1080p video smackdown: iTunes Store vs. Blu-ray

“Ars was recently able to conclude that the newly launched iTunes movies encoded in 1080p do, in fact, look better than the same content encoded in 720p, despite the modest increase in file size,” Iljitsch van Beijnum reports for Ars Technica. “That’s good news for iTunes customers. But the real question is: How do iTunes 1080p downloads compare to the reigning king of home video image quality—Blu-ray Disc (BRD)? This is what we set out to test.”

“Things started out well for iTunes with the movie’s titles, which look very sharp on both BRD and iTunes 1080p,” van Beijnum reports. “An early scene that shows a ship on the ice-filled sea also shows that iTunes 1080p almost matches Blu-ray’s level of detail… Color reproduction is almost identical.”

van Beijnum reports, “I was surprised to see how close the iTunes 1080p download comes to Blu-ray, considering that it’s only a fraction of the file size.”

Read more, and see the comaprison screenshots, in the full article here.


    1. Yeah. When you can get 80-90% of the quality at 1/5 the file size, why bother with physical media? 😛

      I just wish the same could be said for sound… :/ that’s the only place iTunes 1080p content lacks… and with the Apple TV it makes sense to include better sound… I want to actually use my HTS…

      1. On a 50″-60″ screen you’re right. However, put it on a 133″ screen and it makes a difference.

        I’ll take physical media every time over a file especially one that’s located on a remote server. Internet goes down I can still use my theater. iTunes account gets messed up for some reason, I can still use my theater. Want to swap movies with a friend, I can do that.

        1. I have a 55″ screen. The problem with a 133″ screen is the pixels are so damn big… and my living room is small enough that I’d sit close enough to notice 😛

  1. the problem with itunes is you have to have the computer on to stream the movie to your apple TV. i just pop a blu ray into my PS3 since my laptops are almost always shut off.

    and most blu ray’s come with a DVD as well so i can take it to my inlaws’ if i need to. or my son’s pre-school lets kids bring in movies to watch late in the day. they only have dvd

      1. note he said LAPTOP….
        laptop shut… can’t access.
        Laptop powered OFF… can’t access.

        iMac asleep? you are good to go still cause Apple TV will wake it up over wifi/ethernet.

        I still buy/rent the DVD/BR and rip them. I rarely use them to watch, unless I’m taking them somewhere that doesn’t have airplay.

        until EVERYONE has an appleTV, DVD/BR are still needed. And do not forget that some people have data limits on their internet providers… that means they can’t watch everything online whenever they want. ISP overcharges or shutdowns for the rest of the month are FAR more expensive than the $1 Redbox or $2-3 Rental from local Movie rental store.

        And also don’t forget that there is a GROWING number of DVD/BR players in CARS (back seats) for kids… I don’t see a small Screen, an Apple TV, and a satellite Internet connection being cheaper than a simple $100 DVD screen/player built into (or hanging from) the back seat.

        Yes *some* parents would use an iPad etc in the back seat and let the kiddies use that instead.

        Don’t be so narrow minded MikeK. just cause YOU can’t think of any use for a DVD/BR does NOT mean that there is NO use for them…

        1. FTB, do a little research before making an ass of yourself.

          iCloud handles streaming WITHOUT the laptop being part of the equation. so yes, it can be asleep, shut, even powered down and you can still stream your media via iCloud.

          Hang on to your physical media as long wish, I don’t care. It’s just simply old tech, and nothing will change that.

          Streaming is here for good. Physical media is dead. Adapt or die. 🙂

          1. explain to me where the hell he said iCloud?

            thats right YOU did……
            YOU are injecting iCloud into the argument. not him.
            he said iTunes.
            if we RIP a movie and ADD it to iTunes. HOW THE HELL DOES iCLOUD COME INTO THE PICTURE?

            oh what, I have to PAY extra to get that added into iCloud.
            I buy the bargain basement DVD/BR for $5, and THEN on top of that pay another $20 (or so) to get it added to iTunes so I can STREAM it over the internet. (those free digital copies DO have an expiration date you know…)

            Or take that $5 DVD/BR and spend 30 minutes ripping it and adding it to my LOCAL iTunes Library.

            oh wait, that would make your argument invalid.
            You injected iCloud instead of iTunes.
            Alen is 100000% correct. you are correct ONLY if you CHANGE the talking point to YOUR view.
            Alen’s comment stands.

