Monday, January 24, 2011

Best Blank Blu Ray Media : Review Guide

Blu Ray blank media guide : Introduction to Blu Ray blank media 
Introduction to Blu Ray Blank Media Part 1: What You Need to Know About Blu Ray Media

What are the best Blu Ray  media/ blank discs to pick when using Blu Ray for archival storage or streaming? In the 10 years elapsed since development of the Blu Ray technology and standard started at Sony, Phillips and Pioneer, Blue Ray has become the primary standard for high density optical media storage.

The large majority of users, however, still uses significantly lesser density DVD-R for media storage and archival, when safeguarding data away from spinning media (hard drives). The year 2010, however, has seen a significant change in trends, with Blu Ray making a breakthrough as a video media standard. Prices have plunged, with Blu Ray burners reaching the $150 price point, and Blu Ray blank media reaching the $1 price point at the low end. We expect to see a sudden take-off in the use of Blu Ray for data archival this year. In fact, as of January 2011, Blu Ray discs are now standard archival media for

Once the decision to move to Blu Ray archival is taken - an easy decision in 2011 if you need non-spinning media archival,- the next problem to solve is- what is the right medium for Blu Ray discs? This guide will discuss significant concepts in Blu Ray storage, review the best offerings in Blu Ray media, rank the best optical media brands, select best picks for Blu Ray media, and compare online blank media stores.

The Blu Ray standard is named after its laser color, blue, whereas DVDs use a red laser. Blu Ray is often referred to as BD for Blu Ray Disc.

Storage Capacity
Blu Ray uses a different frequency for its diode laser compared to DVD. As its name indicates, a Blu Ray player uses a blue laser to scan and read a Blu Ray disc: a DVD laser operates at 650nm, while a Blu Ray laser operates at 405nm. Thanks to the higher frequency of Blu Ray, it can store about 5 times more information on a disc than DVD. As a result, a standard single-layer Blu Ray Disc can store up to 25 GB of data, while a standard DVD can only store about 4.7 GB. A dual layer DVD (DVD-R DL or DVD+R DL), more expensive than a regular DVD, can store up to 8.5GB.

Like a DVD disc, a Blu Ray disc can have more than one layer of data. Each layer adds 25 GB of storage capacity. Right now, it is possible to find single-layer and dual-layer discs, although double-layer discs are significantly more expensive per GB of storage. Dual layer media, with a capacity of 50GB, is labeled DL. Dual-layer technology is not supported by all Blu Ray burners and players, so it is important to verify that your burner or player supports double-layer discs before buying some. At this time, we consider single-layer to be the better right choice for Blu Ray discs due to the much higher price per GB for dual-layer discs and the lesser compatibility across players, but we believe that this will change quickly. There are already 4-layer blank media and players available in Japan, at high cost, for a total of 100 GB per disc.

Write Speed
Like DVD burners, Blu Ray burners can burn Blu Ray discs at different speeds, generally expressed by a multiple such as 2x, 4x, or 6x, which is part of the specification for the product, and typically listed by the vendor. In order to reach a given write speed, the burner must support the selected speed, and the medium (the actual disc) must also support the same speed. 1x corresponds to 36Mbps, although movies require 2x speed. Of course, a faster burner is more expensive. So is a disc that can be burned faster. In January 2011, as we go to publishing, 2x and 4x discs are reasonably priced, while 6x discs are quite a bit more expensive, and 8x discs are not easy to be found. We do not expect Blu Ray speeds to exceed 12x in the near future (there are players running at 12x today), due to wobble issues. Because we expect average speeds to go up quickly this year and next year, we recommend 4x as the most appropriate speed today, although 2x would not be a wrong choice either. It takes about 45 minutes at 2x to burn a Blu Ray disc with a full 25GB of data.

