Consumer Reports Blu-ray and movie experts highly recommend that you invest in a Blu-ray player that includes Internet content. Why? For one, an Internet-enabled Blu-ray player will cost you much less than Internet TV, but it’ll deliver you the very same content. But also because today’s online streaming movie services are getting better and better. Not only are they incredibly affordable and convenient, they are expanding their collections more and more each month. But before you dive head first into online movies on your Blu-ray player, there are some things you should know.
If you aren’t already familiar with streaming content on your smartphone, gaming console or computer, then it might help to understand how streaming movies get on our Blu-ray player. There are a number of online movie services available—such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes, Blockbuster and VUDU—and some of these companies have partnered with Blu-ray manufacturers to get their software pre-installed onto your Blu-ray unit. So, when you choose a Blu-ray player, it may have one, more or all of these software services built-in.
However, in order to access this content, you’ll need an Internet connection (wireless or wired) and an account with each of these services. Usually, you’ll have to visit their websites on your computer before linking up your account with your Blu-ray device. Depending on the pricing structure, you may need to pay a monthly fee to access the content. Or, you can save your payment information and rent movies one at a time. Either way, you will usually be billed directly from the service, rather than having the charges bundled with our existing cable or satellite TV service. That is, you’ll receive a bill from Netflix or Hulu Plus, or you’ll have to pre-pay to get access.
If you haven’t bought a Blu-ray player yet, you might want to browse the selections for each of these services. Each one varies in which movies and TV shows it carries and when it gets them. For instance, if you find that Netflix has the most titles that interest you, make sure you get a Blu-ray player that supports Netflix.
In terms of movie quality, there are a number of factors that come into play. First of all is the source content. Each online movie streaming service has its own proprietary encoding technology that compresses the movies before streaming them to your TV. As such, they may have varying picture qualities. But your Internet speed will have the biggest impact on how well your movies playback. If your Internet isn’t fast enough, or your Blu-ray player gets poor signal from your wireless router, you may experience interruptions in playback, choppiness or, more often than not, degradation in quality. This is most visible in black areas and scenes with a lot of movement. For the best quality, you may want to upgrade your router or go with a wired Internet connection and see if your Internet service provider offers a faster speed.
Overall, streaming online movies is a convenience and won ‘t likely replace buying or renting Blu-ray movies anytime soon. Blu-ray movies deliver the best audio and video quality, hands down. Furthermore, you won’t usually have access to bonus materials or other supplemental content when you stream online. Nevertheless, with streaming online video in your Blu-ray player, you’ll never be short on fresh, entertaining content.