HD-DVD >> Blu-Ray

I’m beginning to firmly believe that HD-DVD has a very good shot of beating Blu-Ray.
It initially seemed that the war was over: 
– Blu-Ray had acquired the commitments of 90% of the content owners with Sony Pictures & Entertainment, MGM, Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox, Lion’s Gate, Paramount/Dreamworks, Warner Bros, New Line Cinema and HBO committing to publish their high definition movies in Blu-Ray. 
– Additionally, companies like HP, Apple, Sun, were supporting Blu-Ray for one reason or another.
– Oh, and there’s that little thing about Sony providing a free Blu-Ray drive in each of their Playstation 3’s.
And then there was the FUD war between the technical camps:
– It was widely acclaimed that Blu-Ray promised 50GB discs relative to HD-DVD’s 35GB capacity
– It was claimed that Blu-Ray supported 1080p and HD-DVD only supported up to 1080i resolution
– It was even claimed that Blu-Ray would support lossless audio and HD-DVD wouldn’t.
Meanwhile the story for HD-DVD began to look bleaker and bleaker. 
– Only NBC/Universal was providing content for HD-DVD
– Only hardware companies like Toshiba, and Microsoft were committing to HD-DVD.
– And only the #2 market player, XBox, was supporting HD-DVD
Suddenly a string of announcements started pushing Blu-Ray off it’s pyrrhic pedestal.
– Paramount/Dreamworks, Warner Bros, New Line Cinema and HBO all announced dual format support
– Hewlett Packard reconsiders their position and supports both platforms (after a frank discussion with Microsoft and Toshiba about HD-DVD’s support for desktops & server computers, relative to Blu-Ray)
– All the assertions people were making about the technical superiority of Blu-Ray turned out to be patently false:  HD-DVD supports lossless audio as does Blu-Ray.  Additionally, media manufacturers have been completely unable to massproduce movies on 50GB Blu-Ray discs and instead have had to resort to producing movies on 25GB Blu-Ray discs.  All HD-DVD discs are recorded on disc in 1080p.
– Blu-Ray’s first player is announced at $1000 relative to HD-DVD’s first player which is $499.
And now, it’s become very apparent from reviews that HD-DVD is superior in picture quality to Blu-Ray by a long shot.  It’s so superior that it’s very visibly noticable.  HD-DVD looks to be a major step up from conventional DVD, whereas Blu-Ray looks to be a rather minor shift in quality relative to conventional DVD.
This is the first comparison of Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD’s quality & usability that I’ve seen by actual video experts, instead of CNET or Register.co.uk.
  • On the Samsung BDP1000 Blu-Ray Player:
    "Overall, our initial experience with the Samsung Blu-ray player and the initial Blu-ray discs leaves us underwhelmed. The image quality does not measure up to what we would expect from a high definition source, and it certainly falls short of the hype. Though there is an obvious difference in quality between the three Blu-ray discs we have on hand, even the best of them falls short of the video quality of our HD-DVDs. "
  • On the Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD Player:
    "…when the first images from the HD-A1 began to light up the screen Tuesday afternoon, all of my doubts melted away in short order. The image quality was superior to any of the previous demos I’d seen—pure, rock solid, pristine, razor sharp, highly detailed, and virtually artifact-free are just some of the superlatives that come to mind. It actually surpasses broadcast HDTV, for it is in the same class in terms of image resolution, but it is free of the noise and compression artifacts that are part of the broadcast signal. We have used several 720p resolution projectors for our initial look at HD-DVD and the results are beyond any expectation I had. Our associate Bill read my mind when he said "After seeing this it will be hard to look at standard DVD again."
  • On quality of the HD-DVD:
    "We started by viewing the film U-571 in both standard DVD and its new HD-DVD version side by side. The DVD was played on the Oppo 971 DVD player, and the HD-DVD disc was played on the Toshiba HD-A1. Both players were set to feed the signals at 1080i via DVI.
    The result: a night and day difference. The HD-DVD image was much higher in contrast and showed beautiful detail in high resolution that was completely lost in the DVD. It was smoother, cleaner, and much more three-dimensional. The standard DVD looked surprisingly dull and grainy in comparison. This was true despite the fact that the U-571 DVD is actually a much better than average video transfer."


VALUE:  I believe that $499 for HD-DVD players versus $1000 for Blu-Ray Player will make a big difference on who buys what this Christmas holiday.

  • On the topic of cost and value:
    "The Toshiba HD-A1 is currently retailing for a mere $499. HD-DVDs are selling at discounted prices as low as $18.99 through our Amazon-powered DVD store (click here for current and soon-to-be-released HD-DVD titles). For this modest investment you can literally transform the performance of your home theater."
    "From the outset we were happily surprised by the substantial improvement in image quality being delivered by the $500 Toshiba HD-DVD player. And after investing $1000 for the Samsung BD-P1000, we were expecting to see at least comparable results. After all, the player is twice the money, and the discs are encoded in the same 1080p resolution format. How different could it be?
    Quite different, as it turns out. The Blu-ray launch delivered a rude surprise—picture quality that is moderately better than that available on standard DVD, but not rising to the level of anything one could call high definition. We viewed The Fifth Element, Terminator, and The House of Flying Daggers side by side in their DVD and Blu-ray versions, deriving the same results from each test: the Blu-ray discs showed somewhat better contrast and detail over their DVD counterparts. But the difference was not nearly as dramatic as the comparisons between DVD and HD-DVD. Moreover, none of the Blu-ray discs matched the higher quality of the HD-DVDs."
    [There is a huge section entitled "The Price Factor" on the site]

MARKETING:  I’ll leave this one for later.  I have a lot to say on this.

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