Panasonic

Don’t Buy A DVD Player For Your HDTV!

November 3rd, 2008 · 32 Comments · Blu-ray Players, DVD Players

Contrary to what you’ve heard from a consumer electronics store salespersons or read from so called “analysts”, you should not buy an upconverting (also called an upscaling) DVD player for your HDTV. Why not?  It’s a waste of money! Here’s why.

Every HDTV has circuits that will convert the native output of a standard DVD player (480i) to the resolution of your HDTV, (which usually is 720p, 768p or 1080p.) After comparing a number of upconverting and standard output DVD players with name brand HDTVs, I have seen little of no difference in performance upon close examination of movie content or test discs. Wait there’s more.

As seen in the HD Guru tests of 2008 HDTVs, the internal scaling circuits have been upgraded, compared to previous year’s models and are generally superior to the scalers within many upconverting DVD players. Name brand upconverting DVD players sell for around $60-$170 or higher. In addition to the purchase of an upconverting DVD player, you will need to purchase an HDMI cable to send the audio and video from your DVD player to your HDTV and/or surround sound system. Best Buy sells for HDMI cables for around $50-$130 (for a 4-8 foot length). Yes, the price is not a misprint; the cable often costs more than the upconverting DVD player. One should take pause, and consider why a 6-8 foot piece of wire costs more than a DVD player that has a metal case, power supply, laser, lens, motor and circuitry. What should you do?

Buy A Blu-ray Player Instead

After this Thanksgiving, you will be able to purchase name brand Blu-ray players from $149 at various major retailers (with no name brands possibly on-sale as little as $99). Today you can find a Sharp Blu-ray player for $169.99 at the HD GURU/Pricegrabber.com link on the left hand side of this webpage. At amazon.com you can purchase a Sylvania NB500MG9 for $207.92 including shipping and an HDMI cable. Incidentally, Consumer Reports just top-rated this Sylvania Blu-ray player.  In addition to Blu-ray discs, all current Blu-ray players also play standard definition DVDs and can upconvert all DVDs to 1080p.

The Difference Between DVD and Blu-ray Players

If you have never seen a Blu-ray movie on an HDTV, you may be surprised to learn there is far more to Blu-ray image than higher resolution when compared to DVD (the native rez of Blu-ray is 1080p vs. 480i for a DVD). Blu-ray discs hold over 5 to 10 times more information than DVDs and because of this, the transfer speed is far higher than standard def DVDs or broadcast, satellite or cable HD content. The result, a picture virtually free of what is known as “compression artifacts”. In simple terms, the Blu-ray image is far smoother and cleaner than can be achieved by upconverting a  standard definition DVD.  This smooth image looks so much better than any upconverted DVD (especially on a large screen) anyone will immediately notice the improvement.

Versions of Blu-ray Players

There are three versions of Blu-ray players. They are called Profile 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0. The differences are in the special features, not picture quality. Profile 1.0 will play all Blu-ray discs but do not have the “BonusView” feature (it’s included in Profile 1.1) which is a picture-in-picture extra content feature such as the director’s comments in a widow with the movie playing. Profile 2.0 players also include BD-Live so you can access online content, such as clips or future trailers. Of course, you will need a high speed Ethernet connection by the player. Players have different audio output options (regardless of their profile) and you need to check compatibility with the audio format you want to decode. All Blu-ray players handle legacy Dolby Digital 5.1.

There are video quality differences between Blu-ray players, however, they are never nearly as great as the image improvement you’ll see when comparing an upconverted standard DVD and Blu-ray content.

HDMI Cables

Most consumers require an HDMI cable that is 2 meters (6.5 feet) long or less. You can save a lot of money by purchasing an HDMI cable on-line or at a warehouse club or select discount electronics stores. Amazon.com has 6 ft. HDMI cables for as little as $4.47 delivered (97 cents for the cable and $3.50 shipping). Wal-Mart offer a 6 ft. cable for $19.99 at select stores and Fry’s also has them for less than twenty bucks. Contrary to negative claims made by sales persons regarding cheap under 12 foot long HDMI cables, none of the off brand ones tested have yielded less than perfect results.

Recently, a Best Buy clerk falsely claimed to a friend that the Best Buy house brand $50 HDMI cable lacked adequate insulation, and if purchased it instead of their $100 cable name brand HDMI cable, the signal would “leak out” before it reaches his HDTV.

