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Comparison finds iTunes 1080p video nears Blu-ray disc quality

post #1 of 208
Thread Starter 
The image quality of Apple's newly released 1080p encoded movies hold their own in a qualitative comparison with the highest resolution consumer format available Blu-Ray Disc.

Despite a substantially smaller file size, 1080p movies from iTunes perform admirably against identical offerings in the Blu-Ray format, showing good sharpness and color saturation, reports Ars Technica.

The test was based on still and moving images from the movie '30 Days of Night,' which were viewed on a 1,920x1,080 pixel Dell U2312HM monitor. An MacBook Air piped the iTunes content to the display through DisplayPort, while a Panasonic DMP-BD65 served as the test bed for the Blu-Ray version of the movie.

The iTunes download came in at 3.62GB and includes Dolby Digital 5.1 sound as well as a stereo AAC track, and is being compared to the 50GB-capable Blu-Ray Disc which adds a DTS-HD option to the standard Dolby Digital 5.1. Also included on the physical disc are special video features and other extras.

In the report's findings, the H.264-compressed iTunes media was close in image sharpness, though a bit of anti-aliasing produced a slightly softer image in scenes with great detail. On the whole, however, the differences are only clearly seen when making pixel-to-pixel comparisons and may not be noticeable if watched from a proper viewing distance.


Sharpness is somewhat comparable to Blu-Ray in all but the most detailed scenes. | Source: Ars Technica


Color was another area where the iTunes version shined, exhibiting good standard saturation and comparable accuracy against the Blu-Ray reference image. It should be noted that all current display technologies are capable of reproducing the color gamut of a Blu-Ray Disc, and thus makes this particular test somewhat inconsequential.

One metric where Blu-Ray trumped its iTunes competitor was contrast, where the Apple encoded video saw a marked decrease in detail at the spectrum's extremes. In the provided image still, highlights are blown out and nuanced detail within the shadows was all but lost. Video compression often constrains the visible spectrum in order to save space, and iTunes' implementation is no different.

Another space-saver is the smoothing of "film grain" and noise, factors that the capacious Blu-Ray Disc doesn't need to fret over, which is why during panning shots or highly detailed scenes are rendered slightly mushy in the Apple version. Unlike still photography, where noise is usually unwanted, the grain in moving images adds a perceived detail that lends itself to a "movie look."


Grain is clearly represented in the Blu-Ray version (right), but slightly smoothed out in the iTunes copy (left). | Source: Ars Technica


The achilles heel to most highly-compressed video formats is gradients, and H.264 is no exception. In the Blu-Ray version, a cloudy night sky is represented faithfully, with smooth transitions and no detectable amount of banding. The iTunes copy, however, shows significant amounts of banding, which presents itself as a sharp steps between gradients that should otherwise be smooth.


Banding is obvious in the iTunes video (top). | Source: Ars Technica


Despite a few shortcomings, the new 1080p option for iTunes users looks to be worthwhile, especially given the immense savings in space and lack of physical media.

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 208
Uh oh. People who've wanted Apple to support Blu-ray are not going to like this at all.
post #3 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post

Uh oh. People who've wanted Apple to support Blu-ray are not going to like this at all.

I except a lot of pedagoguing on why on true videophiles use Blu-ray to ensue shortly.

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post #4 of 208
Thats a pretty decent showing when you compare the size of the data in each case if Apple are getting almost as much quality in 3.6Gb as you'd get on a 50Gb disk.

I'm sure as bandwidth improves the file size / quality will creep up to keep pace, but at my current broadband speeds ordering the blu ray from amazon would probably see me watching the film sooner than attempting to download 50Gb so I'll happily take the _much_ smaller download size with _slightly_ poorer quality...
post #5 of 208
That's pretty damn close to Blu-Ray. Those comparison shots look pretty impressive, and an iTunes file is of course much smaller than a Blu-Ray file.