            1. I think you are mixing apples and oranges. The TOPIC is streaming movies on TV. There is NO need to have a computer running (laptop or otherwise) to stream movies now through TV. Neither does this have anything to do with iCloud. And the TV doesn’t really connect to iTunes or the iTunes Store, per se, you see only categories to rent or buy “Top Movies”, “TV Shoes” “Music” etc. TV is now a very independent devices with its own unique window on the world. As for picture quality, I can’t believe that compressed streaming video can match a Blu-Ray disk.

            2. @Spark.
              thats why MikeK is wrong.
              Alen was talking about his local content from iTunes, which does need the laptop to be on.
              IF you had every single item in your iTunes library purchased through iTunes.. then with the new change to iTunes MikeK would be correct.

              I have over 200 movies and TV Shows in my iTunes library.. only 10-11 of them are Digital Copies I “purchased” (Voucher Codes) through iTunes.
              *only* those 10-11 would MikeK be correct on. All others, he is wrong.

              He is only Correct if 100% of your Library was purchased through iTunes, or with iTunes Match (Does that include Movies/TV now?.. I am not sure.)

              Streaming can’t be as good as the physical copy you are correct. Good, but not as good as BR.

    1. apple tv is excellent for renting. Specailly cuz most Blockbuster are closed (at least in Tampa/St Pete). New and old movies. I rented The Godfather 2 a few nights ago. Only 720 but still looked good.

  2. I hate DVDs, CDs, BRDs and any other disk media format…every thing I have has been digitized to tv format…no more FUCKING FBI WARNINGS, no more FUCKING MENUS, no more inserting and jackin’ with disks, their packaging, storage, etc…its this simple: tv on, select title, play….”boom.” to quote the Maestro.

  3. There’s very few titles I actually buy to own nowadays. Those few I will endeavour to get on blu-ray, but most things are completely disposable so I’m not going to worry too much about the quality. That said, it’s still way cheaper to get a netflix account (which is admittedly still online like itunes – in the uk at least) or lovefilm than it is to rent from itunes, so I’m not going to use iTunes regardless of the quality. Ultimately, as long as the quality is decent enough I’m going to worry more about cost.

    1. There is no need.

      1. Licensing fees truly are a “Bag of Hurt” that Apple would never go for.
      2. External storage is cheaper and more efficient.
      3. iCloud, dropbox have already antiquated BDD for storage.
      4. BDD is not the future.

      1. Also for larger storage I use livedrive from iozeta I get 1tb cloud storage and I can stream anytime for $10 a month. 500gb for $8.

        So there is lots of ways to have online storage for backup cheap.

    2. to MikeK:

      I think a lot of people would like to backup their Data on Blu-ray.

      Not this…

      But this…

      Can this drive not be fitted into a external case and connect via fw400/800?


      to Flock of Budgie:


      As of today, it is possible to use a blu-ray drive on mac. Indeed, you can buy an external usb drive for around $150, and be able to read from the discs. However, there is currently no blu-ray player on Mac!

      Toast 10 is able to burn to blu-ray media in data mode. Since the blank medias are still very expensive, this is not yet very useful.

      If you wish to play blu-ray media, there is currently only two possibilities: MakeMKV, a software which decrypts and remux the video files into a format suitable for playing using VLC, or Mac BlurayRipper Pro which also decrypts but keep the same structure as the original. The result can also be played using VLC, but the advantage is that whenever a blu-ray player is available, you’ll be able to play with all the bells and whistles of the original disc (menus, etc).

      1. exactly.

        What MikeK thinks is that If someone needs to author a BR disk, for what ever reason….(Data or Video) they are wrong.

        So I need to create an HD movie for a client, 50 copies to hand out to their staff. (Or just back up their DATA and store it off site)
        MikeK’s way. Purchase a huge External drive for EACH copy of the movie and give it to them…

        Or just Burn BR copies for them.
        MikeK can’t see any valid use for something HE doesn’t use. His opinion of course, but he can’t understand any one else’s view.

