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HD DVD Player Buying Guide November 19, 2007

by Matt Wright , Filed under: DVD/Blu-ray,TOS Remastered , trackback

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.

Other options

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.

Comments

1. doug - November 19, 2007

Glad I went HD. :)

2. doubleofive - November 19, 2007

I got my Xbox 360 Add-on for my birthday, and I’m ready for Trek HD goodness. I just have to convince the wife to let me spend even more money on a show she thinks is “boring and cheesy” (she likes other Treks, just not TOS, sadly; you can’t blame her with some of the episodes though).

3. Daniel Broadway - November 19, 2007

I don’t like that Paramount when exclusively HD-DVD. Don’t get me wrong, they look nice, but I like having the option.

In my opinion, Blu-Ray is the superior format. It can hold much more data, which means lower compression, which means higher bitrates, which means better picture and sound.

Oh well.

4. Floydhead Max! - November 19, 2007

Wow, The first!! Can’t believe it!

I do have a HDTV question that maybe somebody can answer.

I’ve seen some HDTV’s listed as “1080i” (meaning 1080 interlaced display) and some listed as 1080p (meaning 1080 progressive scan display). Which of the 2 actually has the higher picture quality?

Not that I can really afford to invest in the new technology yet, but if I was, I would want to go with what is the highest resolution (i.e. picture quality), and even though I’m fairly educated in general on specifications, it’s amazing how many different ones there are to keep up with.

If anybody has an informed opinion, I’d love to hear it!!
Keep up the good work Anthony!
Until Next Time,
FM!!

5. jonboc - November 19, 2007

Matt- nice article.
Quick question for you. Does the Toshiba A3 have an optical digital audio output?
I use an HDMI to connect straight to my projector for video only and pipe the audio seperately through the reciever. I just want to make sure there is an optical output for sound.

Thanks!

6. Yancy - November 19, 2007

#4 Don’t get too worked up on the 1080p/1080i debate, a 1080i TV is fine. All LCD, Plasma, DLPs, and similar flat panel screens are “fixed pixel” displays… they are ONLY CAPABLE of displaying PROGRESSIVE images, so the image you will see is 1080 lines of resolution progressive even if you have a 1080i only TV. Now a 1080i flat screen will still need a good de-interlacer or have your TV properly calibrated to avoid some very minor image defects(almost imperceptible unless you have your face right in front of the screen or have a 70″ display).

Only CRTs, tube style televisions, are capable of displaying interlaced images because they are constantly displaying every other line of resolution in a matter of microseconds to the point your eyes deceive you into believing you are watching a full image.

Yancy

7. Andy Patterson - November 19, 2007

#3 Beta/Video. We’ll see who wins the race.

8. KT - November 19, 2007

In order to be eligible for the phaser remote, does the player have to be purchased *with* the DVD set, or is proof of purchase of each all that is required?

9. ensign joe - November 19, 2007

1080p is better than 1080i. I have a 1080i/720p Optoma projector with a 100 inch gray wolf screen and I can honestly say if you haven’t gone HD (or Blu Ray I don’t care) then you’re really missing out. Right now I belive you can get the projector for about $800 which is a heck of alot less than many HD tvs. Only problem is I can’t seem to find TWOK non director’s cut (can’t stand the director’s cut.. I mean, there is a reason it was cut)…

10. Gary - November 19, 2007

Toshiba is desperate and losing a ton of money selling players so cheap. So now’s the time to buy ‘em up – if you have money to throw away. Paramount is quite smart – trying to get us to buy a format that’s dying, so they can sell us the same titles again on blu-ray in a year! b#%tards.

11. Floydhead Max! - November 19, 2007

Yancy,
Thank you for the explanation

The format war sucks! You would think somebody would have learned lessons from the Beta Vs. VHS fiasco!

If I had a vote, I would vote for Blu-ray, but nobody cares what I think, only what I’ll spend my money on, and until they work it out, I’m withholding my investment into Hidef DVD’s (either Bluray or Hidef-DVD).

Until then screw um!!

Again thanks for the Tech explanation,

Until Next Time,
FM!!

