As modern inventions go, multiplexes are great. But it is not possible to go to one every time one needs to unwind after a stressful day at office. Thanks to modern high-definition televisions and surround sound systems and whatnot, though, the home TV is quite competitive as an alternative.
Of course, one cannot watch the latest blockbuster at home, but for everything else, why not? A glass of wine, some cheese or crackers, your loved ones around you, what could be better?Well, the movie has to live up to the accompaniments. Here is when the spotlight shines on your video player. Can it hold its own?
Over the last couple of decades, video players have seen a revolution. From the humble VHS, to LD to the VCDs and DVDs, the video got progressively better. For instance, the DVD addressed the sound quality issues that plagued the VCD, but something was still missing. It was as though digital technology was poised for a breakthrough that was yet to happen.
And then came blu-ray.
When they first came, these revolutionary players were priced out of the reach of most people. Over time, this has changed, and today you can get very good players for as low as Rs 6,500. But the difficulty is in making the right choice. If you don't know the right questions to ask, how will you know if the what the vendor is telling you is right?
For instance, one vendor told me a 3D blu-ray player could play three-dimensional video on my 2D TV. Now, if I had just taken him at his word and made the purchase, I would have had to track him down and sue him later — because of course that is an outright lie. So what details should you should seek?
2D vs 3D
Technology has progressed beyond just blu-ray, to embrace the 3D technology that James Cameron so popularized with his Avataar. It has become an almost common feature for blu-ray players. But do remember, to watch a movie in 3D, the movie disc, the player, the television - all need to be 3D. Just a 3D player alone will not do. If you tot it all up, the cost almost doubles, so think twice, too!
Sound: Basic Stereo, 2.1, 5.1...
We all like good sound, right? But one needs to match the system to the surroundings. If your favourite viewing area is your bedroom, a 5.1 (or 7.1 and even 8.1) system with the accompanying amplifiers, receivers and cabling would end up creating a mess. It’s safer to go in for a regular stereo system, or 2.1 or a soundbar.
A home theatre, or just a blu-ray player?
You will get package options: a player with speakers and a woofer, for instance. Do you really need it? Just refer back to the previous point: do you really want all those wires running across your ‘home theatre’? And how much space does your room have? If you are building a dedicated room where you can control acoustics, just buy the player and add a professional sound setup. But if you want to just retrofit your bedroom, the home theater in a box thing is a good option — but don’t forget the sound bar: no clutter!
To Net or not to Net
Televisions are ‘smart’ these days, and let you connect to the Internet, browse YouTube videos etc. If your TV cannot do all these things, you can get a Net-enabled blu-ray player. The same is true for a USB memory slot.
Remember, it is not necessary that both the TV and player must be from the same company. What is important, is that your TV should have an HDMI port free to connect to the player. If both devices are of the same make, chances are that you may get a unified remote control --- but of course, unified remote controllers are available in the market starting at Rs 1,000 or so. And they will let you control some more devices in your house.
The player should gel with your home theater setup. Ideally, they should not have too many blinking lights, as they prove a distraction to the movie experience. Entry-level players from Sony, Samsung and LG are similarly priced and sport similar features. In my studies, I found LG players to be the fastest in loading a disc. Sony is built well, and Samsung offers a good alternative.
While comparing models, try to take your own disc to the showroom. Sometimes they may not let you play it. In any case do explore the menu option, see what you like and what you don't, and choose parameters that fit your needs.