Whiny people who whine about Blu-Ray not coming to Macs should just put a big fat sock in their mouths, 'cause it aint gonna happen. Who wants or needs physical media anymore? Step out of your caves you clueless prehistoric people, and join the 21st century.
post #6 of 208
I want to know when they will address the audio. Its a big step that they have the video at least close to BD now, but 640k Dolby Digital is an utter joke next to Tru HD, Uncompressed PCM, and DTS-HD-MA.
post #7 of 208
I have to disagree with the article's conclusion. It's all about that final comparison that clearly shows banding in the iTunes version. Banding is obvious when it occurs (as opposed to other things such as "sharpness" which often require zooming in and doing pixel-to-pixel comparisons) and to me is highly distracting and annoying.

Blu-Ray is clearly (and unsurprisingly given the vast difference in bit-rate) vastly superior to the iTunes encodes when it comes to banding and to me it is therefore a bad joke to suggest the two are anywhere close to being on a par.
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post #8 of 208
To use different display and do screen shot comparison is not the right way.

You should use rip the BD to HD, then on same computer, use software to play the movie and do screenshot, and compare the uncompressed TIFF or high quality JPG.

If you have to use camera to shoot the screen, you should use the same display device.

BTW, I don't mean itune version is not good at all. I just mean the way to compare.
post #9 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

That's pretty damn close to Blu-Ray:

Please, for everyone's sake, don't drive until you get your eyes checked and get the appropriate corrective lenses.

Instead of using crappy screen images (which, in some cases do show noticeable differences) from a mediocre 23" LCD, do the same test on a good quality 50" or bigger plasma then get back to me.

I expect this type of garbage analysis from AI, but from Ars??

UPDATE: Turns out, "30 Days of Night" wasn't even the best BD transfer. From http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/30-Day...Blu-ray/13310/
Quote:
30 Days of Night: Dark Days' roots as a mid-budget DTV picture are evident throughout Sony's passable 1080p, 1.85:1-framed Blu-ray transfer. The image never escapes the HD video appearance; it delivers stable detailing that occasionally spikes to eye-catching levels but that never quite reaches the same level of excellence that might be found in a properly transfered-to-Blu-ray image sourced from a pristine 35mm film print.

-kpluck

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post #10 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

That's pretty damn close to Blu-Ray. Those comparison shots look pretty impressive, and an iTunes file is of course much smaller than a Blu-Ray file.

Whiny people who whine about Blu-Ray not coming to Macs should just put a big fat sock in their mouths, 'cause it aint gonna happen. Who wants or needs physical media anymore? Step out of your caves you clueless prehistoric people, and join the 21st century.

Why don'y you tell us what you really think?? You may not realize it, but that is all it is, what YOU think..

I really don't care whether Apple supports Blu-ray or not, because that's not where the money is, for them.. But I will never give up the quality of Blu-ray.. And to ME video quality is only half of the full HD experience.. The audio on Blu-ray is amazing.. And I do have the setup to take advantage of the audio on Blu-ray..

Like most people today who grew up listening to mp3s, they will never know what true high fidelity music is.. And now thanks to streaming video, then will never know the quality they are missing..

Just like Windows is "good enough" for the people who use it.. I guess video downloads is "good enough" for people who don't know any better..
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post #11 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

. . . Step out of your caves you clueless prehistoric people, and join the 21st century.

Off with the gloves, Apple ][! Say what you really think.
Looks like LMGS beat me to the punch. kudos. However . . .
I noticed when the huge screen movies were brought out, shortly after the movie was on the way, it was the movie that was important. Lousy movie huge, was still a lousy movie. Great movie huge, great was great what ever. 10+ times the size for marginal improvement? And then wait 10 minutes and the movie is what it is. All you get with the extra expense are bragging rites.

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post #12 of 208
In a sentence, a highly compressed video is not quite as good as a less compressed one... Who would have thought? /s
post #13 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by kpluck View Post

Please, for everyone's sake, don't drive [a car...]

And we're off... Hyperbole takes a strong lead out of the gate.


