Did I Choose Poorly…?

OK, like at least one other person here I got an HD-DVD player over the holidays. It was extremely cheap at the Thanksgiving sale at Costco ($170) so I said, “Dang. How can I miss that?” Especially since I now had an HD-TV and the Dish shows only play at 720p not 1080i. I’ve only watched a few HD-DVDs. (Oceans 13, Bourne Ultimatum) However I noticed that at Walmart, while the BluRay section was slightly larger it had fewer movies I wanted. Further the HD-DVDs were always sold out while the BluRays never were. Plus, since Microsoft was pushing HD-DVD I figured momentum was on that side. Dang. I should have paid attention to Microsoft’s failure with Vista.

HD-DVD Player

Yesterday I read that Warner is dropping HD-DVD support and switching to BluRay. Toshiba and the HD-DVD consortium canceled their CES presentation. Toshiba put out a press release saying HD-DVD has not lost. When you have to tell people you haven’t lost you’re really in hot water.

So folks, did I blow it? Did I waste $200 for what will turn out to be at most 5-6 movies?

50 thoughts on “Did I Choose Poorly…?

  1. There are some excellent HD-DVD releases, Planet Earth and Battlestar Galactica among them. I’m glad though that I got mine for $100 during a Wal-Mart blowout. I will not replace it until Blu-Ray dips to less than a $200 price point.

    re: 720p vs. 1080i, I’m skeptical that you’d notice a big difference between the two. Maybe if you were talking about 1080p, and if you had a TV at least 50 inches large.

  2. Steve, I can really notice the difference between 720p and 1080i on my 42″ screen. It makes a world of difference. I will say that the difference between my old regular DVD player and the HD-DVD player playing DVDs is huge. Big enough that I won’t shed too many tears. I think it makes DVDs look amazingly better. I couldn’t believe the difference.

    As you said, the big problem with BluRay is the cost of the players. I don’t want to pay nearly $500 for a player with (right now) mainly Disney stuff to play.

    I didn’t mention it in my post, but I suspect the next big shoe to drop on BluRay will be this month’s Macworld show. Apple is on the BluRay board but hasn’t announced anything yet – not even authoring in DVD Studio Pro let alone iDVD. If they come out with a BluRay drive and iDVD burning for BluRay then all bets are off (IMO).

  3. BTW – the difference between 1080p and 1080i is pretty non-existent. It is just about how the lines are updated. Whether linearly or every other line. With modern electronics both will display the same resolution and refresh rate as I understand it.

  4. LOL. As funny as that is, it sounds like Toshiba is caving in and plans to produce dual format HD-DVD and BluRay players. Which is basically the same thing.

    On the bright side years from now Steve and I can announce we were bit by the 2cd gen betamax bug.

    Realistically though things aren’t over yet. BluRay is still ridiculously expensive. And Paramount/Dreamworks is still HD-DVD only. Even with Warner most of their stuff right now is HD-DVD only. But that’ll change in the future months.

    It’s not like I was planning on buying a lot of movies. Netflix has a thing where they automatically ship the HD-DVD version of their stuff if you have an HD-DVD player.

    BTW – you do realize that link is an April Fool’s joke. Right? (Check the date)

  5. I’ve had my Toshiba for over a year. I have about 30 HD-DVDs.

    I’ll buy a new BD player some time in the future, but I don’t feel like I’ve wasted any money.

    My HD-DVD player has also acted as my main DVD player, upscaling everything to 1080i.

  6. BTW – the rumor mills are saying Apple might be upgrading the AppleTV to include a BluRay player along with doing the video-on demand rentals.

  7. I only bought my HD-DVD player because Best Buy practically threw an open-box model (A2?) in for free when I bought my plasma in November. WE only own about 5 movies in the format. So I don’t feel like I’m in deep enough to regret it. The dang format wars drive me nuts though.

  8. I continue to assert that downloads will win this format war. However it might be that BRD is in the lead for a few months. Macworld will be interesting in that BRD support is expected to be widely deployed, but a new HD AppleTV (with cheap rentals) could be a real game changer.

  9. Can someone explain the difference between BlueRay, HD-DVD and the current DVD player (and scads of dvd’s) we alread have?

    Are all the movies we currently own going to be a obsolete as cassette tapes? Or will they still be watchable when this change happend next year?

  10. Tracy, the difference between high definition DVDs (lumping Blu-Ray and HD-DVD together) is that they provide a far higher quality picture and sound than traditional DVD. If you have an HDTV, a high definition DVD player will make a tremendous difference. Both formats can play traditional DVDs, so your existing discs will not become obsolete (at least, not for a while).

