Thinking of upgrading to Blu-ray but concerned that your DVD collection will be obsolete?  Here’s the information you need.

With Blu-ray players falling in price all the time, and the latest Xbox making the format even more affordable than ever, many home cinema and casual movie watchers are considering upgrading.  If you’re unsure about the differences and reasons to upgrade, take a look at our Blu-ray vs DVD guide here.

But what about those of us with shelves full of beloved DVDs we’ve collected over the years? Do they need to be thrown out and replaced with new, more expensive discs?

Here’s what you need to know:

Backwards compatible
Yes, Blu-ray as a format was built to be backwards compatible.  In other words, Blu-ray players can play DVDs.  The discs themselves are identical in size.  The difference, apart from the name, is simply about storage capacity – Blu-rays hold more data than DVDs so they are able to include higher quality versions of the film, with improved image and sound.

There’s more good news…

When the Blu-ray format was created, the designers recognised that most movie fans have DVD collections which have been expensively assembled.   So as well as making Blu-ray compatible with the older discs, they offered an upgrade.  The majority of Blu-ray players therefore will play DVDs and through a clever process, “upscale” the image.  Without getting too technical, it means that the image resolution is artificially boosted to look clearer and more detailed.  Yes, it can’t ever be as good as a Blu-ray because the player simply doesn’t have enough information to work with, but it certainly offers an improved viewing experience.

The bad news
The one problem with Blu-ray is that even if you do keep your old DVDs, after you have become used to Blu-ray, you might want to upgrade all of your discs.  Yes, upscaling helps, but as the resolution of televisions and screens improves, the difference in image quality between DVD and Blu-ray will be become more pronounced, meaning most movie watchers will want to upgrade to the superior Blu-ray experience.

So in answer to the question: can Blu-ray play regular DVDs, the answer is a resounding YES.  Whether you’ll be happy to watch DVDs after the upgrade to Blu-ray however, is a far more subjective question.