        Streaming and external HD storage is good, but the DVD/BR disk is FAR from obsolete.

        I find using my PC for BR ripping is far better than what is out there for Mac though..
        MakeMKV makes a HUGE file and takes forever to rip a BR. I rip a BR on PC in about 30-45 minutes. and whatever size i want.
        DVDFab is now on Mac (what I use on PC) but holy crap they want a fortune for it.
        you can use the trial on PC, over and over again… after the trial ends.

        I don’t have any BR drive on my Mac so I probably will never bother with trying to get a Mac BR ripping setup going.

        Granted Ripping and Full backup’s are different (MakeMKV/BlurayRipper make full backups)

    3. I considered getting a Blu-ray external for data storage.

      Then I looked at the still inflated costs of Blu-Ray discs versus DVD media. It’s as if Sony is trying to commit seppuku.

      Then there is that lingering DRM (Digital Rights Manglement) garbage: Why the HELL can’t I have a Blu-Ray burner that lets me burn BOTH data AND Blu-Ray movie discs without:
      (A) Draconian DRM shite built into my computer?!
      (B) Sony Internet surveillance of what I’m burning?!
      (C) Having to use hacking tools to subvert Sony?!

      This is how it should be: JUST LIKE DVDs. You burn whatever you like and no Corporate Oligarchy Scum is looking over your shoulder waiting to kill you.

      IOW: Frack you Sony for fracking up your own technology. It could have been WoNDerFUL! But no, you had to be paranoid and greedy as hell.

      Therefore, despite being a Blu-ray champion at the start, I own NOTHING Blu-ray. To hell with Blu-ray. To hell with Sony. That Apple never bothered with Blu-ray either makes perfect sense to me.

  4. a true home theatre is a combination of sight and sound. Not having DTS-MA is a very big advantage for BR discs

    doesn’t mean I don’t rent. I tend to rent on iTunes a lot of documentaries or movies with little dynamic range in their sound tracks. The upgrade to 1080p cannot hurt also as I was also watching on my LCD when I rented from iTunes instead of using the projector. Not I can use the projector more often

  5. This is great news. Let me go to the iTunes store and buy movies so I can watch them in family. Wait… No subtitles in my language? No blu-ray on a mac? Hum… Not good apple, not good.

      1. I am from Portugal, so yes, there are a lot of blu-ray discs with subtitles. As for netflix, I think that it doesn’t work here. But thanks for the player. I acctually prefer to buy moveis from iTunes, but today that is not an option.

    1. If you want to pay the outrageous exorbitant licensing fees for Blu-Ray, feel free. Apple doesn’t feel like getting taken to the cleaners to offer an obsolete format.

      As for the subtitle thing, that does suck. I hope they add your language real soon.

        1. Apple doesnt include the option because would have to pay insane licensing fees to include that option in the Mac or Apple TV. For a media type that seems to have its days numbered, it just doesnt make sense. Sony charges other companies outrageous licensing fees to use or decode blu-ray content.

  6. I am so glad that I held out from buying a Blu-ray player for this long. I actually purchased a cheap Sony one that only cost me $70.00., just so that I could get this media from Netflix, but all my future purchases will be from iTunes.

  7. The so called 720p and 1080p formats have to be compared with their time variables. The standards are 720p60 and 1080p24. The file size for the 720 is about 11% larger.

  8. It’s hilarious how upset people get over stupid topics such as the “need” for physical media. For audio professionals Blu-Ray media for archival purposes will ALWAYS be desired. A solid size recording session can 30-50GB’s. However regardless of whether I purchase a Blu-Ray I still digitize it -> MKV to H.264. Average file size is 4.5-6 GB’s so I would like to compare iTunes files to those. How many audio tracks does iTunes give you? Are there any special features with the file when using an AppleTV? I still think HD movies are too expensive on the iTunes store. 6-12 months after a Blu-ray releases it’s usually under $20 so why not buy physical copies?

      1. @ MikeK: how about using data to support your opinion rather than just relying on your own personal circumstance?

        Physical media holds > 69% video market share, likely much more since the 31% of video consumers with download capability also buy discs to access content that is simply not available from online services. http://www.broadbandexpert.com/blog/ip-tv/31-percent-of-household-broadband-customers-get-movies-and-tv-directly-from-their-broadband/

        I would hardly call a 69% disc market share “already dead”.