    The actual differences between the two formats are not worth talking about from the point of view of the average consumer. The sound and video from each is pretty great. HD-DVD players are slightly cheaper, especially when players have gone on discounted sale. The chief difference is which studios are backing which disc format. Blu-Ray now has a significant advantage in this respect.

  11. Tracy, DVDs are relatively low resolution. (720×480) at 24 or ~30 fps. The problem is that if you have a letterboxed movie (which you should) then you lose a lot of that resolution if you blow it up on a wide screen TV. So your effective resolution is lower.

    Both HD-DVD and BluRay use full 1080i and give you a resolution of 1920×1080 at typically 24, 25 or 30 fps. (Although I believe 50 and 60 are possible but as of yet unused by most manufacturers of hardware and software)

    It looks much better – even on 720p TVs that only play 1280 x 720.

    The big difference between HD-DVD and BluRay is the format of the disk. The HD-DVD holds about 17 gig while BluRay can hold up to 25 gig. There are slight differences on DRM as well with BluRay having slightly more odious copy protection as I understand it. (Kind of moot at the moment given the file sizes) There are also slight differences in how extras, menus and so forth are handled. Ideally BluRay is slightly better since it has more capacity which means either more extras or higher resolution extras.

  12. tracy m,

    DVD probably won’t die as quickly as VHS has because the formats that have followed it are backwards compatible. That means that an HD-DVD player or BlueRay player will not only play your DVDs, but play them better on an HDTV (due to upscaling) than you DVD player would.

    The primary difference between the formats is how much data they can hold. A DVD holds about 8 GB of data. HD-DVD holds about 30 GB, and BlueRay holds about 50 GB. So the newer formats can hold more data, which when it comes to movies, means they can have higher resolution, which translates to more detail on an HDTV.

    The newer formats also encode (compress) the data more efficiently than DVDs which also helps them present a lot of detail.

    My prediction is that we will soon not worry much about physical formats and that movies and TV shows will be sold and rented over the net.

  13. Clark, I notice a difference between 1080p and 1080i on my 46″ Sony. When there’s a lot of flashing and/or movement, the 1080i has to pixelate larger areas to “catch up.” When I don’t force it to 1080i and let it ride at 1080p, motion looks a lot smoother with no pixelation. Even my wife notices it, so you know it’s real. Maybe it’s just the size of my screen.

    You only wasted $200 on the player if you think you did. I’ve seen better titles release on HD-DVD, even though Blu-Ray is slightly more popular. Sadly, and I think this is true, the pr0n industry will decide the winner of this format battle, and sadly, Sony, the main proponent of Blu-Ray, has a terrible track record at winning format wars. Hey, at least you get sweet up-convert capability on regular 480 DVDs – it’s worth it just for that, IMO.

    Blu-Ray is another reason I went with the PS3. I spent $400 on my PS3, and it doubles as a fully-functional Blu-Ray player (+ $25 for the fancy remote control, which isn’t really necessary).

    I’m still waiting for the combo drives that play both to come down in price (ala Dolby and DTS combo receivers, which are extremely common).

  14. What were you watching and at what frame rate? My understanding is that for 24fps content they are basically the same. (See this)

  15. I don’t recall what I was watching exactly, except I remember that there was a dance floor of some kind and there was a strobe light. My wife had fiddled with the settings and the TV was set to 1080i, and when I noticed the pixelation, I switched it to 1080p, rewound it on the DVR, and watched the same thing again, and to my satisfaction, no pixelation. I’ll try to remember what it was.

  16. If you had it on a DVR it was almost certainly 720p which makes it even weirder. It might be a particular problem with your TV.

  17. Costco’s got a pretty flexible return policy. 90 days if I remember correctly. I’d take it back and get a refund, then go for the Blu-ray.

  18. Clark, I think the title here is wrong. It would be a bit funnier if it read:

    Did I choose… poorly?

  19. I was going to buy a new remote for my Xbox 360 ($29), when I saw Walmart advertising an HD-DVD player for under $100, plus I got five HD movies with the purhcase. It seemed like a no brainer for me….and, it upscales the current DVDs I own(and it is noticeable).

