Can Blu-ray Players Play DVDs?

By Shea Laverty

After years of building your DVD collection, the great migration to Blu-ray can seem a daunting task. Picking up a shiny new Blu-ray player isn't the end-of-life for your DVDs, however. Most Blu-ray players are compatible with DVDs, so you can still enjoy your DVDs on your new machine. Better still, thanks to upconverting, your DVD may look better than it did in a DVD player.

DVD and Blu-ray Differences

While DVDs and Blu-rays are superficially similar, they are in fact very different formats. Blu-ray discs store considerably more data than an DVD, with single-layer discs for each reaching 25GB and 4.7GB respectively. Data is also burnt and read at different laser wavelengths, with DVDs being recorded at 650nm in the red wavelength and Blu-ray being recorded at 405nm in the blue wavelength. Blu-rays feature a scratch resistant coating DVDs do not. Blu-rays also have a higher video bitrate at 40Mbps compared to DVD's 9.8Mbps. As a result of their superior storage capacity, Blu-rays can store high-definition content too large for DVDs.

Differences Between Players

There are also considerable differences between Blu-ray and DVD players. Blu-ray players are backwards compatible with DVD players, while DVD players can't play Blu-rays. Many Blu-ray players can also connect to the Internet to download important firmware updates and provide access to instant streaming video like YouTube and Netflix. Blu-ray players also support high-definition video, while DVD players can only output standard-definition video.

Upconverting DVDs

Most Blu-ray players also feature DVD upconverting, which converts a DVD's standard 480i resolution to a higher one. Depending on the player and the video, the upconversion can increase a DVD's resolution to 720p, 1,080i or even 1,080p. This will greatly improve the picture quality of a DVD, especially on high-definition televisions.

Drawbacks to Upconverting

Upconversion isn't a flawless process, and a DVD's content is still encoded in standard definition. This means your upconverted DVDs will still seem lackluster compared to Blu-ray. Also, there is no set standard for upconversion, which means that different players will produce different quality upconversions. If you're looking for the best quality upconversion in your Blu-ray player, you'll need to do some research to find the right fit -- and potentially, spend a bit more than you might have planned.