DVD vs Blu-ray vs 4K Blu-ray: What’s the difference between them?

DVD vs Blu-ray vs 4K Blu-ray: What’s the difference between them?
(Image credit: Getty)

We all know what Blu-rays are - they’re the thing that came after DVDs, but what makes them better than their predecessors? And why are DVDs still around if they’ve been replaced? Are DVDs still better in some regards? Oh yeah, and what’s all this about 4K Blu-rays now?

Well first off, that’s a lot of questions and don’t worry, we’re going to cover them all. Technology never stops advancing and it doesn’t always make sense to upgrade right away, so it’s not surprising that so many people are still making do with a DVD player, but Blu-rays do offer some major advantages over DVDs, so maybe it's time to finally jump on board?

What are Blu-rays and why are they better than DVDs? 

Blu-ray is a digital optical disc that is used to store data and it was the format that was specifically designed by Sony and its partners to replace DVDs. It is typically used to store video files, aka TV and movies, but it is also used as the physical media of choice for video games by both Xbox and PlayStation thanks to its large storage capacity.

Blu-ray discs are the same size as the CDs and DVDs that came before them, but they can’t be played by CD or DVD players - you need a specific Blu-ray disc drive for that. The best Blu-ray players can play CDs and DVDs though, so they offer an element of backwards compatibility.

So what makes Blu-rays better than DVDs? Well a few things, but the major factor is storage space. The largest DVDs available can store up to 4.7 GB of data on a single layer disc, or 8.5 GB with a double layer. By comparison, a Blu-ray can store 25GB of data on a single layer disc, or 50GB on a dual layer disc. That’s five times the storage capacity on a disc that takes up exactly the same amount of space.

That increased storage capacity means that Blu-rays can store much higher definition video than a DVD can, which means Blu-ray movies will always look better than their DVD counterparts, assuming you have a HD or 4K TV that can take advantage of this increased video quality. It's not just resolution though - the increased storage space means better audio quality too.

What about 4K Blu-rays? 

4K Blu-rays are simply Blu-rays that output movies and TV shows at a native 4K resolution, rather than the standard HD resolution that normal Blu-rays. Whether or not you should invest in a 4K Blu-ray player depends entirely on two factors - do you have a 4K TV, and if not, do you plan on getting one soon?

If you already have the best TV then a 4K Blu-ray player is a no brainer. It will let you get the most out of your shiny 4K TV and it will still play all your standard Blu-rays, and even all your old DVDs too. You might as well dive into the future now, otherwise you’re not making the most out of your 4K TV purchase.

(Image credit: Universal)

If you don’t already have a 4K TV, well first of all we’d seriously consider an upgrade, but even if you can’t afford or don’t want a 4K TV at the moment, you should still consider a 4K Blu-ray player as a way to future proof yourself. 

Are DVDs better than Blu-rays in any way?

Blu-rays will always win out over DVDs when it comes to video quality and storage capacity, but DVDs do still have one ace up their sleeve - cost. DVDs and DVD players are much cheaper than their Blu-ray counterparts. If you don’t have a modern TV and still have a huge collection of DVDs, then you’ll be better off getting a DVD player rather than shelling out for a Blu-ray player that you won’t be making good use of.

Most movies are still released on DVD in addition to Blu-ray too, so you’re not going to be missing out on major blockbusters if you stick with your DVD player. We can’t know for sure how long this will continue, but the future of DVDs looks safe for a few more years at least.

What about TV and movie streaming?

The elephant in the room as it were, the best TV streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus have taken a huge chunk out of the entertainment market, as many people prefer the convenience of streaming. You only need a smart device to access streaming services, whether that’s a smart TV, a laptop, or just your smartphone and it means you don’t need to keep a dragon’s horde worth of DVDs or Blu-rays lying around your house taking up space.

Blu-rays do have a couple of advantages over streaming though, in that they offer much better video quality than equivalent resolutions streams do and they don’t require an internet connection to work.

We’d say that Blu-rays, and especially 4K Blu-rays are for TV and movie aficionados - people who want to watch their content in the highest possible quality whereas streaming services offer everyday convenience.

Ian Stokes

Ian Stokes is the Tech Editor here at Top Ten Reviews. He has extensive experience in tech and games journalism, with work published on IGN, Kotaku UK, Waypoint, GamesRadar, Trusted Reviews, and many more. You'll find him covering everything from smartphones and home computers to 3D printers and headphones. He's also our resident cocktail expert.