12. Mr.HD - November 19, 2007

I have sold HDTV’s and equipment for about 4 years now. This much I can tell you: HD-DVD was intended to be the successor to DVD. Sony simply beat Toshiba and JVC to the punch with the Blu-Ray Disc. Then, because Sony is a company full of money hungry lechers, they decided to plant a sticker on it at about $900, and watched as customers who are Sony Loyalists buy it up en masse. Then the PS3 had BRD support integrated….imagine how foolish those PS3 buyers will feel when BRD goes belly up and won’t have legacy support. Of course Sony is too rich and boneheaded to give up this early, so they will keep dickering with the price points, feeding disinformation to the consumers (their biggest is “HD-DVD is only 1080i.) — and it’s not anymore. They both have almost exactly the same components, the same sound, the same vision. Some people even think a dual-format future is in our midst. Take it from me, a guy who has been selling this stuff for four years now…HD-DVD will win. I feel somewhat justified alone by the price points being a good 400 less on HD-DVD then on BRD. Don’t be afraid to buy Trek in HD! The dual-discs (for those of you who still aren’t sure) will future-proof your investment. No guarantee if they will play on BRD players though….

13. Anthony Pascale - November 19, 2007

Matt will come by later to answer some tech questions.

to 8, RE: Phaser
I added a bit in the article on that. You do not need to buy them at the same time, but you do need to buy them between tomorrow and February. There is a little card in the box set with more details…you need to send in proof of purchase and 7 bucks for shipping

14. Thorny - November 19, 2007

I also believe HD-DVD will win the battle.

The smart money is never on a Sony media format. Beta tapes, Mini CD’s, PSP Mini DVDs… where are they now?

15. Matt Wright - November 19, 2007

#5 — yep, it’s listed in the specs.

16. jonboc - November 19, 2007

#15 Mucho thanks!

17. Jordan - November 19, 2007

I plan on getting an HD-DVD player this holiday, and Trek will be a part of my collection. I’m all for HD-DVD, but I have Sony so im biased :D

18. Jordan - November 19, 2007

*Hate Sony ^

19. AJ - November 19, 2007

Trek is really the only reason I went HD DVD, and I am kind of pissed. I “early adopted” for an early Tosh player when I heard Trek was sticking exclusively with the format. I love the thing, but so many titles are simply going BR that I will have to buy one of those as well (The LG combi-player is not quite a 100% solution). I will wait until prices come down to less greedy levels.

And the fact that both formats are competing for a minuscule percentage of buyers makes it worse. DVD still looks so great to most ex-VHS consumers, that HD formats, that the standard HD format is still aways away.

And I vote for Carol Marcus ;-)

20. Chris Pike - November 19, 2007

As far as I know….Blu-Ray Disc format has a larger capacity than HDDVD – it can store more data. This has been misinterpreted as meaning it will give higher quality. In fact the complex and very clever codecs used for both formats are very similar and HD can look perfect at 20-30mbps at 1080p which both formats are easily capable of, with very little visual benefit from higher bitrates on a domestic 40 odd inch LCD/plasma. There may be some small issue on sound, but the differences in AV experience between the two is going to be hardly noticeable. I know having experimented with decoding my own HD content from raw camera data (uncompressed highest possible quality ) using MS’s WMV Advanced Profile HD VC-1 at 20-25mbps (that’s 20:1 compression!) at highest quality multipass and any compression artifact is hardly detectable – stunning! It’s down to these latest ingenious codecs that we can have quality domestic HD, not so much the disc type as far as I am aware.

21. Dr. Image - November 19, 2007

Mr. HD-12
I believe you are correct. HD will win out. It’s ALWAYS the price point that wins. Remember VHS & Beta? Same thing.

22. Anthony Pascale - November 19, 2007

AJ…i think the cheapest way to get blu-ray is a $400 playstation 3. Even if Blu Ray dies out you will still have a game console. In fact a PS3 and Toshiba A3 combined is $600 bucks…and that way you can wait out the war without caring who wins.

23. Kirky - November 19, 2007

Blue-ray is the way to go people, the picture quality exceeds HD-DVD!

24. Matt Wright - November 19, 2007

#20 — Actually both formats have the exact same (not just similar) video compression algorithims in their specifications; both HD DVD and Blu-ray movies may be compressed with MPEG2, VC-1, or H.264 (MPEG4-AVC). What is standard for the audio formats are pretty close too though not identical.

25. Matt Wright - November 19, 2007

#23 — Sorry that is totally unfounded, both HD DVD and Blu-ray discs get top ratings from respected reviewers, further companies such as Warner release in both formats and use the same encode for the Blu-ray version as they did for the HD DVD version, and there are no complaints.

But please let’s not make this a fanboy thing, the fact of the matter is Trek is on HD DVD, and this is an article to help people decide how best to proceed once they make the decision to try HD DVD (or go dual-format).

