Why are Blu-Ray players so slow?

I’ve now owned one HD-DVD player and two Blu-Ray players across three major brands, Toshiba, Sony and Sharp, including entry level, mid range and top-of-the-line models. One thing that is common across all of them is that they are just excruciatingly slow. It takes forever to load a disc and start playing a movie. What is even more annoying, you cannot open the disc tray or eject a disc without waiting for the damn machine to boot up, which takes at least 30 – 60 seconds. What? I have to wait for the machine to boot before I can take out or remove a disc? I’ve accidentally turned off my player with the disc still in it half a dozen times, then had to wait for it to restart before I eject it. Infuriating.

While the enhanced HD image quality is a boon, these machines have taken a serious step backwards in user convenience. Would it have been that hard to make the machine able to open and close the tray without waiting for it to boot? I realize that these players actually have much more serious OS/software layers than yesterday’s DVD players, but the sluggish interface is really annoying. Of course, the major CE vendors have never been great with software, so it is not surprising, but it doesn’t bode well for them or their customers in the future as digital home equipment becomes progressively more software/UI centric.

But it does open the door for innovative startups who do understand how to marry great software and hardware into a single system — think Sonos, Vudu or Sling Media, for example.

  • Eric Marcoullier

    Ryan — no idea why you have to boot up in order to eject the disc. That's crazy. On the overall slowness side, all of these players are basically PCs with most of the features stripped away. Think of how long it takes you to boot up a laptop and start playing a DVD — welcome to the next generation of home video.

  • anonymous

    i have not bought or rented a DVD in 2yrs, and have no plans of going Blu-Ray.
    online is the way to go.

  • Stewart Alsop

    Thank you! I hadn't internalized what it was that was pissing me off about using my Blu-Ray DVD player so much, but that's it: really bad design. A lot like how it's so annoying to try to use WiFi, that I'd prefer to use my EV-DO card anytime. Like @anonymous, between TiVo, Amazon Unbox, and AppleTV, I can fill up my TV dance card without using the damned DVD player…

  • Stewart, yes, the tyranny of physical media is a pain, and I think Blu-ray is probably the last important physical media format — and it might never be as widespread as the DVD.

    I definitely make use of Comcast on-demand and my AppleTV (now that you can rent from the TV itself) whenever possible. But the picture quality of Blu-ray pretty much smokes anything that on-demand or internet download can offer. Bandwidth off a Blu-ray can reach 48 megabits vs. somewhere between 3 megabits and 8 megabits for AppleTV, Vudu or Cable VOD. You can definitely see the difference in quality since Blu-ray's video is much less compressed.

    But of course, most people are not videophiles, just like most people are not audiophiles. mp3 took over the world even though it doesn't sound as good as a CD, since the convenience of the format trumps all other considerations.

  • Phil

    Thanks for the comments. I thought my new Sony Blu-Ray was not working correctly. I now understand thats its the nature of the beast. I guess the couple of minutes on the front end is not that big of a deal when you sit for the next 2 hours and watch the movie. 3-5 minutes feels like a really long time.

    I had an 8 track in my first car so who am I to complain.

    • Doug

      but the 8 track played right away, and you could “eject” it right away.

  • Martine

    Thanks for enlightening me. I too thought my Sony Blu-Ray player was simply old technology as it was soooo slow starting up. However, I firmly believe that the picture and sound quality far outweigh the 3 minutes or so that it takes to get going. I think I can find something to do during that time.

  • Dave

    Until they figure out how to make the Blu-Ray player start up faster I will not buy one. I bought a laptop with a blu-ray player. What a mistake. I'm thinking of having it removed and replaced with a normal DVD player.

  • Robert

    You can thank Hollywood for that. Part of the slowness can be attributed to the BD+ copy-prevention scheme. BD+ is an adaptive protection protocol whereby new decryption methods can be loaded from newer movie releases if the older BD+ decryption is broken. The problem with regular DVDs is that once the decryption was broken, all DVDs old and new became unlocked forever. Hollywood wasn't about to let THAT happen again. The major studios demanded and participated in the development of BD+ to solve that. When you power on your Blu-Ray DVD player, the OS boots and and starts a protected virtual computer. It then reads the DVD, loading up it's decryption method. The method is transferred into the DVD player and executed, allowing the data stream to be decrypted for playback. If that particular method gets cracked, say by our good friends Slysoft in Antigua, then the DB+ scheme is simply updated and put on all new disks. Old disks are still cracked, but new ones are protected again. Cat and mouse.