    I bought two HD-DVDs, and will not buy anymore. I do have a feeling that BR will be the wave of the future. you laugh about Disney putting its weight behind the format, but for families,that will be big. Plus, Blockbuster will officially announce that they are going to Bluray, according to some online reports. If they do that, the format wars are over.

    but, don’t negate the Walmart effect. because of their marketing and dropping the prices of those Toshibas, a lot of people (like myself) entered into the format wars earlier than we normally would have.

    I was content in downloading HD movies from Xbox live…that seems to be the wave of the future.

  20. Well I was somewhat joking. I still have an upscaling DVD player… LOL.

    Plus it may take a while for BluRay drives to come down in price…

  21. Clark,

    I just spent about $70 on an upscaling DVD player. Mostly because it had a USB port and plays divx files off a thub drive (or 500 gb hard drive as the case may be). In any case, if the format dies tomorrow you’re out about $130 minus the fact that you can watch the movies you’ve already got and any you might purchase in the $1 bins in a few months.

  22. Ah! Pre-mature format-gasm. Well, at least Paramount has a clause in its contract that enables it to switch – many other studies do not have that luxury.

  23. To add, I’m also a little leery of a PS3 as a player. It might be fine though. The big issue though is that I doubt I could pass it by my wife any time soon. There’s lots of other expenses a little more pertinent right now. But to be frank, the only way I managed the HD-DVD player was because it was so cheap.

  24. Clark,

    Add to that the fact that you might have a whole new set of must have items on your list on Tuesday morning…

  25. BTW – for those interested Toshiba dropped massively the prices on their HD-DVD players. The one I thought I got such a good deal on is now going for $50 less than what I paid.

  26. So Apple has HD movies with aTV and MS has them through xBox Live. Is anybody else offering HD movie downloads or any kind? I suppose there are on-demand features on cable systems.

    I still think that downloads will win this format war despite the late start unless BlueRay makes a huge charge really soon.

  27. John, Dish Network, Comcast, Direct TV and perhaps a few other outfits do on demand HD movies. Why should I get an aTV when my Dish does all the same things and I have it now? (Plus it now lets me plug in a USB hard drive to backup shows)

    It is very possible downloads would win the format war except for that ownership issue. (And that rentals are way too expensive – I was hoping more for a subscription model like Netflix)

  28. The other weird thing at the keynote was the announcement that HD rentals from Apple are only for the aTV. You can’t rent them on your computer (DVD quality only there). I don’t know if they are selling 720p movies. Probably not.

    Other than fixing the 5.1 sound issue there really still isn’t a lot of compelling reason to get an aTV. (IMO)

  29. I didn’t say that Apple will win the format war or even that rentals will win. Just that it will be downloads.

    I have no dish and no intention of getting one. I can’t get cable (not that I want it) so aTV doesn’t look too bad to me. I could see eventually reducing our Netflix account from a 2 at a time to 3 and then renting 720p movies on occasion from Apple. Still, it is silly that the device doesn’t have a 500GB HD in it. Why stick with a 2.5 inch model when the device could be 1 cm thicker and have a compelling amount of storage?

    I know that Steve has a vision and a strategy for this product but with a little work it could meet more needs.

    I had waited until today to decide whether to buy an aTV or Tivo HD. I walked out of Best Buy tonight with a Tivo. aTV won’t give Oprah to my wife, Conan to me, or Super Why to my kids.

  30. Ugh. It appears it’s official. Toshiba is going to stop making HD-DVD players. Blu-ray wins. Which sucks because right now most Blu-ray players suck. The ‘best’ is the PS3 and I ain’t getting one of those.

    Ugh. So the big question. Do I use my player as an overly expensive upscaling DVD player, do I buy lots of HD-DVD movies when the inevitable bargin basement prices arise, or do I save my shekels and get a Blu-ray player?

  31. I was one of those suckers who bought an HD dvd player back in Nov with my flat screen tv. The salesperson should have explained the situation with the format wars and I would have most likely NOT bought it. Now i see online, that all Best Buy salespeople have to explain what has currently happened with the format wars. LAME LAME LAME.

    By the way Clark- I purchased mine back in Nov and still don’t have my free 5 hd dvds either. WTF?

    I wonder if people who bought these will have a chance to ” trade them in, with toshiba” or recieve credit where they bought them.

  32. This should help make the HD DVD crowd feel a little better (scroll down a little ways):

    Discovery Store has the Planet Earth HD DVD Set for $79.99 – auto $50 coupon = $29.99 w/ free shipping. You must add to cart to see the discount. If you do not see it, clear your cookies and click on the link again. Lowest on Pricegrabber is $59. Thanks slicwillhe & trandt.

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