26. CanuckLou - November 19, 2007

I’m covered for both formats – have a first gen HD-A1 player and just picked up a PS3.

Once you go HD you can never go back.

27. ensign joe - November 19, 2007

Anthony for shame.. you KNOW paramount will only be putting new Trek out on HD.. and THAT is not available on the PS3…

28. ensign joe - November 19, 2007

Dang it the toshiba.. now how do I remove/edit old posts.. crap…

29. VOODOO - November 19, 2007

Do they (hd players) upconvert well?

I have so many dvd’s I really don’t want to start buying my old catalog again.

How close to High def do th upconverters get?

30. Dr. Image - November 19, 2007

I think it’s safe to say that Trek-in-HD ultimately is one impressive project, warts included.
The transfers on those standard DVDs were pathetic by comparison.
Amazon, here I come.
PS- Matt- the overview really helps. Thanks.

31. Cousin Itt - November 19, 2007

Just wanted to point out, too, not to be put off by the much less expensive 720p HDTV’s that will be on special this holiday season. The top gear reviewers all agree that on sizes less than 50″ it is next to impossible to distinguish between 720p and the higher resolutions.

I have a 37″ Panasonic 720p plasma that looks awesome, and can now be bought for less than half what I paid for it.

32. sean's clone - November 19, 2007

If HDDVD players continue to be priced lower than Blu-Ray and if HD movies are cheaper with more titles available, simple economics tells me that HDVD will win the “war.”

However, if Studios Like Sony and Paramount only release on one format, then consumers get screwed and HD adoption will be slow. Why? – Cause Joe Six Pack ain’t buying two DVD players – not happening Skippy.

However, the solution is the combo player, but the price is in the VIDEOPHILE range, not Mr. Six Pack’s. When the $200.00 combo player is released – then adoption rates will skyrocket.

In the meantime, Joe will be content watching upresed DVDs on his HD TV.

Thanks for listening,

J.S. Pack

33. Imrahil - November 19, 2007

I’m not buying either until the price for players drops under $100. That was my rule for DVDs, that’s my rule for HD. Besides which, TVs are ridiculously expensive. Those need to drop to about $300 or lower for a reasonable size (say, 30″).

Till then: Screw you, HD.

34. star trackie - November 19, 2007

Well, I’m going to borrow my friend’s HD Trek and my nephew’s Toshiba laptop with an HD DVD drive and run it through my HD front projector. First I’ll use the laptop, then flip the disc over and run it through the upconverted standard DVD player and see if my old eyes can even see $200 worth of difference before I shell out the $ for a stand alone HD player. .

If it hits me over the head with a big “wow!” I’m sold.

If the difference to my eye, on the big screen, is negligible, I’ll still buy the set and just run it through the standard DVD setup I already have.

35. T Negative - November 19, 2007

Ok , dumb question here: If I buy a HD-DVD player with 1080p output and pump a 1080p feed into a 50″ 720p HDTV, will I notice an improved picture or will the TV just downgrade the image to 720p/1080i??

My particular HDTV says it will accept a 1080p feed (native 720p). Would I be better off spending $200.00 on a 1080i player or will I benefit more by spending $100.00 extra on a 1080p player in this case??

TIA.

36. star trackie - November 19, 2007

#35 , I’m not quite sure that difference between 720p and1080p isn’t more exciting in the specs than it is with the naked eye. I think your down scaled 720p will looks just fine.

37. R.C. Williams - November 19, 2007

Matt –

You left the three Higher-end HD-DVD offerings off your list………

The Toshiba XA-2 ($799 MSRP) which is the flagship model. It has the Reon chip and is said to be one of the best players on the market. Upscaling is said to be outstanding. A new firmware upgrade allows it to decode DTS-HD MA. Toshiba stated last week that this is still its flagship player and that they won’t be replacing it until they can build a better machine. If you want the best, this or the Onkyo DV-HD805 are the ones to get (It can be found for $400-$600 online).

The Onkyo DV-HD805. ($899 MSRP) is based on the Toshiba XA2 and decodes all of the lossless formats. It is supposed to be slightly more refined than the Toshiba, but we’ll have to wait for reviews.

Integra DHS-8.8 ($1099 MSRP) Basically the same as the Onkyo with a longer warranty. Integra is to Onkyo what Pioneer Elite is to Pioneer.

