Streaming vs. DVD: Which is better? | What the Tech?

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (WHAT THE TECH?) — If you watch movies at home these days, you most likely watched them on Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or another streaming service. Those are all great choices and millions of people subscribe.

However, if you’re a serious movie buff, or if you’re creating a home theater experience, there is something better: A DVD. Yep, those silver discs are the best in-home movie experience.

Here’s a case for kicking it old school:

Streaming is convenient but there’s a huge trade-off in quality. With a basic Netflix subscription, movies you watch are in 480p, not high definition.

For perspective:

  • A movie in 480p standard definition has a resolution of 720×480, which means there are 720 pixels horizontally and 480 pixels vertically
  • Standard HD has a resolution of 1280 pixels horizontally and 480 vertically
  • Full HD has 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 vertically
  • 4K and UHD (ultra-high definition) is 3840 pixels horizontally and 2160 vertically

You won’t notice as much of a change on smaller TVs, but if your television is 50″ or larger, the difference is remarkable. You’ll pay more for HD titles ($15.50/mo) and for 4k and Ultra HD titles ($20 a month.) Although their libraries are growing, not every movie is available in 4K or UHD.

Cost isn’t the only factor though. If your smart TV or streaming device is connected over WiFi, your internet speed is likely not fast enough for full HD.

Blu-Ray DVDs, on the other hand, are all in full HD. BluRay players are under $100 now and you can even find 4K/Ultra HD DVD players for around $200. No internet is required. DVD players also have up to 7.1 surround sound for an even better home theater experience.

Netflix and other streaming services may offer 5.1 surround sound, but even that is compressed which means it’s good enough for bandwidth but the audio quality is nowhere near what you’ll hear from a DVD player and surround sound system.

Where do you find DVDs? There are Red Box rental kiosks everywhere with a limited selection of Blu-Ray discs for a couple of bucks.

Netflix also has a DVD rental program that delivers to your home. The DVD plans are:

  • $10/month for unlimited rental and one DVD out at-a-time
  • $15/mo for unlimited rentals and 2 DVDs out at-a-time
  • $20/mo for unlimited rentals and 3 DVDs out at-a-time

Another advantage DVD rentals have over streaming is that movies aren’t staying in theaters as long now as they did a decade ago, so you’ll find the most recent titles on Netflix DVD and Red Box rentals.

While Netflix streaming and the other services occasionally get the most recent releases, there are not many to choose from and the movie you’re wanting to see may not be on a streaming service you subscribe to.

Finally, a big reason is psychological. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve flipped through Netflix or Amazon for over an hour trying to find something to watch. There are too many choices.

Renting a DVD is like an investment. You feel compelled to watch it right away. If you are old enough to remember browsing the aisles at Blockbuster or another movie rental store, you probably remember how you couldn’t wait to get home to watch. I’ve found myself browsing through a streaming service and saying “I want to see that” but never getting back to it.

If you’re a casual movie viewer and you don’t necessarily have to watch in HD, you’re fine with the audio coming out of the TV and you don’t mind watching a movie that’s a few years old, streaming is probably fine. However, if you’re a real movie buff this is one of those rare times that old tech is better than new tech.