What is a Blu-ray

Blu-ray logo imageThe computing industry has virtually exploded in terms of advancement over the years and it has showed no signs of slowing down. One comparison to the past that still leaves us in awe is the price of hardware, specifically storage media. You probably remember being overly excited about a 256 MB flash drive and purchasing it for about $30 a few years ago. A few months later, you probably found yourself shopping for an 8GB flash drive for the same price. With the decrease in prices for storage media, overall quality of media and applications have become richer and naturally demanding more disk space. A few years ago we were thrilled by the advent of the DVD, able to fit almost 7 CDs worth of data on a single piece of storage media while maintaining the same size and only a slightly higher price. Fast forward, a few years later and we now find DVDs to be an insufficient form of storage media which brings us to the Blu-ray disc.

The development and widespread use of Blu-ray discs has taken place in a similar fashion as when DVDs slowly replaced the use of CDs. A typical Blu-ray disc holds about 25GB of space which equates to more than 5 DVDs worth of space. Blu-ray discs have also been designed with the identical size as DVDs and CDs. While Blu-ray discs were officially released in 2006, prevailing use of Blu-ray discs for the primary purpose of high definition audio and video was not until a few years later. Movies on Blu-ray format enable transcendent quality and detail which cannot otherwise be experienced. With the large amounts of disk space that Blu-ray discs offer, they may also be used for the purpose of backing up or archiving large databases and systems.

The name Blu-ray was loosely derived by the blue colored laser used to access and modify data on the disc and was intentionally misspelled so that it may be trademarked. The Blu-ray format was developed in collaboration with several of the most high profile tech organizations such as Sony, TDK, Dell and Hitachi. First prototypes of the device were unveiled as early as 2000. Blu-ray ROMs were first released in 2006 and was faced with intense competition by the HD-DVD format which was released a few months before.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats (developed primarily by Toshiba) were competing for HD media storage market share for a couple of years since the launch of Blu-ray and HD-DVD players. After both formats were widely available, distributors opted for Blu-ray over HD-DVD which effectively killed the HD-DVD format. Factors such as the popular and anticipated gaming console, the Sony PlayStation 3 being equipped with a Blu-ray player greatly contributed to the demise of the HD-DVD format.

Blu-ray discs are predominantly available in four formats. The single and dual layer which was also found in DVDs and CDs, dual layer discs are double the size of the standard single layer disc which is around 25 GB. Blu-ray discs are also available as mini discs which are 7 and 15 GB in size depending on whether the disc is single or dual layer. This allows about 5 hours of high definition video on a standard Blu-ray disc (single layer amounting to 25 GB). A 1x Blu-ray read speed equates to about 36Mbps. Reading high definition video will require at least 2x.

While Blu-ray technology is apparently at its zenith in terms of development, there is still ongoing development and research to perfect the product even further. Research and development primarily consist of ways to increase storage space of Blu-ray discs. Quad layer discs have been developed to accommodate up to 100 GB of data. Various tech corporations such as TDK, Pioneer corporation and JVC have developed Blu-ray discs that are capable of holding up to 250 GB of data. Some prototypes have also been made compatible with current standard Blu-ray players.

Blu-ray writers are available for around $100 on average. BD-R discs can be bought for about a dollar each in most online stores. While the popularity of Blu-ray is slowly increasing, it is still relatively expensive in comparison to other forms of storage media thus DVDs still thrive. Unlike in the scenario when DVDs superseded CDs, the use of Blu-ray discs cannot be extended beyond the use of high definition media while DVDs were used by game distributors. With games available for download directly online, the shift to Blu-ray discs by game distributors may never occur. Additionally, the default optical reader provided by most computer manufacturers is still DVD-ROMs. As movie distributors are shifting to Blu-ray, the transition to Blu-ray making DVDs would occur but it certainly won’t be a rushed process.