38. Thomas Jensen - November 19, 2007

This is a great discussion. And I’m reposting here because I like what I wrote:

I was one who said I’d wait for the ‘wars’ to shake out. But I didn’t. Life is too short and who knows what will happen. I purchased the Toshiba for under $300 and I love it. The upscaling for dvds is great. The first item I put into the player was a third season trek dvd and I was floored! (It was Spock’s Brain) Great plasma picture even at the standard resolution.

The HD DVDs look to me like a pristine 70mm film clip projected onto a screen. I’ve now got a few HD films and I’m glad I took the plunge.

Yes, the upcoming Star Trek sets are what pushed me over the edge and I’m glad I learned to swim in the deep end. Price? No big deal.

Tomorrow Amazon ships the set and I’ll have it at the end of the week. On my birthday March 25th the second season set is released. Life is good.

39. Matt Wright - November 19, 2007

#37 — I had the XA2 listed, Tony seems to have decided to edit it out. The others aren’t really interesting to those who are timid about the A/V world, which most of our readers are not A/V enthusiasts so I didn’t feel it was appropriate to cover.

#35 — Don’t sweat it, the 1080p output of the A30 isn’t really remarkable, for a 720p TV it isn’t worth the expense. Remember the A2 will output 720p, it can downscale the 1080p video on the disc to 720p just fine. To feed it 1080i/p is putting the scaling in the hands of your HDTV, which isn’t always up to the task.

40. Brian - November 19, 2007

Ahhhh this is a much more civil argument than last night!

For anyone who’s interested…..Wal Mart is having a Black Friday promotion for the PS3(I’m not sure which model)….but the deal is buy a PS3 and get 10 free Blu Ray movies.

BTW….i have a 1080p plasma display….I can’t recommend it enough. That being said, other models are lower resolutions can be quite nice. All depends on how hardcore you are about electronics.

41. Justin Olson - November 20, 2007

I am fortunate enough to have accumulated Star Trek’s I, II, III, IV, VI, & VIII (all original theatrical versions) in 1080i MPEG2-HD, backed up on an external hard drive hooked up to my Mitsubishi HD1000u 720P projector through an ancient Buffalo Link Theater Media Player.

Even through a Stone Age component connection, “Wrath of Khan” looks particularly good. So does “First Contact.”

By the time Toshiba’s 150 million dollar (what’s the right word… bribe?) to Paramount and Dreamworks runs out, Abrams’ Star Trek movie will likely be out on HD-DVD AND Blu-Ray and so will the other films I’m sure. At that point I will buy a (probably) $350 or (hopefully) $299 dollar PS3 and enjoy the higher bitrate (up to 45mbps) and larger storage space (that usually means higher quality audio) that Blu-Ray offers.

In my opinion HD-DVD is great. Blu-Ray is greater than great. :)

42. Anthony Pascale - November 20, 2007

RE 40
that is a good deal on the ps3…i think you also get 5 additional movies for a total of 15. As I said before…buying a ps3 and the toshiba a3 is the way to go. You stay neutral and can get HD DVD stuff from Dreamworks and Paramount and Blu Ray from Sony and Fox and not care who wins. Plus with the combined promotions you will start off with 25 free movies. Now is really the time to buy. The price incentives and free movie promotions may never be better as their incentive to do so goes away once the war is over. I say…enjoy the war and get both! 600 bucks is a lot of dough, but 25 free movies makes it seem like a bargain

43. Cervantes - November 20, 2007

IAlthough I know I will probably pick up the ‘remastered’ Original Series sets ( when they become ‘discounted’ a little ) at SOME point eventually…if only for the improved PICTURE QUALITY, rather than the undernourished overall ‘special’ effects ( yes, ‘handphaser beams’, I’m especially looking at you ) of what was a worthier project to begin with…it is only because I do not know when or IF there will ever be an improved ‘remastering’ anytime soon in the years to come…and life’s too short to wait…

But as don’t just wish to settle with watching the ‘standard’ DVD side of this ‘combo’ set, I will no doubt HAVE to plunge for a ‘DUAL’ player, as there are just TOO many High Definition Blu-Ray EXCLUSIVE Movies that I wish to get also. The imminent release of a favourite of mine has seen to that: A Blu-Ray EXCLUSIVE ‘multi-cut’ set for ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. It is interesting to note that the Hd-Dvd camp has been pulled up TWICE now for WRONGLY claiming at major presentations that they will be putting out the Steven Spielberg back catalog. They are to be Blu-Ray ONLY.

