about Blu-ray: VideoArticle

Home cinema systems

Recreate the cinematic experience at home with immersive surround sound. Home cinema systems typically include a receiver, DVD player or DVD recorder as well as a subwoofer and multiple mini satellite speakers. The subwoofer provides powerful low frequency bass while mini speakers are placed around the room to provide the sound effects.

Find out more about home cinema systems

Formats

A variety of recordable discs are available. Check the compatibility of your machine.

  • Blu-Ray BD-RE: Re-recordable with five times the capacity of a DVD
  • DVD-RDVD+R: Record just once for a permanent copy
  • DVD-RW,DVD+RW: Re-recordable
  • DVD-RAM: Re-recordable disc with a Random Access Memory for flexible recording and editing capability

Dual layer discs

A dual layer disc has two layers on one side of the DVD and so doubles the amount of recording space.