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DVD vs Blu-ray vs Digital File: What Are the Differences?

When it comes to buy a movie or TV series, should you buy DVD, Blu-ray or digital copy? Here's a comparison of DVD vs Blu-ray vs digital to help you make a decision.

Blu-ray costs more money but have far-preferable image and audio quality over DVD and digital file. Digital file receives lots of votes, because it doesn't require disc drive and it can be played on portable devices anytime anywhere. Well, which one should you choose? This article compares DVD, Blu-ray and digital file in detail for your reference.

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Part 1. DVD vs Blu-ray vs Digital File Comparison

The biggest difference between DVD, Blu-ray and digital file is that DVD and Blu-ray are real discs while digital file is virtual goods. In the following, let's go to in-depth comparison of DVD vs Blu-ray vs digital file through their definitions, pros and cons.

DVD vs Blu-ray vs Digital file
DVD vs Blu-ray vs Digital file


DVD we usually mention is a DVD disc using DVD-video and DVD-audio formats to store video and audio, like MPEG-2 video up to 9.8 Mbit/s and Dolby Digital (AC3) audio up to 448 kbit/s for commercial DVD movies/TV shows.

There are two dominated DVD video standards NTSC (720/704X480 pixels at a display rate of 29.97 frames per second) and PAL (720/704X576 pixels at a display rate of 25 frames per second). Currently, you can upscale DVD to 1080p Blu-ray for better quality on HDTV.

Basically, there are restrictions for protecting DVD copyright, such as CSS, region codes, UOP and other special securities (Sony ARccOS, Disney X-project etc.). DVD can be played with DVD players, DVD-ROM drive on computer. Video game DVDs can be played on game consoles, such as Sony PlayStation series, Microsoft Xbox series.


  • DVD is cheaper to get (either purchase or rent) than Blu-ray and HD digital file.
  • DVD can be sold if you don't like or don't want to have this movie any more.


  • DVD has lower video quality/resolution than Blu-ray and HD digital release.
  • DVD cannot be directly watched on phones/tablets (unless you rip DVD to a digital file).
  • DVD is fragile to be scratched or broken unless under extremely careful protection.


Successor to DVD, Blu-ray is capable of storing high-definition video with up to 1920X1080 resolution at 24 frames per second, 16:9 aspect ratio and 54 Mbit/s bit rate for movie.

Comparable to MPEG-2, H.264 becomes modern video format used by Blu-ray to reduce cost, improve ease of use and free storage for bonus contents, which may be encoded in different format (MPEG-2 as example). Blu-ray uses 7 primary audio format, lossy Dolby Digital (AC3), DTS, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD and lossless Linear PCM, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio.

The encryptions of Blu-ray include DRM, AACS and region codes which are verified by player software not optical drive (for DVD region codes). Similar to DVD longevity, life span of blu ray is up to 200 years but 2-10 years in our test.


  • Blu-ray has superior audio and video quality than DVD and digital release. Even HD digital offers the same resolution as Blu-ray, but more compression used for delivering contents over internet.
  • It offers bonus contents, a digital copy of movie, games, BD-Live interaction content etc.
  • Blu-ray is cheaper to rent than to purchase HD digital file and can be sold.


  • Blu-ray player, HDTV or Blu-ray drive and special software on computer are needed to deliver stunning video and audio. Otherwise, there is no difference with playing a standard DVD.
  • Blu-ray cannot be directly watched on portable devices.
  • Blu-ray is fragile to be scratched or broken unless under extremely careful protection.

DVD VS Blu-ray Storage Capacity, Quality, and Longevity




Storage capacity

DVD Single Layer: 4.7 GB
DVD Double Layer: 8.5 GB
Mini DVD Single Layer: 2.66 GB
Mini DVD Double Layer: 5.2 GB

Blu-ray Single layer: 25 GB
Blu-ray Double Layer: 50.1 GB
Mini Blu-ray Single Layer: 7.8 GB
Mini Blu-ray Double Layer: 15.6 GB



720 x 480 (NTSC)
720 X 576 (PAL)

3840 x 2160 (4K Blu-ray)
1920 x 1080
1280 x 720

Max video bitrate



Video codecs



Audio codecs

Linear PCM
Dolby Digital
DTS Surround Sound

Linear PCM
Dolby Digital
Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby TrueHD
DTS Digital Surround


DVD-R (gold metal layer): 50 to 100 years
DVD+R (silver alloy metal layer): 20 to 50 years
DVD+RW (erasable DVD): 20 to 50 years
DVD-R (silver alloy metal layer): 10 to 20 years
DVD (read-only, such as a DVD movie): 10 to 20 years
DVD-RW (erasable DVD): 5 to 10 years
DVD+R DL (dual layer): 5 to 10 years

BD-RE (erasable Blu-ray): 20 to 50 years
BD-R (non-dye, gold metal layer): 10 to 20 years
BD (read-only, such as a Blu-ray movie): 10 to 20 years
BD-R (dye or non-dye, single layer or dual layer): 5 to 10 years

Digital file

Digital release of movies and TV shows are popular today. They can be accessed from iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Vudu, YouTube etc. You can download or directly stream a digital movie on a diverse of devices, including PC, Mac, Apple, Android, Xbox and so on. At present, HD digital has been released reading 1080p resolution as Blu-ray. Unlike DVD and Blu-ray protected by region codes, digital release is available to everybody and restrictions-free.


  • HD digital release has higher quality than standard DVD and the same video quality as Blu-ray.
  • You can download digital movies/TV shows (offline) or stream (online) from lots of websites for playback on PC/Mac/mobiles.
  • Digital release is available to everybody and restrictions-free.


  • It may not deliver HD quality if devices only supporting standard definition videos.
  • Sometimes, not all episodes of TV shows are provided online so that an alternative way is necessary for enjoying whole TV show.

Part 2. Bottom Line

Blu-ray has better audio/video quality than DVD and digital but needs more money and specific devices or software to play, for example Blu-ray player, Blu-ray drive on computer, HDTV.

DVD discs are cheaper and easier to access, play.

Digital movies and TV shows can be downloaded and streamed to computer/smartphones/tablets directly but rely on internet. Sometimes, the downloaded HD digital movies, TV shows may be in other formats, like MKV incompatible with portable devices and a video converter is probably in need for smooth playback on phones or tablets.

In a nutshell, the answer to which format is best for watching movies/TV shows depends on your needs, to pursue the highest video/audio quality or to have a movie/TV show enjoyment on any devices with no limitations.


author-Jack Watt

Jack Watt twitter icon

Jack Watt is a sought-after editor at Digiarty. He is responsible for digital and multimedia world, delivering definitive video and audio related software reviews, enlightening guides, and incisive analysis. As a fan of Apple, Jack Watt also brings his experience to more readers and focuses on writing of the Apple ecosystem at large.

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