        And by the way, according to the Department of Commerce, only 200 million American households have high-speed internet access; over 30% of Americans have no internet at home whatsoever. Good luck trying to convert rural customers or lower classes to take on $1xx/month broadband services when DVD and BRDs are cheap and available in every library, flea market, and corner store from coast to coast.

        1. Of course i know that some people still use physical media and will continue to do so for some time.. When I say “dead,” I mean there is no future in it, it’s on the decline, and something already exists to take it’s place.

          And in regards to this thread, there won’t be any forms of physical media finding it’s way into future Apple products.

          So yes, “dead” 🙂

          1. You have a very strange interpretation of the term “dead”.

            your argument is based on semantics, not reality.

            buyers spend ~ $150 million PER WEEK on physical video discs in the USA alone. and yes, it is a volatile market as content quality varies widely. But don’t mistake soft consumer luxury spending during tepid economic times for the death of a technology. Technology doesn’t die, it gets refined. Physical media will always have a place.

            Has your electronic gadget replaced pen & paper in your household? is paper DEAD? didn’t think so. isn’t it great to have options? options beyond what Apple itself chooses to offer? I think so.

  9. Sure, streaming movies work great for home use. What is the solution for video systems currently built into automobiles – without having to have a data plan and some sort of data service with a wireless enabled iPad?

    It is so easy for the kids to grab a DVD and watch it in the car – or take it with them when grandma picks them up.

    Until wireless data services is everywhere and cheap, DVD’s/BD’s won’t go by the wayside.

    1. Physical media is dead just like VHS tapes.

      Streaming will get more sophisticated and digital content will be mostly purchased online and maintained online. The world is networked and is getting more networked.

      You could watch movies for the spoiled kids in the backseat via an iPod/iPhone/iPad, or other similar media devices. You don’t need da clunky mechanical media device.


      Though you CAN view a movie, live while streaming from iTunes on iPad/iPhone/iMac and AppleTV; it is “extremely” important to know that Apple greatly differs from the NetFlix mentality of maintaining that internet connection at all times.

      iTunes movie “rentals” and “purchases” actually download the COMPLETE movie to your iPad/iPhone/iMac and can be viewed “later”.

      Only AppleTV, requires you to keep a constant internet connection for streaming while viewing the movie.

      Once the download is complete, the same movies “rented” or “purchased” are transferrable from one device to another. And viewable without internet connection. Setup your devices for the kids before going on a long trip. No internet connection is required for playback during this time.

      Both “rental” and “purchased” movies are DRM protected, yet “rentals” have about 48 hrs and/or up until 2 hrs before the expiration time to view the movie – after which it then self-destructs or vaporizes.

      THOSE DVDs – you can convert them with HANDBRAKE and use iCloud or iTunes to distribute them onto other devices so long as you have legal rights, proof purchase and/or ownership.


      DVDs really can very convenient. However, 20 converted DVDs, 10 purchased movies, 3 rentals, a bunch of converted YouTube funnies – pre-loaded on several iPodTouches – also be seen as extremely convenient and super compact and shareable with Airplay.

      NetFlix is fast and easy to use, however, iTunes offers far more flexibility and please, remember it does not require constant internet connectivity to enjoy your media.

  10. I love the idea of using my Apple TV for getting 1080p content but I hate the fact that I have to decide a day in advance what I want to watch, rent, then start the download… kinda makes it all not worth the trouble.

  11. Yeah right, this is BS. Its not almost as good ! that last pic clearly shows noticeable compression banding and that’s a deal breaker for me.

    They should be comparing against a high-bitrarte reference Blu Ray disc, and they should be comparing on a better display panel than a DELL monitor !

    I am happy to keep using blu ray and prefer to own the physical media for the few movies I do buy. I’ll use my Apple TV for TV show downloads & airplay but not HD movies. I will stick with blu ray for good reason!

    1. I hear you. I agree.
      Have you witnessed HD from NetFlix, I have. And, still
      I buy and watch most things in SD.

      I don’t care so much to see if Tom Cruise has a pimple or not, its the story I care more then the picture quality.

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