On Tuesday Star Trek Season One is released on the combo HD DVD/DVD format. Recently Paramount Home Entertainment announced that it is committed to HD DVD exclusively until 2009 (Star Trek Season Two hits stores on March 25th and Season Three by the end of 2008). So if you want to see the new box set or any other Trek in HD in the near future, then you will have to get yourself an HD DVD player. The good news is that it wont cost you too much latinum.
First, let’s talk HDTVs & upconverting DVDs:
The most common HDTVs today are 720p resolution, this includes most flat panel and rear projection TVs from 2003-2006. By 2006 new 1080p resolution HDTVs were common, but cost a premium. Today 1080p native resolution TVs are rather plentiful at sizes above 37 inches. So before you buy, consider if you really need a 1080p capable player. Also remember all HD DVD players play your existing DVDs. Standard Definition DVD video must be scaled (or “upconverted”) to the higher resolution of an HD display, the HD DVD players all have scaling circuitry in them, how advanced the capabilities are vary by model.
Toshiba HD-DVD Player Options
Entry Level: Toshiba HD-A3
Toshiba’s basic HD-A3 model is the best low-cost choice for people with 720p and 1080i TVs (which covers the majority of HDTV owners). Audio is available via HDMI, S/PDIF (optical digital audio), and basic stereo analog audio ports are also included.
NOTE: Only HDMI or the analog outputs are capable of sending the new high resolution audio HD DVD offers. While the MSRP of the Toshiba HD-A3 is $299 retailers have been playing a price war with many retailers selling the HD-A3 for around $200 (Amazon is currently selling the player for $199.00). For those crazy bargain early bird shoppers, Sears will be putting the A3 on sale for Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) for only $169.
Toshiba HD-A3s can be found for less than $200
Step up to 1080p: Toshiba HD-A30/Toshiba HD-A35
Toshiba’s HD-A30 adds 1080p compatibility (including 1080p/24 support for those with new HDTVs that are able to accept it), and it also includes better upconversion for standard DVDs. The retail price is $399, but it goes on sale quite a bit as well (Amazon Price $311.67).
Toshiba’s top of the line is the HD-A35 (MSRP $499) which includes all the features of the A30 plus 5.1 analog outputs for those with surround sound receivers that don’t have HDMI but who wish to experience the high resolution audio from HD DVDs (Amazon Price $405.16)
Get up to 10 free movies and a phaser!
Buy any Toshiba HD DVD player (including older models which can still be found discounted some places) and the Star Trek Season One set and you will get a free phaser remote control (Player must be purchased between 11/20/07 and 2/29/08 and can be bought separately from the DVD Set – more details here). Plus all Toshiba players are currently eligible for a 5 free movie promotion (details here). In addition, the ‘third generation’ (A3, A30, and A35) all come with 300 and The Bourne Identity in the box. And if you buy an A3 or A30 player from Amazon, then you get three additional movies, giving you a total of ten HD DVDs to start out your collection.
For Xbox 360 Owners: Microsoft HD DVD Add-on
The Microsoft HD DVD enables your Xbox 360 to play HD DVD movies. The kit includes a new remote made for HD DVD use, and a copy of King King (2005) in the box. The Xbox drive also counts for Toshiba’s 5 Free HD DVDs via mail-in rebate offer, but does not qualify for the Phaser remote offer (Amazon sells it for the retail price of $179.99). Other retailers put the Xbox drive on sale periodically (or bundle it with extra HD DVDs).
Xbox 360 Add on – cheapest way into HD DVD (if you have an Xbox 360)
HD DVD on your PC
If you have a modern relatively powerful PC, you can use the Xbox 360 drive with a PC if you purchase a copy of Cyberlink’s PowerDVD Ultra ($99.95) which is needed for HD DVD playback (also works with Blu-ray drives). If you prefer an internal solution, then the LG GGC-H20L plays HD DVD and Blu-ray plus it includes Cyberlink PowerDVD Ultra ($299.99 at Best Buy and other retailers). For more on PC solutions and system requirements see my article at A/V enthusiast site MissingRemote.com here.
HD DVD/Blu-ray combo players
You can also hedge your bets with the LG BH-200 (out now) or the Samsung BD-UP5000 (coming in December); both can play Blu-ray and HD DVD discs, they come at a premium and run in the ball park of $800 to $950. The Samsung model features top of the line video processing and has nearly every kind of audio and video output one could want. In the end they may not save you money, but may save the space of having two players.
LG’s BH-200 keeps you neutral in the format war
Quick note on the ‘format war’
As you know there are two competing HD media formats competing for market domination right now: HD DVD and Blu-ray. As mentioned before, Paramount recently changed their policy of releasing on both to go HD DVD exclusive for the next year and a half. This means that all three seasons of TOS Remastered and possibly the new movie will be on HD DVD with no guarantee of showing up on Blu-ray. Same goes for other possible releases of Trek films and TV series in HD. Despite various claims by both sides, neither can claim victory in the ‘war’ and it is likely to go on for some time. The choices are to wait, pick a side, or buy both formats. TrekMovie.com does not advocate one side or the other, but the simple fact is that if you want to see any Trek released in high definition you need to buy an HD DVD player. The good news is that HD DVD players can be significantly less expensive than Blu-ray players. As mentioned above you can get an HD DVD player, the Star Trek Box Set, 10 free movies and the phaser remote for around $330 (from Amazon). Of course ideally this would not be an issue, but it is. So you can wait around for what could be years, or plunk down 200 bucks and start enjoying Trek and other HD DVD exclusives now (or hedge your bets and get a Blu-ray player too).
If you have more questions about your HDTVs, I’ll be happy to try and point you in the right direction. Just ask a question in the comments section below.