Is Blu-ray better than direct download? That’s a tough question. Blu-ray certainly has plenty of benefits including extra features and ease of use. You can share a Blu-ray disc with someone by simply handing it to them. With direct download, you have to combat DRM and storage medium obstacles that make a simple exchange more of a hassle.
Digital downloads are certainly more convenient. You can purchase and/or rent digital media from the comfort of your own home. Modern broadband speeds make direct downloads playable in minutes (or seconds) rather than hours, and you can back up the file to multiple drives. Digital downloads also tend to be less expensive, due in part to the lack of special features and other perks of physical media.
Many Blu-ray releases come complete with a digital copy that gives you the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, this digital copy is usually so weighed down by DRM that you’ll have a hard time playing it on systems and devices that don’t have the required software. The quality of the digital copy is also generally on-par with DVD rather than HD Blu-ray. The same can be said for direct download in some cases, though it’s easier to predict what exactly that downloaded material will play on as it’s usually purchased from the same player you’ll use to watch it. That isn’t to say you can’t download excellent HD video directly, but these copies are usually compressed more in order to save on bandwidth. With Blu-ray, you have a general expectation of quality on which you can rely.
One area where direct downloads have a clear advantage is longevity. Like it or not, Blu-ray is a dying technology. Even though it was first introduced less than a decade ago, the idea of storing and playing media back through optical drives is quickly headed for obsolescence. Laptops and media boxes are starting to move away from optical drives entirely, and hard drive capacity has increased to the point where storing your entire movie collection on an external drive is a budget-friendly solution.
Direct downloads are also getting better. iTunes is now selling HD digital copies of movies complete with all the extras you would find on the Blu-ray version. You can even play the movie back in either HD or DVD quality, depending on your device and preference.
So, is Blu-ray better than direct download? That all depends on how you enjoy video. If you appreciate convenience and flexibility in addition to a sense of longevity, direct download might be more your speed. If you don’t have a lot of bandwidth, and you prefer higher-quality video, you might want to stick with Blu-ray for a little longer.