Quote:
Originally Posted by LMGS View Post

Like most people today who grew up listening to mp3s, they will never know what true high fidelity music is.. And now thanks to streaming video, then will never know the quality they are missing..

You mean the "high quality" DVD and VHS that existed before streaming videos?

Bottom line: Apple's 1080p is better than their 720p and costs the same price. Apple's 1080p is the best of the major online video services.

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post #14 of 208
So in another 2 years, download quality might exceed blu-ray. That would be nice.

Bring on 4K displays.
post #15 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by LMGS View Post

Why don'y you tell us what you really think?? You may not realize it, but that is all it is, what YOU think..

Not really, because my main claim is that Blu-Ray is not coming to Mac. And that is reality, not merely my opinion. It's been how many years since Blu-Ray has been out on the market?

If Blu-Ray is important to somebody, like you say it is for you, then you already have a dedicated Blu-Ray player for that. Everybody else will be more than happy with the quality of something like an iTunes download.
post #16 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDoppio View Post

In a sentence, a highly compressed video is not quite as good as a less compressed one... Who would have thought? /s

My thinking exactly.

I'm willing to concede that a 1080p download from Apple is not as high a quality as blu-ray. And for some people, the different might be important - so they will have to buy the blu-ray disk for the player that they undoubtedly have attached to their TV.

However, for most people, the trade-off is quite acceptable. For me, while I can tell the difference between blu-ray and dvd, I have to be actively looking for it and it doesn't really add much (if anything) to the movie. I have yet to see a movie that I enjoyed significantly more in blu-ray than in DVD. The tiny difference just doesn't matter to me. And I suspect to a very, very large number of people.

You have to remember that there are plenty of people still alive (including myself) who grew up with black and white and then early color TVs. If I could enjoy the first Star Trek TV shows on a mid-60's color TV with all of the interference and static that our remote location engendered, even DVD quality is miraculous.
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post #17 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

You have to remember that there are plenty of people still alive (including myself) who grew up with black and white and then early color TVs. If I could enjoy the first Star Trek TV shows on a mid-60's color TV with all of the interference and static that our remote location engendered, even DVD quality is miraculous.

Back in my day we didn't have a choice of black or white, it was one or the other, and we only got one frame per second of this fancy 30 fps crap.

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post #18 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

That's pretty damn close to Blu-Ray. Those comparison shots look pretty impressive, and an iTunes file is of course much smaller than a Blu-Ray file.

Whiny people who whine about Blu-Ray not coming to Macs should just put a big fat sock in their mouths, 'cause it aint gonna happen. Who wants or needs physical media anymore? Step out of your caves you clueless prehistoric people, and join the 21st century.

There is no comparison to "Blu-ray Disc", especially when you blow the image up to something larger than your 20" iMac and listen to it with Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio on something better than your HK Soundsticks!

No need to step out of my "ManCave" when I have the disc already in hand and on the day of release. I can watch it any time and don't have to worry about limited bandwidth or the cable/internet being out. All I need is AC and I'm set to go. And, my discs will still be able to spin in the 22nd century!

If you were to go to a movie theater and watch something with iTunes 1080P quality, you would certainly be asking for your money back. The quality of Blu-ray Disc is about as close to theatrical distribution quality digital video as you are going to get, and it is designed for home use. Your are the one that is clueless about quality. The two formats should co-exist, for those that don't want to collect and for those that do.
post #19 of 208
In the iTunes Store 30 Days of Night is available in 720p (3.58GB) or SD (1.53GB). Nowhere do I see 1080p. For any movie quite frankly.
post #20 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Back in my day we didn't have a choice of black or white, it was one or the other, and we only got one frame per second of this fancy 30 fps crap.

And we had to act as our own antennas...

And don't get me started on tuning in UHF stations.
post #21 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by coldpizza View Post

In the iTunes Store 30 Days of Night is available in 720p (3.58GB) or SD (1.53GB). Nowhere do I see 1080p. For any movie quite frankly.

