What's the Difference Between a DVD Player and a Blu-Ray™ Player?

R. Kayne

DVD and Blu-ray™ are two types of optical storage discs, commonly used for storing movies and other video. Although the discs look similar, there are significant differences. The difference between a DVD player and a Blu-ray™ player is the laser technology that's used to record and play back the data. A Blu-ray™ player can play most DVDs; however, a DVD player cannot play Blu-ray™ discs.

Blu-ray™ discs and players can output 1080p video.
Blu-ray™ discs and players can output 1080p video.


Digital Video Discs (DVDs) were developed in the 1990s, and came to market in the second half of the decade. Information is written to a DVD with a 650 nanometer (nm) red laser, which creates microscopic bumps in a groove on the disc. A DVD player contains a laser which can read the bumps in the spiral track of data. The most common type of disc can hold 4.7 GB of data.

Blu-Ray discs play movies in high definition.
Blu-Ray discs play movies in high definition.

The quality of audio and video recorded on a DVD is very high; in most cases, video is encoded in MPEG-2 format, which offers high definition, 720 pixel resolution. Surround sound options are also often available. Many DVDs also include interactive menus, additional audio tracks, and other special features.


The Blu-ray™ player was introduced in 2006. Information is written on a Blu-ray Disc™ with a 405 nm blue laser — giving the technology its name. This laser produces a tightly focused beam, and is capable of burning more data than a red laser into the same size space; a standard Blu-ray Disc™ can hold 50 GB. Commercial audio and video is typically encoded in a proprietary format called Blu-ray Disc Movie (BDMV), although there are other formats.

The quality of the video on Blu-ray™ is higher than that on a DVD; in most cases, the resolution is 1080p. In addition, the way the video is compressed on the disc is better, which contributes to a better image. The quality of the audio on Blu-ray™ is essentially studio-quality. Like DVDs, Blu-ray Discs™ usually include interactive menus, multiple audio tracks, and other special features. This features are often more advanced than DVDs can offer, and include things like pop-up menus and picture-in-picture commentary.


A successor to the standard DVD, called HD DVD, was developed in the 2000s. This format could hold 15 GB on a single layer disc, and — like Blu-ray™ — used a blue laser to encode information. It also featured interactive content, very high quality audio, and video resolution up to 1080p. After a brief period of competition with Blu-ray™, however, the format was discontinued in 2008.

DVD vs. Blu-ray™

In terms of quality, Blu-ray™ can produce higher resolution video and higher quality audio than DVD. It also offers more special and interactive features. If linked to the Internet, a Blu-ray™ player can also be upgraded, and allow the user to download extras and connect to online audio and video services.

To get the most out of Blu-ray™, a consumer really needs a high definition television (HDTV) capable of displaying 1080p video, an excellent speaker system, and an Internet connection. Although HDTV has become very popular, many people still own standard definition televisions that cannot display Blu-ray™ at its best. All of this technology is also relatively expensive, although prices are dropping.

DVDs became very popular very quickly, and as a result, players and discs are found in a majority of homes in the US and other nations. As a result, it's unlikely that DVDs will simply disappear in the same way that HD DVDs did. Most Blu-ray™ players can also play DVDs, so someone looking for a new machine will still be able to play his or her older discs. DVD players cannot play Blu-ray™ titles, making them a less attractive choice for many buyers.

You need a high definition TV to see movies or shows on Blu-ray discs.
You need a high definition TV to see movies or shows on Blu-ray discs.

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Discussion Comments


@Post 5: Did you read the article before you commented on it? It said, "The quality of audio and video recorded on a DVD is very high; in most cases, video is encoded in MPEG-2 format, which offers high definition, 720 pixel resolution."

So this would mean DVDs are not only standard definition. They can also be HD.


@Blag: No, a Blu-Ray disc cannot be played on the DVD player.


That's an epic review about dvd and blu-ray, but I think to really appreciate blu-ray and to real see the difference between the two, you should buy the blu-ray and dvd on your own and test it. For me both are better; it just depends on what TV you will use. Anyway, that is only for me.


By mistake I learned that I could write a bluray format to a dvd disc - assuming the file size permitted it - and the dvd disc plays in my bluray player with higher resolution than the same file in dvd format on a dvd disc. As a bonus the compression algorithm in the H.264 format for bluray results in a smaller file as well. I did this with Toast 10 Titanium on my Mac.


a blu-ray player isn't a type of DVD player. And also an HD DVD player isn't full HD; it just upscales DVDs and it is called an upscaler and many new Blu-ray player have an upscaler built in.

And also as an answer to one of the comments, a Blu-ray will not play on your DVD player because a dvd or player is only standard definition and not 1080p like a blu-ray.


When older movies [filmed 20-30 years ago] are put on a Blue -ray disc are they as visually detailed as new movies put on a Blu-ray format?

Will I get a better quality [visually] if I re-buy all my favorite movies on Blu-ray which I now have just on a DVD and play on my Blu-ray player?



I'd like to know if I can convert DVD movies to blu-ray movies? Do blu-ray discs come in a blank recordable format as well as pre-recorded?


No, but a Blu-ray player is backward compatible to play standard DVDs. Just doesn't work in the opposite direction. A Blu-ray disk is formatted differently and a standard DVD player won't know how to (or be capable of) reading it.


Will Blu Ray discs play on my DVD player?

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