Best Blu-ray DVD player? The future proof PS3.

Now that it looks like HD-DVD is in for a slow death some of you may be wondering which of the various Blu-ray players is the best one to buy. According to the folks at ArsTechnica.com you should seriously consider Sony’s PS3:

New Blu-ray 2.0 spec makes PS3 the most future-proof player – ArsTechnica.com

Before we can understand why the PlayStation 3 is able to so easily deal with new profiles, we must first look at the difference between the 1.0, 1.1, and 2.0 profiles to see why a simple firmware update isn’t enough to make a player compliant.

  • 1.0 is the launch profile, and secondary audio and video decoders are optional, as is local storage and network connectivity. The majority of standalone players fit into this category.
  • 1.1 is the newer profile, and to take advantage of these discs, players need a secondary audio and video decoder to handle picture-in-picture, as well as at least 256MB of local storage for content.
  • 2.0 is the profile of the future, requiring the two secondary decoders, 1GB of local storage for updates and content, and an Internet connection.

HD DVD players have included networking as standard since the beginning, but Blu-ray has not, and the evolving standard may become a large problem for early adopters. The 2.0 profile actually changes the minimum requirements for full compatibility. In other words, there is only one player currently on the market that will be 2.0 compatible: the PlayStation 3, which, with its upgradeable hard drive, Ethernet port, and powerful graphics capabilities, will be able to adapt to any and all future updates. This is quite the slap in the face to consumers who paid several hundred dollars for players that won’t be to be updated to take advantage of the 1.1 profile, much less the upcoming 2.0

Of course this only really matters if you give a shit about having the extra features that the 1.1 and 2.0 profiles bring with them. The Internet connectivity of profile 2.0 seems like another PR gimmick more than anything else. There have been interactive DVDs for ages now that would connect to the Internet and download all sorts of extra stuff when you played them on your PC, but how many folks really take advantage of that feature? I think I did it once just to see what all the hype was about and the extra content was less than overwhelming. So much so that I’ve never felt the need to try it on any of the other DVD’s I own with that ability. From what I’ve seen of the plans for this feature in profile 2.0 I’m not at all certain I’d ever make use of it. I suppose it’s always possible they’ll come up with new uses that might make it worth checking out, but so far I’m not worried about it.

Then there’s the Picture-in-Picture feature in profile 1.1 that looks like it’ll be used to do pop-up style commentaries or bonus footage of how a scene was filmed while you’re playing the movie and I imagine there are folks out there who will find that useful, but I’ve never been one much for interrupting a movie I’m watching for that sort of thing. I generally go back later and watch that stuff separately so even if the PS3 didn’t support it it wouldn’t be a big deal to me. Again, it’s not a deal breaker in my book.

Still if you’re the sort who wants to have all the bells and whistles then the PS3 is probably the best Blu-ray player to consider as upgrades are just a firmware update away. I’d tend to think that so long as the early adopter’s 1.0 profile machines continue to playback Blu-ray discs just fine, and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t, then the omission of the extra bells and whistles of profile 2.0 won’t be a big deal for most of them. Of course the other bonus to buying a PS3 for Blu-ray is it just happens to be a pretty kick-ass game console and media hub as well.