You need to download iTunes 10.6 and enable 1080p videos in the "store" section of preferences.
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post #22 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Back in my day we didn't have a choice of black or white, it was one or the other, and we only got one frame per second of this fancy 30 fps crap.

Back in my day... :

I did not view my first TV show until I was 20. \
post #23 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by yhtomitb View Post

There is no comparison to "Blu-ray Disc", especially when you blow the image up to something larger than your 20" iMac and listen to it with Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio on something better than your HK Soundsticks!

No need to step out of my "ManCave" when I have the disc already in hand and on the day of release. I can watch it any time and don't have to worry about limited bandwidth or the cable/internet being out. All I need is AC and I'm set to go. And, my discs will still be able to spin in the 22nd century!

If you were to go to a movie theater and watch something with iTunes 1080P quality, you would certainly be asking for your money back. The quality of Blu-ray Disc is about as close to theatrical distribution quality digital video as you are going to get, and it is designed for home use. Your are the one that is clueless about quality. The two formats should co-exist, for those that don't want to collect and for those that do.

Most people at home don't watch their movies on a huge theatre screen. And I'm not so sure about your discs still spinning in the 22nd century. I have some DVD's that haven't even lasted 10 years before they crapped out. Of course, that far into the future doesn't really matter, as both you and I will be dead by then.

You obviously are a Blu-Ray user, since you took the time to sign up and respond to my post. All I really said is that those iTunes images look pretty impressive compared to Blu-Ray. I have never claimed that it was better than Blu-Ray in any way, except for the file size.

And to be honest, I'm not that impressed by Blu-Ray that I would actually bother to go out and buy myself a Blu-Ray player. I'm waiting for something better to come along. 1920x1080 is simply not good enough. I also find most TV's and monitors to be a joke at 16:9. For a true cinema experience, a far greater ratio is required. Maybe in 5 years when such TV's and monitors exist and a better format than Blu-Ray exists, that's when I would bother to buy such a player. For now, decent quality downloads are good enough for me.
post #24 of 208
Here it is, LOL.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

Blu-Ray is clearly (and unsurprisingly given the vast difference in bit-rate) vastly superior to the iTunes encodes when it comes to banding and to me it is therefore a bad joke to suggest the two are anywhere close to being on a par.



Quote:
Originally Posted by kpluck View Post

Please, for everyone's sake, don't drive until you get your eyes checked and get the appropriate corrective lenses.

I expect this type of garbage analysis from AI, but from Ars??
post #25 of 208
There is no such thing as "True HD". The truest its ever going to be is from its camera of origin. After that its compressed to hell no matter which format its played on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teknishn View Post

I want to know when they will address the audio. Its a big step that they have the video at least close to BD now, but 640k Dolby Digital is an utter joke next to Tru HD, Uncompressed PCM, and DTS-HD-MA.
post #26 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

I also find most TV's and monitors to be a joke at 16:9. For a true cinema experience, a far greater ratio is required. Maybe in 5 years when such TV's and monitors exist

Philips 21:9 ratio TV

Most mid to high-end projectors have 2.35:1 ratio lens options.
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post #27 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Back in my day... :

I did not view my first TV show until I was 20. \

20yo is a bit late to start Rumspringa. Seriously though, is this more a degree of age or culture?

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post #28 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

Philips 21:9 ratio TV

Most mid to high-end projectors have 2.35:1 ratio lens options.

That Philips one looks pretty nice. It's kind of pricey and I read that it's not even being sold in the US.

Hopefully in the future, more manufacturers will start releasing more TV's and monitors with an ultrawide format specifically for movies and that the prices also come down. 16:9 is not for movies, it's basically for tv series.
post #29 of 208
This is a pretty useless comparison. Both Blu-Ray and iTunes content is H264. It's the same codec, and any quality improvement has to be in the encoder. A lower bitrate (=smaller file size) encoding with the same encoder and codec (and codec settings) will always be inferior to a higher bitrate version, period.

