What We're Sacrificing for Streaming Video Access

What We're Sacrificing for Streaming Video Access

Jason Yang
Jul 25, 2012

With the recent news that Redbox is ready to jump into the already-crowded online video streaming game, is this the final bell tolling for physical media as we know it? Purists will talk about how physical media still has the highest available video and audio quality, as well as extra features, but is that enough to keep you tethered to physical discs, or have you made the jump to online only?

The biggest consideration in the Blu-ray versus streaming video debate is always going to be bandwidth. The official Blu-ray website lists a Blu-ray disc as having a 25 Gb capacity. Blu-ray discs have a maximum data transfer rate of 54 Mbps, 48 Mbps for audio and video data. Some of the newer fast internet connections, such as FiOS Quantum, advertise download rates of 15 Mbps to a whopping 300 Mbps, but chances are you're not able to get anywhere close to that rate. I tested the Comcast service at my office at 20 Mbps and my home connection at 25 Mbps. Even if you were able to use that *entire bandwidth consistently for the entire length of a movie, we're still nowhere near the 48 Mbps required to match the quality of Blu-ray. Not to mention your data usage would be through the roof.

Netflix reportedly streams videos at up to 8 Mbps, which is a far cry from Blu-ray's data rates. So streaming video services such as Netflix, Amazon, and soon Redbox have to select a way to make your movie "fit" into a smaller pipe, and it's the quality that suffers. Lowered picture and sound quality by way of compression, resolution and such. So you don't get that great high defintion picture and audio.

Blu-ray discs also tout bonus features and extended footage as part of their marketing, and you can't get those extras with streaming video. But how often do these features really get used anyway?

What's your plan? Are you sticking with Blu-ray and physical media until streaming video catches up in quality? Maybe those extra features are just totally worth it for you to get the disc? Are you willing to sacrifice quality for the convenience of streaming videos? Or perhaps you don't really care about the quality in the first place? Share your thoughts!

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(Image: Shutterstock)

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