Copyright ©2008 Gary Merson/HD Guru®  All rights reserved. HD GURU is a registered trademark.  The content and photos within may not be distributed electronically or copied mechanically without specific written permission.

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32 Comments so far ↓

  • Cat Johnson

    I have a 61 inch DLP HD TV, which produces a great picture. HD on it looks amazing. That being said, I am completely happy with upscaled DVDs on it. I have seen BluRay, and it does look better. But not enough for the price of the player and the 25% premium to buy movies. No thanks!

  • steve

    Here is one good reason to get an upscaling dvd player. My oppo player has a great incremental video zoom feature that my HDTV does not.

  • kyle

    i have an xbox 360, magnavox upconvert dvd player, and a panasonic 200u projector. I can tell you that without a doubt, upconvert makes a difference. A huge difference. Now, i also have some HD DVD’s and the player for the xbox (got it all cheap). There is a difference between high-def dvds and regular dvds upconverted. is it a huge difference? Lets just say not huge enough for me to replace my dvds with blu-rays and buy a bluray player. Sorry, i just think $30 for a bluray dvd is way to much not to mention the cheapest player is $160.

  • B0B0Y NOBLE

    I AGREE WITH YOU TIM. HDGURO IS SIMPLY STATING THE FACTS.

  • BoredDaily

    @ Dan,
    I would suggest MonoPrice over BlueJeansCable any day:
    http://www.monoprice.com/home/index.asp

    @ Gary Merson/HD Guru,
    Shouldn’t the title read “Don’t Buy an UPSCALING DVD Player…”? And although for most people an hdmi cable is an hdmi cable, you missed an opportunity to detail the available bandwidth with different hdmi profiles as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hdmi.
    Lastly, having Blu-ray isn’t all about picture quality. Audio is extremely important. Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, DTS-HD and DTS-HD MA are so far advanced (and needs the cable bandwidth and A/V receiver to get it although if your current receiver can do it, similar lossless audio can be had via ANALOG at the identical bitrate) over standard Dolby Digital and DTS over toslink. Sure, getting an inexpensive Blu-ray player over an upscaling DVD is good advice, you should point out that there are additional expenses involved in doing so (HDMI 1.3 cables at a reasonable price, a proper A/V receiver that can handle at least 5.1 surround, and the increased cost of a Blu-ray disc over a standard DVD — sometimes $7-$15 more). Disc players AND the media should come down in price for mass adoption.

  • Dan

    The Panasonic DMP-BD35 is probably the best Blueray player for the money and it does everything right according to Home Theater Magazine. You can buy it for under $300.00

  • Dan

    I you wan’t very high quality cables check
    out http://www.bluejeanscable.com/store/hdmi-cables/index.htm Blue Jeans Cable sells the best cables I have come across at very good prices. I won’t buy my cables anywhere else. Check them out. You can order any type cable in any leghths you like and the give you complete desciptions of how they are made and the difereces between the cable types. Blue Jeans Cable in Seattle Washington will be the only place you will buy from once you try them.

  • Kevin

    Thanks for reigning this topic back to the original intent of the article.

    As a consumer who has yet to make the HDTV leap, I’m reading up on all the information out there prior to making a purchase, and stumbled onto this article out of chance.

    -kp

  • Gwydion

    I keep hearing that instead of a seperate Blu-Ray player you should purchase the Playstation 3 w/ the Blu-Ray remote. It boots WAY faster than commercial players, is specifically designed for high-end video output AND you can play games when not watching movies!
    Sounds pretty sweet to me… Comments?
    -G

  • Tim

    A lot of people seem to be missing the point of this article about not buying an up-converting DVD player!

    The point is that TV technology has advanced so much that the up-converting players don’t really add anything more – based on this logic, the up-converting dvd player is a waste of money since the newer TVs do it equally as well if not better!

    The comments regarding purchasing a replacing your entire DVD collection are a tangent with what this article discusses – and, are completely irrelevant to this end.

    This article doesn’t suggest you go replace your collection with new blu-rays of the same films, it simply says, blu-ray players will also play your DVDs. Again, linking this back to the comment the article makes in relation to TV technology being improved, regardless of the blu-ray player up-converting or not, the TV will do the same thing as an up-converting DVD player – so why not just buy the blu-ray player!

