Manufacturers and studios have been arguing over an HD disk method for years.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
In HD players, my choice is HD DVD, not Blu-ray

Nov. 4, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   HDTV is hot and prices are plunging. But what about playing movies in glorious high definition?
   For that, you'll probably want an HD disk player. And that's not a simple choice.
   Manufacturers and studios have been arguing over an HD disk method for years.
   One side, backed by Toshiba, NEC, Onkyo and, in the computer area, Microsoft, favors a disk system that adds extra capacity to regular DVDs. This is called HD DVD. The other side, called Blu-ray, abandons the older DVD method in favor of a new kind of disk. The name comes from the use of a blue laser to extract video. Backers of Blu-ray include Samsung, Sony, Pioneer, Panasonic, Sharp, Philips, Panasonic, Hitachi, Apple, Dell and HP.
   Toshiba invented HD DVD and Sony invented Blu-ray. Those two companies, long-time rivals in Japan, are not likely to give up without a cat fight. But the other manufacturers -- ones I've listed above and hundreds of others I don't have space to list -- could just as easily switch from one format to the other once they spot a winner.
   So far, neither side is winning, although HD DVD is ahead. You can buy both HD DVD and Blu-ray players, but there's not much to choose from when you want to buy or rent movies in either format. Blu-ray movies come from Sony Pictures (including MGM/Columbia TriStar), Disney (including Touchstone and Miramax), Fox, Warner, and Lions Gate. HD DVD releases come from Paramount, Universal, Warner, and DreamWorks Animation.
   You have a choice of about 350 movies in HD DVD and 300 in Blu-ray. Movies cost about $20 to $28 and rent for a little more than standard DVDs.
   Any high-definition player you buy should also be able to play standard DVDs, too, and most will play CDs as well.
   Already, as of early November, at least one model of an HD DVD player can be bought for less than $100. Blu-Ray players cost quite a bit more. At least one combo player, which plays both HD DVD and Blu-ray disks, is available. It's the LG BH100 player, which sells for close to $1,000. (My advice if you need to play both types: Buy two players.)
   Which should you buy? My recommendation is HD DVD. HD DVD disks are more rugged than Blu-ray disks and players are cheaper to manufacture. Extra features (which make use of Microsoft programming techniques) are easier to add to HD DVD, too. My tech intuition tells me HD DVD will win big.
   An added benefit: Both HD DVD and Blu-ray recordable drives can be added to home computers. They're too expensive for me to recommend them now, but will reach the affordable range next year.