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Is Blu-ray at death's door? Innovative 1TB optical disc could be the future of physical media

1TB optical disc
(Image credit: Future)

Ohio-based start-up Folio Photonics has announced new innovations in the world of data storage, promising to pave the way for affordable optical discs that can store up to 1TB per disc.

In comparison, a 4K Blu-ray disc can store up to 100GB, while a theoretical 8K Blu-ray disc that doesn't even exist yet is expected to hold 200GB or 250GB. Folio is planning on bringing 10TB cartridges packed with 1TB discs to market in 2024.

What's more, this is not being developed with the intention of creating a high-capacity, ultra-expensive storage format that only the biggest companies in the world with the most pressing data storage needs can afford. Currently, a 1TB hard drive costs about $25, while Folio's development is expected to cost less than $5 per TB.

How exactly is Folio managing to massively increase capacity and simultaneously bring down costs, you ask? Of course, the secret sauce is, well, secret – and now inevitably patented. But Folio says that it has made breakthroughs in optical disc layering, being able to create discs with eight or even sixteen discrete layers. This contrasts to the traditional three-layer optical discs of today.

Discs have been cheap for a long time, and we've relied on them heavily for a long time, but an increasing limitation of discs in today's media-hungry world has become capacity. In general, for consumer media, we're limited to 4K Blu-rays with 100GB of storage, and these are already fairly expensive. 8K Blu-ray may never be a thing, and even if it is it will be expensive and limited to around 250GB max.

If Folio truly can build high-capacity, low-cost discs, this could be a true successor to Blu-ray and the saving grace of physical media that is, right now, slowly being phased out as storage requirements keep increasing. Of course, enterprise data archival storage technology is not the same thing as a Blu-ray disc. However, if Folio's new disc is as high-capacity and as affordable as the firm claims it will be at launch, and if it can be used for consumer media effectively, this could give physical media a new lease of life, perhaps becoming the best and last storage format of our age.

According to Folio, 1TB per disc isn't even the ceiling of this new optical disc technology either. Further development will be carried out with the aim of enabling even more layers per disc to further increase storage capacity. Theoretically, then, we could see discs with multiple terabytes of storage materialise in the next few years.

Folio isn't bringing this tech to market until 2024, and if everything goes according to plan it will initially be targeted at the enterprise storage market. Don't expect this on store shelves and revolutionising consumer physical media anytime soon, but be sure to keep an eye on it. Because it might just be the future.

MORE:

Why gamers especially should be worried about the death of Blu-ray

8 reasons why you should keep buying 4K Blu-rays

Why 8K gaming might not be what it seems

Ruben Circelli
Staff Writer

Ruben is a Staff Writer at What Hi-Fi? and longtime consumer technology and gaming journalist. Since 2014, Ruben has written news, reviews, features, guides, and everything in-between at a huge variety of outlets that include Lifewire, PCGamesN, GamesRadar+, TheGamer, Twinfinite, and many more. Ruben's a dedicated gamer, tech nerd, and the kind of person who misses physical media. In his spare time, you can find Ruben cooking something delicious or, more likely, lying in bed consuming content.

  • Freddy
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    The storage capacity of high-density Blu-ray discs is but a percentage of a 1TB optical disc, so this new technology could shake things up...

    Is Blu-ray at death's door? Innovative 1TB optical disc could be the future of physical media : Read more
    Sounds good. (y)
    Reply
  • 12th Monkey
    If we've learned one thing about physical media over the decades, it's that without the software a format is doomed. I hope it can work, but...
    Reply
  • podknocker
    I'd like to see a high capacity disc. Having boxsets, or 'every film with Tom Cruise collection', would be great. Having every episode of 'Game of Thrones', in 4k, with highest sound quality, on 1 disc, would be fantastic. Put the disc in and play. Just press pause, when you need to eat and sleep etc.
    Reply
  • Bloke
    I would love to see this happen. But streaming is being pushed for a multitude of reasons - of which convenience is only one aspect - so I imagine there will be some resistance to this being standardised.
    Reply
  • 12th Monkey
    Bloke said:
    I would love to see this happen. But streaming is being pushed for a multitude of reasons - of which convenience is only one aspect - so I imagine there will be some resistance to this being standardised.
    Having been (uncharacteristically) mucked about by my internet connection last night, it'll be a cold day in Hell when I abandon physical media!
    Reply
  • F8lee
    One question I have is how long will these new disks last - are they archival?

    We know there is a life span to home-burned DVDs etc. - the oxides eventually fail - and if this tech uses 8+ layers (perhaps with different colors of light for each to keep them separate?) then knowing they wont become coasters after 5 years would be comforting - particularly given the amount of data that would be lost in such a failure.
    Reply
  • 12th Monkey
    I only scanned the piece - does it mention R/RW capability? I didn't think it did.
    Reply
  • F8lee
    12th Monkey said:
    I only scanned the piece - does it mention R/RW capability? I didn't think it did.
    Good point, but if not then who really cares if it holds a brontobyte? I mean, sure, some folks (including commenters here) would like to see collections of movies or whatever on one disk (though the real utility of that is elusive to my mind) but as a read-only medium would seem to be relatively undifferentiated from what is available today - again, other than saving 4 Blue-Ray's worth of shelf space when all 5 movies are on one disk.
    Reply
  • 12th Monkey
    I think it's the ability to hold an 8k film that interests some.
    Reply
  • Freddy
    12th Monkey said:
    I think it's the ability to hold an 8k film that interests some.
    Exactamundo. (y)
    Reply