Even though they're now an established part of the home cinema landscape, Blu-ray players are still a major cause of confusion, particularly when it comes to building a home cinema system based around one. So with that in mind, we're going back to Blu-ray basics in order to explain some of the commonly misunderstood aspects of these hi-def disc players.
One of the biggest causes of confusion is the staggered introduction of the Blu-ray standard onto the market, which means that you'll find certain features on some players but not on others.
When Blu-ray was first introduced two years ago, the standard had not yet been finalised and as a result the first players on sale lacked many of the capabilities that the format now offers. These players were known as Profile 1.0, but the standard has since been updated to Profile 1.1 (also known as BonusView or Final Standard Profile) which adds secondary video and audio decoders to the list of available features, making it possible to view picture-in-picture commentaries with a separate audio track. At the time of writing there are only two dedicated Profile 1.1 players on the market (the Panasonic DMP-BD30 and the Samsung BD-P1500) plus one system (the Panasonic SC-BT100), as well as the PlayStation 3, which is the UK's only Blu-ray player that can have its profile updated.
But calling Profile 1.1 ‘Final Standard Profile' is somewhat misleading, as there is another profile that adds even more functionality into the mix. Profile 2.0, or BD Live, adds an Internet connection (via Ethernet), which allows you to download extra content from the web or interact with other movie fans around the world. It's already possible to upgrade the PS3 to BD Live, and Panasonic has recently launched the UK's first standalone BD Live player, the DMP-BD50.
So if you're shopping around for a Blu-ray deck and like the idea of picture-in-picture or web interactivity, then it's best to avoid Profile 1.0 players altogether and go for a Profile 1.1 or BD Live deck. But if you couldn't care less about such features then you could pick up a Profile 1.0 player at a knockdown price. Even if it doesn't support the BonusView or BD Live features found on some discs, you'll still be able to play the movie in glorious hi-def, and isn't that the most important thing?