That said, at the bitrates Apple appears to use for iTunes content, H264 can have a very good image quality, depending on the properties of the video content even very close to Blu-Ray in some cases. In other cases, it won't even come close. Blu-Ray content can go over 50 Mbit/s, you simply cannot beat that with streaming today, without shutting out the majority of home broadband connections.
post #30 of 208
Watching Netflix streaming over the past few months. I've noticed the 1080P streaming get much better. On my MBP I can see fine skin detail and fine hairs that I could not see before. They are delivering this at surprising low bit rates.

There definitely has been a vast improvement in H.264 encoding.

The worst service is actually HBOGO. I don't think the quality is quite as good as Netflix and HBOGO is a bandwidth hog. At least in comparison.
post #31 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post

So in another 2 years, download quality might exceed blu-ray. That would be nice.

You're just about dead on with that. Better quality AND smaller file size.

Quote:
Originally Posted by yhtomitb View Post

There is no comparison to "Blu-ray Disc",

HEVC. Game, set, match, and it's not even finalized yet.

Quote:
And, my discs will still be able to spin in the 22nd century!

You keep thinking that.

Quote:
The quality of Blu-ray Disc is about as close to theatrical distribution quality digital video as you are going to get

You honestly think that cinemas show "Blu-ray disc quality" content? Not, you know, 4k because they're a CINEMA?

Quote:
Your are the one that is clueless about quality. The two formats should co-exist, for those that don't want to collect and for those that do.

Again, HEVC. Let us know how your 10 terabyte collection feels in three years when everyone else has higher quality stuff at half the file size.
post #32 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post

The worst service is actually HBOGO. I don't think the quality is quite as good as Netflix and HBOGO is a bandwidth hog. At least in comparison.

Yep, you got that right. I have Netflix and also HBO2GO. Netflix streaming quality is vastly superior compared to HBO2GO. The content on HBO2GO is great, the streaming quality however, is kind of crappy.
post #33 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post

There is no such thing as "True HD". The truest its ever going to be is from its camera of origin. After that its compressed to hell no matter which format its played on.

I'm referring to audio not video.... Specifically the Dolby TruHD lossless audio codec.... along with uncompressed pcm and DTS-HD-MA.
post #34 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

Most people at home don't watch their movies on a huge theatre screen. And I'm not so sure about your discs still spinning in the 22nd century. I have some DVD's that haven't even lasted 10 years before they crapped out. Of course, that far into the future doesn't really matter, as both you and I will be dead by then.

You obviously are a Blu-Ray user, since you took the time to sign up and respond to my post. All I really said is that those iTunes images look pretty impressive compared to Blu-Ray. I have never claimed that it was better than Blu-Ray in any way, except for the file size.

And to be honest, I'm not that impressed by Blu-Ray that I would actually bother to go out and buy myself a Blu-Ray player. I'm waiting for something better to come along. 1920x1080 is simply not good enough. I also find most TV's and monitors to be a joke at 16:9. For a true cinema experience, a far greater ratio is required. Maybe in 5 years when such TV's and monitors exist and a better format than Blu-Ray exists, that's when I would bother to buy such a player. For now, decent quality downloads are good enough for me.

I have to disagree, yhtomitb is right. You don't need some kind of AV freak setup to see/hear the huge difference between Blu-Ray content, or something streamed over the internet, especially not if you want 5.1 or even 7.1 HD audio. A decent-size HDTV (42 inch and upwards, depending on the viewing distance) and a decent AV receiver+surround speakers is enough. I have an HTPC I built myself which I use both for downloaded movies (it's legal where I'm from) and Blu-Ray discs, and even though most of the downloaded 1080p movies I have are over 10GB (=almost triple the bitrate of iTunes 1080p judging from the file sizes), Blu-Ray movies are significantly better, especially the audio. You simply cannot beat 50 GB of storage capacity with your typical broadband connection today, not unless you sacrifice quality in some way or another. Often audio fidelity is one of the first things out of the window, because so many people are used to & happy with crappy sound quality. With multichannel audio the quality difference is even more obvious than with e.g. low bitrate stereo mp3 or AAC.