I think that it will be down to ‘Studio allegiance’ as to which format proves to be the most popular when the dust has settled, and prices for both have equally dropped, and have no doubt that Paramount will end up backing both formats AGAIN, once their current ‘deal’ with the Hd-Dvd camp expires…so buyer beware…

44. Mazzer - November 20, 2007

Folks, another point about 1080p (which isn’t obvious in its name) is that the horizontal resolution is much higher than 1080i. Full 1080p has 1920 pixels in every horizontal row. Also, most plasma screens that are designed for receiving 1080i, in fact, can only show 768 pixels in the vertical direction. So a full 1080p TV actually has much higher resolution than 1080i — it’s not just a matter of progressive vs interlaced.

However, as some pointed out in this thread, you’re not going to appreciate the difference on a screen smaller than 50 inches, but I’d buy a 1080p if considering a new 50+ screen.

45. R.C. Williams - November 20, 2007

#43 –

This is not true. You may want to check your facts again. Universal does not support Blu-ray in any capacity, and Paramount simply stated that Steven’s films “are not exclusive to either format.” How this is twisted to say Spielberg’s films will be Blu-ray only is puzzling. Spielberg’s rep has stated that no more Spielberg films (save for Close Encounters) are forthcoming on either format in the near future (Probably because the rest of Spielberg’s major films are at HD-DVD only studios who are not releasing on Blu-ray). Things change almost daily in this industry, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of Spielberg’s films turn up in the near future.

Another thing: Paramount’s Chief Technical Officer Alan Bell has stated that their deal with HD-DVD is for “an indefinite period.” Paramount has never placed a time frame on this deal. This came from the same “anonymous” source who claimed that Paramount/Dreamworks received 150 million in incentives. Toshiba has denied this figure. It’s interesting I keep hearing stuff about “higher bitrate” but whenever Paramount was releasing in both formats, from every review I’ve read, all of their releases appeared to be IDENTICAL in picture quality. Given this, there is no logical reason to believe that this set would’ve looked any different on Blu-ray. I will certainly be glad when HD-DVD goes ahead with their 51gb disc so people can shut up about these capacity issues, which so far, don’t appear to have made any difference in the picture quality.

46. Mazzer - November 20, 2007

Speaking of HD-DVD, here’s the latest “player advertisement”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH7S_Nwb8fU&e

You gotta laugh. And yes, it could be Blu-ray that goes in that junk closet instead. :-)

47. Mazzer - November 20, 2007

R. C Williams — did you see this article?

http://www.dvdfile.com/index.phpoption=com_content&task=view&id=6326&Itemid=11

48. Mazzer - November 20, 2007

Oops, there should be a “?” after the “index.php”:

http://www.dvdfile.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6326&Itemid=11

49. Nelson - November 20, 2007

I got the HD-DVD this morning. Just sampled one episode, Charlie X. Looks great!

If you’re still on the fence, just go buy it. It’s worth the money to see Star Trek look this good! CGI stuff looked great too. Except the Thasian ship of course! :) Never saw the pores on Shatner’s face before and the wavy texture ot Charlie’s wrap around tunic.

50. Matt Wright - November 20, 2007

Hmm that article is slightly dubious. Also his basic premise is essentially a subjective/esthetic one. VC-1 in fact preserves grain better then H.264 (MPEG4-AVC), so he may be confusing “pleasing” with “grain blurred out”, many people do. He also accounted for the drop in HD DVD scores, which was that Universal was hurrying some catalog titles out and didn’t seem to do a good job with them (which studios on both sides are guilty of, Universial is the worst offender though). Further the number of titles released on each format isn’t totally equal, but getting close [HD DVD 338 titles vs Blu-ray 365 titles]. Now whether this is statisically significant between the two I’m not certain, the differences in numbers are probably close enough to be compared properly, but the overall sample size of both formats is far too small to really get any kind of solid conclusion from. Which really sums up the whole format war, there just isn’t enough of anything, players, movie titles, etc. sold yet to call anyone a victor, we have short term information that can swing wildly from week to week depending on what is released on any given Tuesday.

Further his “BR has superior encodes thanks to disc size” doesn’t quite carry the weight he thinks it does, Warner publishes to both formats and uses the same VC-1 encode on both. Many Warner films have had high ratings. So if Warner has a good transfer on BR it does on HD DVD as well, and vice versa.