    So in the end, the argument the article presents is sound. Why waste money investing in something a brand new HDTV does, or a blu-ray player does, when it could be better spent on newer technology – a blu-ray player. You still play your DVDs and get the up-conversion you wanted, while purchasing films you don’t own, or own but want the next level of quality on blu-ray.

    It’s amazing how quickly people jump on the, “it’s a blu-ray player I have to replace my collection” bandwagon – almost as if once you have a blu-ray player you will be compelled to upgrade!

    The comments in relation to the source “garbage in garbage out” are true. However, the film prints that blu-ray releases are pressed from are generally being cleaned up or restored.

    As the saying goes with engines – there is no replacement for displacement, well in the realm of HD there is no replacement resolution.

  • adama_bill

    I don’t have the luxury of quitting my existing DVD player to get an Oppo 983H that can’t also play blu ray.

    I’m keen to see if I can get a better viewing result watching a DVD played through the Panasonic BD 35 but this would currently cost me $449.

    If I knew it would do a better job than simply leaving it to the circuts in my LG 52″ LCD (1080p)I’d probably jump at it now. What’s holding me back is the info in the above article which states “the internal scaling circuits have been upgraded [in 2008 HDTVs], compared to previous year’s models and are generally superior to the scalers within many upconverting DVD players”.

    I know of course the Panasonic BD 35 is ‘more than’ an upconverting DVD player ~ just want to get some objective feedback on the worth of getting the Panasonic BD 35 now.

    Regards

  • Steve

    An upscaled Blu-ray disc Jaki? So, do you have a 2160p HDTV? Otherwise, why would you need to upscale a Blu-ray Disc?
    Comparing I, Robot on Blu-ray Disc to I, Robot on DVD through the Oppo 983H will show you on ANY sized TV that the Blu-ray Disc is better providing you’re at the correct viewing distance.

    People who suggest the screen size is the determining factor as to whether or not you’ll notice a difference in resolution have no idea what they’re talking about.

  • JakiChan

    There is really only one player to buy – the Oppo 983H. The Anchor Bay scaler in that player is just aweseome. If you take an upscaled Blu-Ray disc (i.e. not a new HD transfer but just upscaled source material) and compare it to something upscaled by the Oppo you probably can’t tell the difference.

  • adama_bill

    I have an LG 52″ LCD (1080p). Watching a DVD movie looks pretty good(I don’t have a Blu Ray player yet).
    Will I get a better image if I play DVDs’ in a Blu Ray payer such as the Panasonic BD 35 that reputed to do a great job with upscaling; or is the TV already giving me as good as I’m going to get?

  • Toto

    Digital signals flow from point A to point B, and any HDMI cable will do the job. Data flows on the conducting material with no loss of fidelity.

    With analog cables, there’s a disparity in signal loss with a “name brand” cable and a no-name version.

    With digital, don’t fall for the sales pitch to get the Monster Cable… not worth the receipt it’s printed on.

  • maui bum

    i have a toshiba hd dvd player
    it up converts
    and does a great job
    can see major difference between dvd player and upconverted toshiba dvd hd player

    only problem is with alot of dvds
    it will not let player up covert to 1080i
    and only stay in 480

    thanks

  • too tall

    is it worth it to buy a blu ray dvd player
    is i “only” have a 720p tv??

  • Jack

    A. Between these 3, which one has the best features and performs the best?
    1. Denon DVD-3800BDCI
    2. Sony BDP-S5000ES
    3. Pioneer BDP-09FD

    B. Between these 4, which one has the best features
    and performs the best?
    1. Yamaha BD-S2900
    2. NAD T587
    3. Panasonic DMP-BD55K
    4. Sony BDP-S550

    Thanks for your advise and anyone else who wants to chime in!

    Jack

    A. ______________
    B. ______________

  • PS

    I bought an Oppo DVD player 18 mos. ago, and on my 37″ Vizio it definitely made a difference compared to my existing Sony DVD player. I ran the two players at the same time and had no doubt about the results. Maybe a new top-tier HDTV would be different, but my TV’s upscaler was definitely outperformed.

    And I have been very satisfied with my no-name HDMI cables, and there are numerous tests out there that show no difference versus high-end cables at lengths less than 30 feet.

  • WTF

    What a crock. The bad advice on player purchases is already out there, we didn’t need more.

    Upconverting dvd players are much cheaper than bluray, usually upconvert better than a bluray player, and can output to component.

