/ Technology

Many Blu-rays no better than DVDs

Wet Blu-ray disc

Is high-definition all it’s cracked up to be? Not on many Blu-ray movies as it turns out. Despite the routine claims that Blu-ray delivers ‘the maximum HD experience’ some barely look better than their DVD counterparts.

Blu-ray is the gold standard of high-definition home viewing. Better resolution means more pixels, more detail, better colour and more natural pictures than anything broadcast in HD.

And it’s certainly streets ahead of poor old standard definition DVD. Right? Well as it turns out, rather than replying with a resounding ‘yes’, it’s more of a ‘well yes, hmm maybe, err not really’ depending on which Blu-ray movie you happen to buy.

Blu-ray test gives mixed results

In a recent Which? investigation, we uncovered a real gulf between the best and the worst. It should make everyone think twice about shelling out.

Don’t get me wrong. Blu-ray can look fantastic. New movies produced since the format launched in 2006 are optimized for HD and transfer brilliantly to Blu-ray. And there’s plenty of older movies worth the cover price too.

Zulu, Wizard of Oz and From Russia with Love are classic movies that span the decades, but still manage to look like they could have been filmed yesterday (though the 60s fashion sensibilities in Bond could give it away).

Yet, if you’re a movie fan like me and feel the urge to ‘upgrade’ some of the classics from your collection, you’ll be in for a shock. There are some real stinkers that put the format to shame. Ghostbusters, Die Hard and The Graduate are shocking examples of Blu-rays that offer little more than the DVD versions – other than over-saturated colour and an inflated cover price.

How can we pick out the good ones?

Andrew Vandervell has already bemoaned the lack of HD broadcast content for those without the deep pockets for Sky+HD, so I’m aware that this isn’t what HD TV owners want to hear. But don’t despair. When they get it right, the studios do deliver. Zulu really does look like a different film on Blu-ray – the colour and detail is simply magnificent.

But how can you pick out a gem from the duds? Unfortunately, you can’t tell from the packaging. Most discs are routinely labeled ‘full-HD quality’, and there are no industry plans for any ‘mastered from the original source’ logos on the horizon.

So what’s your experience of Blu-rays? Do you have any in your collection that look no better than DVDs, or do you have a bunch that live up to the high-definition hype?


You can’t expect the studios to give the full treatment to their entire back catalogue – it would bankrupt then, but I agree that there needs to be a clearer labelling system so you know what you’re buying – and the cost should reflect the quality.


As Blu-ray player owner and buyer, I’m always pretty careful which I choose to buy. If in doubt, try and rent it first. LoveFilm is a godsend!


Ben – I would say if we can’t expect the studios to give the full treatment to all their BD releases, then we have every right to expect them to label appropriately and drop their prices accordingly.


For me a great site for looking at video/audio quality plus extra features and a review is blu-ray.com

[Hello Josh, we just edited your comment as it read a bit like spam. Thanks for the recommendation, but next time it would be great to see an opinion about the Conversation as well!]

Jason says:
16 November 2010

They all look better than the DVD counterpart and most importantly, they sound much better. Lossless audio is just as important as image quality.


It’s just like a pc. You can rate a good computer with its Cpu, Graphic card or Ram. Everything needs to be take into consideration: Hardware combinaison, compatibility, Updates, Cables, etc, etc.

Same apply for Blu-Ray. BD mean more capacity, but its up to the movie maker to use that quantity and to the owner to get the most out of it by setting correctly their TV/player settings, installing recent firmware and getting good cables.


Dude – we totally agree on the hardware front. No good having a top quality BD transfer if you’ve just bought an M&S telly and Bush BD player. Which is why we ironed out as many variables as possible and tried the discs out on the same high quality equipment using the same settings. On the cables though I’d disagree. We’ve tested out cable quality in the past. Makes no difference on HDMI. On Scart just avoid the cheapest of the cheap (no screening)

rsknight says:
16 November 2010

I own about 60 BDs and all look amaizing, including some old movies like The Godfather. But I bought one that really let me down, and the shocking part is that its a CG animation: Final Fantasy VII Advent Children. This movie is in SD quality same as the DVD version but the Blu-ray cover says “Full HD”, so now I’m more carefull before I buy a BD and not just assume that if it’s a BD then it must be better than the DVD. Though I could say that this movie comes from Square-Enix, which is a studio that has gone down the toilet pretty badly 🙁

plmko says:
16 November 2010

Some transfers are ****** yes, but did they forget that 50% of the enjoyment of watching a movie is from sound?

I don’t think DVDs can ever match Blu-ray sound.