I've watched movies both as 10+GB downloads and on Blu-Ray (I tend to buy content I really like after I've already seen it from a downloaded version), and generally speaking, even the highest quality ripped & transcoded sources don't come close to the original Blu-Ray content.
post #35 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by d-range View Post

This is a pretty useless comparison. Both Blu-Ray and iTunes content is H264. It's the same codec, and any quality improvement has to be in the encoder. A lower bitrate (=smaller file size) encoding with the same encoder and codec will always be inferior to a higher bitrate version, period.

That said, at the bitrates Apple appears to use for iTunes content, H264 can have a very good image quality, depending on the properties of the video content even very close to Blu-Ray in some cases. In other cases, it won't even come close. Blu-Ray content can go over 50 Mbit/s, you simply cannot beat that with streaming today, without shutting out the majority of home broadband connections.

I think it's a useful comparison. Regardless of the technical specifications people only care about how good it looks and sometimes a comparison is the only way to do that. Is the Blu-ray required to watch most movies? Personally, I don't think so. For certain kind of movies I prefer Blu-ray but not usually. As Mr. H states the biggest issue is banding as it's easily noticeable. That alone can pull you out of a film. Maybe someone should start a website that rates which films according to such metrics so I know if Rob Roy will be worth it on Blu-ray or if iTS 1080p will be sufficient.

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post #36 of 208
Quote:
You honestly think that cinemas show "Blu-ray disc quality" content? Not, you know, 4k because they're a CINEMA?

The user stated that Blu-Ray quality is the closest quality to theatrical distribution quality, not that Blu-Ray has the same video quality as that of theatrical distribution.
post #37 of 208
Not necessarily comparable. Encoding for streaming and encoding for a disc are two different ways of processing.

Encoding from stream involves breaking up the data into packets that are extremely lean and efficient and will allow the video to buffer and continue if the connection is momentarily interrupted.

This isn't factored into encoding for a disc.


Quote:
Originally Posted by d-range View Post

This is a pretty useless comparison. Both Blu-Ray and iTunes content is H264. It's the same codec, and any quality improvement has to be in the encoder. A lower bitrate (=smaller file size) encoding with the same encoder and codec will always be inferior to a higher bitrate version, period.
post #38 of 208
That certainly can make a difference for those who have spent the money to have an audio set up that can take advantage. I would argue few people have.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teknishn View Post

I'm referring to audio not video.... Specifically the Dolby TruHD lossless audio codec.... along with uncompressed pcm and DTS-HD-MA.
post #39 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveBalmer View Post

The user stated that Blu-Ray quality is the closest quality to theatrical distribution quality, not that Blu-Ray has the same video quality as that of theatrical distribution.

Fair point. And owning a Psystar is the "closest quality" to owning a Mac.
post #40 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by d-range View Post

I have to disagree, yhtomitb is right. You don't need some kind of AV freak setup to see/hear the huge difference between Blu-Ray content, or something streamed over the internet, especially not if you want 5.1 or even 7.1 HD audio. A decent-size HDTV (42 inch and upwards, depending on the viewing distance) and a decent AV receiver+surround speakers is enough. I have an HTPC I built myself which I use both for downloaded movies (it's legal we're I'm from) and Blu-Ray discs, and even though most of the downloaded 1080p movies I have are over 10GB (=almost triple the bitrate of iTunes 1080p judging from the file sizes), Blu-Ray movies are significantly better, especially the audio. You simply cannot beat 50 GB of storage capacity with your typical broadband connection today, not unless you sacrifice quality in some way or another.

Agree, if you have a simple setup however like most people do it may not matter as much. The crappier the setup then the less it really matters actually. I do like it that Apple has finally embraced 1080P video content. Digital downloads also has some conveniences that Bluray physical media doesn't have and vice versa.
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