    This ‘article’ is badly misleading and biased.

  • Lohrville

    Gary, I have a 720p 50″ Pioneer plasma (5070), so I wonder whether I will be able to see any difference in the way my old DVDs look if I play them in a Blu-ray player.
    In fact, I wonder whether I will even be able to see any difference if I Blu-ray discs will look any better on my 720p TV.
    Have you ever compared, side by side, how either an upscaled DVD or a Blu-ray disc looks on a 720 and a 2080 set?

  • HD 2000

    HDGURU,

    It’s absolutely bogus statement, just look at OPPO products and features.

  • Daniel

    The most important message in here is about cables. It has to be said and repeated that a HDMI cable (which is digital) will give you the same quality image, whatever the price you pay so why pay more?

    Quality construction may differ but quality image will all be the same.

    Please reapeat that in BIG/BOLD everywhere you go and to please forward this to all the people you know!

    Some company like Monster have to stop making so easy money with neophyte people.

  • Carlos Martins

    … I have been telling this to people for a very long time.
    Unless there was evidence that the upscaling done by the player was indeed better than the one done by the TV set, there was no need for it.

    Now… I would really like to see a comparison of “upscaling” technologies.
    Those super-resolution methods do seem to offer some noticeable resolution improvement – and could even be applied to HD content to provide better than HD resolution (when 4K sets become more common.)

  • jay

    There are alot of features that are trying to be transfered through an HDMI cable(1080P, 120hz, XV color, Dolby & DTS HD, and more). Will you notice a picture difference? Maybe not. Will you notice an audio difference? Maybe not. The point is that alot of these HDMI cables are very poorly made and it can make a difference. If you own a generic brand tv, than don’t waste the money on good cables. If you own a Top Tier Television, then don’t listen to these bozo’s.

  • Ceiltsei

    Strange that you would argue that the cable costs more than the dvd player, this may be true if you buy the specialized cables by Monster (which have been recently proven to be not much better than a coathanger) just buy no-name. HDMI, VGA, Component, choose your cable for under $10 at most online sites. The biggest argument against cheap cables is the quality of the signal in a long cable. While a 20 foot Component or HDMI cable may make your video look a little saturated the high quality cables do not do too much better.

    To me the whole Bluray vs DVD can be summed up when you go to a Walmart bargain bin – $3 for dvd and pick up the same video in Bluray for $30.

  • brand

    You can get HDMI cables as low as $3.50 from many websites.

    It’s at retailers that you’ll pay inflated cable prices. They’ve been ripping people off on accessories forever.

    There really is no better or worse quality from an expensive or cheap cable. There was a study where audiophiles couldn’t tell the difference between a gold audio cable and a coat-hanger.

  • Horse poop

    There is a legitimate reason for investing in a high quality DVD upscaler. I have about 2000 DVDs, and I’m not about to replace them with BluRay. I want to be able to watch those DVDs under the best possible circumstances.

    For most viewers, the difference between a well-mastered DVD and BluRay, for HD screens smaller than about 42″ or so, is minimal.

  • Really

    Are you on drugs? HDMI is NOT required to connect an upconverting DVD player to a television. HDMI IS required for a Blu-Ray player.

    Further, the visible difference between DVD at 480i or upscaled is clear. This is particularly true on older HDTV’s, without newer scaling chips.

    And video on Blu-Ray is not guaranteed to look as stunning as you claim. Garbage in, garbage out. Some films were just poorly recorded. They’re going to look terrible no matter what format you play them back on.

  • Orakga

    Don? Is that you, Reisinger?

    Anyhow… I believe what HD Guru is saying is that you shouldn’t buy an upscaling DVD player unless “you’ve got a few hundred bucks burning a cavity in your pocket”.

    Going for the cheaper option does not always yield the better financial outcome in the long run.

  • Jiggy

    Correction – There is actually no Profile 1.2. “Bonus View” features were added in Profile 1.1

    Thanks for catching the typo. Corrected.

    HD GURU

  • etype2

    Thank you for this discussion.
    Thought your readers might be interested in this link: a Sony BDP-350 for $186.00 plus free shipping. Formerly $399.00. Some good things can happen if you wait. Might even be cheaper by Black Friday.There are better players out there though.
    The link: http://www.topchoicedigital.com/viewproduct.aspx?id=10037328&l=Froogle

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