Streaming media has never been easier. Thanks to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Hulu, and more, you can watch almost anything you want at any time. The convenience of streaming content allows us to stay caught up on all the latest movies from wherever we are. But how does the mass streaming video quality compare to the 1080p quality of a Blu-ray disc? How does Blu-ray compare to Streaming HD videos?
Many people worry that because of how convenient streaming movies is, physical discs like Blu-ray and DVDs will become obsolete. They believe Blu-ray is a dying industry. But, most streaming services don’t offer the same quality of physical discs. That’s why vinyl records are making a comeback in the music scene. This holds true for movies as well. And the larger the screen, the more clear some of these differences become.
One of the biggest pulls of streaming movies online is the huge library of available content. This massive quantity of content sometimes comes at a price. Most streaming quality will not have the same quality as a physical disc for several reasons.
The video quality streaming services provide is always improving, with many now offering 1080p resolution. Amazon, Netflix, and others are even offering an ultra high definition (4k) streaming on select titles. Even though these streaming services offer the same 1080p resolution as Blu-ray discs, the streaming services must compress their content in order to provide it over the internet. Compressing video over the internet affects image quality and creates a loss of depth and sharpness. Using a Blu-ray disc eliminates the need to compress the video, allowing a sharper and cleaner image.
Loss of color is another problem with streaming. Our eyes are built to be super sensitive to color. Typically when you stream media, the color has to be compressed to fit a certain file size. The loss of color can create a banding effect. Banding makes a movie sunset look like a stairstep of different colors, instead of a smooth transition between the colors. Playing media on a physical disc is less likely to give you this issue.
Since internet speeds vary, most on-demand streaming services aim to provide the best quality at the lowest speeds so more people can enjoy it. These streaming videos must be compressed to keep the movie file size and the bitrate speed low. Most streaming videos range from 5-6 gigabytes in size and play at a bitrate of 5-7 Mbps. Even the top streaming providers 1080p content play at this bitrate. Fortunately, the streaming providers are able to test your internet speeds before playback and adjust the compression based on your network speed.
Blu-ray discs have a large amount of storage to work with. One layer of a Blu-ray disc can hold 25 gigabytes of data while using both layers gives you 50 gigabytes of data. Blu-ray videos play at a maximum bitrate of 40 megabytes per second (Mbps), with the average playback bitrate at 20 Mbps. The large storage available and the playback speed allow the Blu-ray disc to undergo very little compression before playback.
Internet playback speeds are also dependent on traffic to the site. During heavy traffic times, video quality may be reduced. Having a wired or wireless connection also affects playback speeds and quality.
Most streaming services offer Dolby Digital 5.1 while some offer Dolby Digital Plus 7.1. Blu-ray discs are equipped to use Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. Both of these provide a greater, uncompressed audio experience. For those with home theaters, DTS Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD, provide a much better quality of surround sound as well.
Accessibility and Convenience
Thanks to modern technology, most people have access to the internet. Internet access is critical to viewing any streamed online content. While most people have home wireless networks, and an increasing number of businesses offer free wifi, streaming videos is still dependent on the availability of internet access. Some pay per use services, like iTunes, give you the option to download streamed content and watch without an internet connection. These downloads can be for purchased items, or for rentals.
Blu-ray discs are able to provide you content anywhere, without any kind of internet connection. All you need is a Blu-ray player. Blu-ray players are quickly becoming more popular, especially since most allow the playback of DVDs. Many laptops are being equipped with Blu-ray players, allowing for even more accessibility. Not having to rely on an internet connection to watch your movies is a big plus to many consumers.
Having a Blu-ray disc also allows you access to your content whenever you want. You don’t have to worry about your streaming service deciding to drop the title. As long as you keep the disc, you’ll always have access to that movie.
Bonus Features and Price
Blu-ray discs also provide bonus content that most streaming services don’t provide. Things like how the films were made, commentaries, games and other interactive content. Most purchases or rentals don’t come with much if any, bonus content. Some services have started to offer bonus content, but can’t yet provide the same amount as Blu-ray does.
For those who prefer the portability that streaming service offer, Blu-ray discs often come with a free digital download of the movie. This allows you to watch the movie on mobile devices and still not need an internet connection.
Although purchasing and streaming videos is often cheaper than buying a Blu-ray (for the reasons mentioned above), Blu-ray rentals are becoming an increasingly popular and cost-effective option for watching movies. Renting a new title like Wonder Woman on iTunes or Amazon Prime costs $5.99. This same title can be rented on Blu-ray through Redbox for $2.00. You can rent three Redbox Blu-ray discs for the price of one or two video rentals on Amazon Prime or iTunes.
Netflix also has a rental service for $9.99 a month. While this is $2.00 more than their unlimited streaming service, the rental library has a much larger selection than the streaming library. The rental library also includes new releases that you won’t be able to find on any streaming service.
The convenience of streaming movies and other digital content is hard to beat. Streaming a movie lets you watch it whenever you want, as long as you have internet access. For those interested in the highest quality movie experience, Blu-rays are worth investing in. Blu-ray players aren’t expensive like they used to be, and there are so many titles available to watch. Video and audio quality will be much better on Blu-ray. There are also more extra features, and Blu-rays can be played anywhere you have a Blu-ray player. The Blu-ray isn’t going out of style anytime soon and will continue to provide you the best quality for your money.