Recording Formats: BD-R vs. BD-RE
Blu Ray discs can be recordable (i.e. write-once/ read-only) or rewritable (i.e. erasable and re-recordable, nominally up to a thousand times). Blue Ray discs are sold as BD-R discs and BD-RE discs. BD-RE discs can be used as BD-R discs, but the opposite is not true. BD-RE discs go for a 2 to 10x premium price over BD-R discs. Some recommend using BD-RE discs right now, because of the lack of reliability of BD-R discs. At the same time, there are some complaints as well of BD-RE discs only being rewritable up to 20-30 times, rather than the nominal 1,000 times specification. At this time, given the very high price premium of BD-RE discs, we believe that, for general use, it makes more sense to pick a very reliable supplier of BD-R discs. It is also possible to find, by the way, BD-R DL and BD-RE DL discs, with 50GB capacity rather than 25GB, although the price per GB goes higher with DL discs.

LTH Technology: No 100% Compatibility yet
Verbatim (a Mitsubishi brand, with excellent reputation in the media industry), Maxell (Hitachi) and Taiyo Yuden (JVC) came out in 2008 with an innovative technology, which allows the use of quasi-standard CD technology in manufacturing, and significantly lowers costs for Blu Ray blanks, with no impact to quality. LTH ("Low To High") technology uses organic dies to change disc reflectivity from low to high when writing, while traditional technology, when writing, changes reflectivity from high to low using inorganic dies. LTH is a perfectly good choice, but beware that not all burners and players are compatible with LTH: make sure that yours is prior to purchase.

Hardened Coatings
Blu Ray uses very high information density, and is more vulnerable to surface damage than DVD. For this reason, the Blu Ray specification also includes surface hardening specifications. There are real quality differences between the coatings used by different manufacturers. Some examples of these coatings can be reviewed on CNET and Engadget. Despite these coatings, however, it is possible, and even easy, to damage a Blu Ray disc, as Netflix Blu Ray users found out.

Packaging: Spindle vs. Jewel Case
When you purchase Blu Ray Media in bulk, you get a significantly better price if you buy it packed 10, 25, 30 ore more on a spindle (also called a cake box, due to the shape of the outer plastic cover). The costlier alternative is to buy your Blu Ray discs individually packaged in a jewel case each. Of course, if you plan on keeping them in jewel cases, then case packaging is best. Otherwise, spindle packaging is the best choice: less expensive, more compact, easier to manipulate, logistically more convenient. One-off purchases all come in a jewel case.

On-Disc Printing
It is possible, using the appropriate printers, to print text, graphics, or both on your Blu Ray discs. Printing technology can be inkjet or thermal. While thermal printing is typically more of a budget option, and works well for one color and simple graphics, inkjet has more color capability, and is a better choice for fancier graphics. Another variant is hub printing, where the printing pattern focuses on the circular ring around the hub. An elegant option, developed by HP, and which does not require a printer, but which can be accomplished directly by your Blu Ray burner (if it is compatible) is Lightscribe, a technology which allows your burner to etch the upper surface on the disc in gray against the contrasting color of the disc, revealing a pattern of your choice.
Every printing type listed above requires an appropriate blank disc: thermal or inkjet printing, hub printing, and Lightscribe all require you to purchase the appropriate blank media. As expected, such media is typically more expensive than regular branded media.
An acceptable alternative is a permanent maker applied by hand:-) Beware, however, that the permanent marker solvent may dissolve the top lacquer layer, and expose the metal oxyde layer to damage by contact. It is safest to use inkjet-ready discs for permanent marker labeling, as the inkjet-ready coating will insulate the metal oxyde layer from the permanent marker. An even better choice is to use specialized disc pens (such as this Maxell labeling set, these Sharpie disc markers, of this Delkin pen), whose chemicals are formulated to avoid damage to the fragile lacquer.

Coasters/ Frisbees
Coasters and Frisbees are the names given to bad discs where the write operation was unsuccessful, i.e. it can only be used as a coaster:-) Beware of brands that produce many coasters.

Some lesser quality media cannot be recorded or read by specific brands or models of Blu Ray burners or players.

DVD-R DL: Possible Cost Effective Alternative
It might be valuable to note that, if you have DVD burners and readers that are Dual Layer compatible, a DVD-R DL disc, with 8.5GB per disc, may be a cost effective alternative, going for $1 to $1.50 per disc for good brands.

Next we review what we learned from the DVD media industry... So come back soon!

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