As the Blu-ray format continues its march to achieving dominance as the market’s leading high-definition format, one question on consumer’s minds has been: why are Blu-ray burners so expensive?


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This article hopes to answer some of the questions consumers ask why there is such a large price discrepancy between Blu-ray burners and more traditional optical disc drives. We will also highlight some of the differences between the formats and what this means for consumers.

Detailed Reasons Blu ray burners being expensive:

High (4x) rate Blu-ray Disc:

The Blu-ray disc standard comprises data on 16 bits and a depth (resolution) of 24bits per sample. To store this much detail, the use of a 4x rate (four times the data rate of a standard DVD) is required. As with all optical storage media used in high-definition applications, the cost to manufacture is high.

To achieve this increased rate, Blu-ray discs utilize a blue (405 nm) laser focused more tightly and capable of burning more information onto the disc. The laser diode used in Blu-ray burners also contains a lens that focuses the light from the diode onto an optical pickup head in the burner.

Dual-layer DVD:

A dual-layer (DL) DVD can hold four times as much information as a single-layer disc, but standard DVD players can only read it. This is because DL discs use the same blue and red laser paradigm to read and write information.

To utilize the increased storage capacity of DL DVDs, a dual-layer drive is required. This requires a read head in addition to the normal one for standard DVDs. The resulting drive is bulkier and more expensive but allows consumers to use the increased capacity of DL media.

All of these features require additional computing power and therefore need a more powerful drive to read. Most Blu-ray burning drives utilize the exact drive mechanism as a standard DVD, but this is necessary to utilize the extra features required by Blu-ray.

Precision:

The precision required to store information on a Blu-ray disc is much greater than with standard CDs and DVDs. Data on a BD must be placed close to the same precision that existed when the data was created.

Data on CDs and DVDs can be written anywhere on the disc, as long as the proper track pitch is maintained. It is impossible to write data anywhere on the Blu-ray disc; it must be written in a certain place. If this requirement is not met, it could result in non-playable discs.

Temper:

The overall brightness or “temper” of Blu-ray discs is far greater than that on DVDs and CDs. For this reason, BDs are more susceptible to scratches and other damage. In addition, the closer a Blu-ray disc is to the origin of the laser light used to burn it, the better it will look. The younger a BD is, the lower its temper will be.

Disc Thickness:

A BD requires two layers of glass to produce one disc. DVDs and CDs only require a single layer of glass. The thicker the discs are, the less dirt that can be trapped inside them and the more damage they will suffer, especially when a disc surface is scratched.

In addition, the thicker a disc is, the more expensive it is to produce. This is another significant factor in making Blu-ray discs more expensive.

Disc Capacity:

The capacity of a BD is ten times as great as that of a DVD, but the actual capacity depends on what is encoded into the disc. Depending on the content, a BD can store up to 100GB of information. Due to this massive capacity, drives capable of reading this data are more expensive than those that read an 8.5GB DVD.

While the cost to produce a single Blu-ray burner may seem high, this cost is drastically reduced when you consider that BDs are capable of storing more than ten times as much data as a standard DVD.

High Profile Format:

Blu-ray Disc is a high-profile format created to store HD video content that requires higher bitrates than standard DVD. The original standard of the Blu-ray discs has a maximum of approximately 25GB and supports a signal compression rate of 10:1. These specifications are substantially lower than the BD specification, which can support up to 100GB and 20:1 compression, respectively.

The Blu-ray Disc Association is expected to release additional specifications, ultimately allowing for a maximum capacity of between 200GB and 400GB. In the meantime, some companies have come up with solutions for high-capacity media. Samsung has introduced 50GB discs and is expected to have 100GB discs by the second half of 2007. The high-capacity media will enable a significant reduction in cost per gigabyte when compared to DVDs.

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Conclusion:

As you can see, various factors can result in the higher price of Blu-ray burners. To make these prices comparable with standard DVD burners, Blu-ray disc manufacturers must develop technologies to reduce costs further.