Source: Blu-ray Disc Association

How Blu-ray Reads Data

The Blu-ray disc overcomes DVD-reading issues by placing the data on top of a 1.1-mm-thick polycarbonate layer. Having the data on top prevents birefringence and therefore prevents readability problems. And, with the recording layer sitting closer to the objective lens of the reading mechanism, the problem of disc tilt is virtually eliminated. Because the data is closer to the surface, a hard coating is placed on the outside of the disc to protect it from scratches and fingerprints.

The design of the Blu-ray discs saves on manufacturing costs. Traditional DVDs are built by injection molding the two 0.6-mm discs between which the recording layer is sandwiched. The process must be done very carefully to prevent birefringence.

  1. The two discs are molded.
  2. The recording layer is added to one of the discs.
  3. The two discs are glued together.

Blu-ray discs only do the injection-molding process on a single 1.1-mm disc, which reduces cost. That savings balances out the cost of adding the protective layer, so the end price is no more than the price of a regular DVD.

A BD-ROM disc researcher holds a disc up to the light.

Photo courtesy Blu-ray Disc Association

Blu-ray also has a higher data transfer rate -- 36 Mbps (megabits per second) -- than today's DVDs, which transfer at 10 Mbps. A Blu-ray disc can record 25 GB of material in just over an hour and a half.

We'll look at some of Blu-ray's competitors in the next section.