Also he is arguing different things all mixed in, one of his arguements is about codec choice, not optical disc format. He likes the compression effect of AVC over VC-1. Both HD DVD and Blu-ray titles may use VC-1, AVC, or MPEG2 if they choose. It is up to the studio/production house to pick a codec they feel is best. Sony and Fox eventually chose AVC, Warner has been behind VC-1 since day one, so has Universal, Paramount experimented with all the codecs at different times, eventually choosing AVC. So perhaps AVC is the way to go, but that isn’t about the format per say. The format with the most AVC titles is Blu-ray, yes. But that is a false logic to conclude that the HD DVD platform is somehow poor. That is the choice of the studios releasing titles, not an inherent technical deficiency in one platform or another.

Of course I would argue that that guy doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. VC-1 actually does much better at the subsample level and can use a finer and a more adpative matrix of video blocks then AVC can (which is how it can preserve grain better). The predominant VC-1 encoder application is being refined on an ongoing basis, this is one reason why when Nine Inch Nails went to produce a concert in high definition, for both Blu-ray and HD DVD, they used VC-1. It turns out Microsoft worked closely with the producers to optimize their VC-1 encoder product to deal with the complexities of a live rock show that had fast light changes, etc. The results are stunning and you won’t find reviews complaning about image quality (as it pertains to the codec). Likewise, Shrek the 3rd is near reference quality, again thanks to the VC-1 encoder being tweaked and refined for the best quality in animation as well as live action film, and video sources (such as concerts). Another example of a more recent title is the BBC Video release of Planet Earth which uses VC-1 (it gets high marks). Sadly the US version of Planet Earth seems to have been done poorly and it was done in AVC. So it isn’t so cut and dry, production houses can definitely screw things up, and different masters can make differences as well.

51. Mazzer - November 20, 2007

Matt — thanks for the comprehensive response.

52. R.C. Williams - November 20, 2007

Matt-

Excellent post. I am glad you took to time to explain this. Also, the consensus in the industry seems to be that both AVC & VC-1 render excellent results. Cost, support and other factors are what make a studio decide to go with a specific codec not some dubious superiority. I for one am getting tired of all of this damn bickering over which format is better. I have extensive experience with both and feel they both offer a great experience. Many of the nitpicks people have with both formats are mostly studio choices. For example, Paramounts shunning of Lossless audio. Is this because HD-DVD is a bad format when other HD-DVD studios clearly do use lossless on their releases? What about Blu-ray coming out the gate those first several months with Mpeg-2 encoded titles? This eventually changed. These formats are new and will continue to evolve over time, so those of you who have chosen a side (or both) just rest easy in your decision and enjoy the films.

53. Sean4000 - November 20, 2007

Great article Matt. What is boils down to is hire the right compressionist.

54. Matt Wright - November 20, 2007

Thanks guys, I’m glad this resonated with you all. Far too often do people fall back on what is essentially baseless rehetoric from one side of the format war or the other, when the reality is far more gray, and far more complex (and actually the formats are quite similar in more then a few ways).

55. Tony Lalande - November 22, 2007

I’m currently awaiting the Samsung bh up5000 that plays both and at more of a reasonable price, I currently own 800 dvd’s will the upconverter give about the same quality of the hd dvd player or blu ray and if so what is one of the best upconverter I can Purchase?

56. Sean4000 - November 22, 2007

The ferjuda (sp) chip is a phenominal upscaler. I have it on my home theater DVD player and it works well with my projector too.

57. Dr. Image - November 23, 2007

Just bought an A3. I have an older, JVC rear projection AV-48WP30.
I find that the upconverting and HD playback is outstanding for under 200 bucks. I never thought this “antique” 2002 TV would have been capable of this kind of output! Plus, with Bourne and 300, and the other free dvds, how can you go wrong? I’ve been watching Transformers and just got 2001, which I’m looking forward to seeing in all its glory. Our Angel and other dvds never looked better, and oh, yeah, I’ll now be picking up Season One for sure.
Seeing is believing. Just buy one.

58. Gary - December 4, 2007

Don’t invest too much in HD-DVD.

Michael Bay talks about why Paramount is temporarily holding back on Blu-ray:

“What you don’t understand is corporate politics. Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about. That is why Microsoft is handing out $100 million dollar checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior Blu Ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads. Time will tell and you will see the truth.”

– Michael Bay (shootfortheedit.com)

59. Christopher - December 23, 2007

Can somebody answer a question I have?

I have a regular PowerDVD program and was wondering if I could watch the HD Star Trek Remastered on that, or would I have to just buy the PowerDVD Ultra?

60. Gary - January 5, 2008

Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema have left the HD-DVD camp and will be officially Blu-ray exclusive around Q2 2008.

#59 DVD players do not have the advanced laser diode needed to even read the data on the HD discs.

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