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What is Blu-ray?

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This document pertains to HP Notebook PCs with Windows Vista.

Understanding optical disc drives

Most computers have an optical disc drive for reading or storing large amounts of information. Some drives can read and write (burn) information onto a blank disc, while other drives can only read information. There are four different types of drives and discs that use different technologies:
  • CD - Compact Disc
  • DVD - Digital Video Disc
  • HD-DVD - High Definition Digital Video Disc
  • Blu-ray - Blu-ray technology patented by Sony Corporation.
NOTE:For consistency and clarity, this document will use the spelling 'disc.'

What is Blu-ray?

A Blu-ray disc is a form of optical disc. It looks the same as a DVD, but can store about six times as much information as a standard DVD. Because they can hold so much more information, Blu-ray discs can provide high-definition audio and video for output on HD TVs and surround sound systems, while an ordinary DVD cannot. Since Blu-ray discs are formatted in a way designed to be read by a blue-violet laser, which has a shorter wavelength than the conventional red lasers used by standard DVD players, Blu-ray discs cannot be read by an ordinary DVD player.
Blu-ray is an evolving technology. Sony licenses the technology to some other manufacturers, but Sony is the corporation that develops the technology and its standards.

Is Blu-ray the same as HD-DVD?

No. They are two separate technologies. The two disc formats are not compatible with one another. Sony’s Blu-ray technology has been more widely adopted by media manufacturers.

Is Blu-ray backwards compatible?

Yes. All Blu-ray drives can read standard DVDs as well as Blu-ray discs.

Can I use my PC to play Blu-ray discs on my HDTV?

Yes, you can, assuming you have a Blu-ray disc drive and the proper HDMI connectors and cables.

How can I check if my PC will connect to a plasma or LCD HDTV?

You will have to review the user's guides and specifications for both your computer and and for your television.

How is connecting to an HDTV different than connecting to an external monitor?

The difference is mostly in the number of components and the types of cables you may need. When connecting to an external monitor, you may not care if your high-definition content can be displayed on it. The external monitor may not even be capable of displaying such content.
Connecting to an HDTV works best with an HDMI cable. Make sure that your computer and your TV both have HDMI ports. There are also HDMI adapters available if your computer has a smaller port than your TV has.
Additionally, when you connect your computer to a monitor, you may not care about the sound quality. If you are connecting to an HDTV, you might also wish to connect your computer to a surround sound system for a complete home theater experience. You can do this in several ways. First, you can hook up a PC to a TV using HDMI cables and then use the TV out (HDMI, RCA connectors) to a surround sound receiver. Second, you can hook up the HDMI cable from the PC to a surround sound receiver and then out to TV (HDMI, RCA connectors). All of this depends on your equipment and what you have available.
See your sound system’s operating manuals for more information.

Do I need cables?

Blu-ray performs best if its audio and video signals are connected to an output device, such as an HDTV, through an HDMI cable. Make sure that your computer and your TV both have HDMI ports. There are also HDMI adapters available if your computer has a smaller port than your TV has.
Blu-ray discs will usually work with an output device that doesn’t support high definition. However, any link in the overall system that isn’t capable of handling high definition content—player, cables, TV or monitor--will affect the quality of the image. It’s essentially a matter of the lowest common denominator. If you have an Xbox 360 that can read a high definition disc hooked up to a 52” HDTV with, for whatever reason, an S-Video cable, you will only be able to view the maximum output that the S-Video cable is capable of transmitting. Likewise, if you have that same Xbox hooked up to a non-HDTV, the television will not be able to output the information in high definition.

Do I need special software?

You will need the correct drivers to run your Blu-ray optical drive, and you will need audio and video codecs to be able to read the information on a Blu-ray disc. A codec is a method of encoding and compressing information, and then decoding and decompressing it for use. This and other software should have arrived already installed on your notebook if it came with a Blu-ray drive, and updates for your system are always available at the HP Drivers and Downloads website.

Can I record to a Blu-ray disc?

You will need a Blu-ray reader/writer drive, and have either a BD-R disc, which can be written to once, or a BD-RE disc, which can be re-recorded and erased. You should be aware that these types of discs are still extremely expensive, as demand has not yet driven down their cost.
The older your Blu-ray player is, the more likely it is that it won't be able to handle making legal copies of disc content to another device.

What kind of copy protection does a Blu-ray disc have?

Blu-ray uses AACS (Advanced Access Content System) to protect content on discs. The earliest Blu-ray players sold probably do not have a fully developed version of this system on them, and thus probably cannot make legal copies of content. Blu-ray has additional advanced layers of security, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM), that most consumers will not be aware of, because they interact with one another transparently.

What is Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

Digital rights management (DRM) is any of a variety of technologies used to enforce copyright protection of content and services in digital media. In order to use a program, music DVD, MP3 file, or video game, consumers must acquire a license as well. Most licenses are implied in the act of purchasing the media at hand.
Your ability to copy media that you own may be tightly restricted by the terms of your license agreement. For example, if you’ve legally downloaded an MP3 from a file service, the license agreement may allow you to put it on one brand of MP3 player and a certain number of computers. You might not be able to burn that MP3 file to a disc and play it on your Blu-ray disc drive, however.

Does Blu-ray have different formats for different regions?

Yes. Like a standard DVD, a Blu-ray disc is usually encoded for a specific region, so that it will only be readable by a player encoded for that region. The geographical regions differ slightly from the DVD encoding regions, and are listed below.
  • A. North America, Central America, South America, Japan, Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia.
  • B. Most of Europe, Greenland, French territories, Middle East, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, and all of Oceania.
  • C. India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mainland China, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Central, and South Asia.

What is a mini Blu-ray disc?

A mini Blu-ray disc is about 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter, and is designed for use in camcorders and other recording devices.

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