Projector Reviews

Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD Wars Holiday Update

I’ve been roaming the usual brick and mortar stores this week to see what’s going on in the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD wars.

Perhaps the first significant thing I saw, was lower prices on Blu-ray players, first, at Best Buy in Lake Forest, CA. Samsung Blu-ray players for $299 (one disc included, Spiderman 3, I think).

Then I just read somewhere (not confirmed) that Circuit City is offering a Sony Blu-ray player for $299, with five free titles. Now that works out to well less than $200 after you figure at least $25 per disc.

I’ve seen Toshiba HD-DVD players around for $199 for a while now, but I haven’t followed whether they have bundled discs.

Also good news for consumers, Wal-Mart apparently offered up an HD-DVD player for $99 at one of their “secret sales” which go out to their mailing list. (That was back before Thanksgiving.) A more recent Wal-Mart secret sale had the Toshiba HD-A3 player for $298, but with 12 free HD-DVD titles. Now based on the normal selling prices of HD-DVD discs, that’s pretty close to a free HD-DVD player!

On the bright side, thanks to Wal-Mart, my original prediction back in late 2006 in the first Blu-ray vs HD-DVD article, turns out to be in part true. Back then I predicted that consumers would probably be able to buy a hi-def player for under $100, and Walmart has made that happen. Of course I predicted both HD-DVD and Blu-ray would be at that price, so I didn’t get it all right.

Still HD-DVD for $99, and a $299 Blu-ray player with $125-$175 worth of free discs, is going to make for very happy shoppers this month.

As to who’s winning the war? Well, Blu-ray still has the advantage in most areas (except player price).

I noted that the local Best Buy had 3 sections of Blu-ray titles, vs only 2 of HD-DVD titles.

Last time I wrote about Blu-ray vs HD-DVD discs, the big news was pro HD-DVD – that Paramount joined Universal as the two exclusively HD-DVD studios (except for Spielberg’s formidible library). This time around, no major announcements, but, interestingly, I see that Warner, who has been consistantly supporting both formats, just released Blade Runner, in standard DVD and Blu-ray, but no mention of HD-DVD. Does this mean anything? Who knows. On the other hand, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is right around the corner (2nd week of January), and it is a time when announcements can be expected.

(Update: One of the comments received below just advised that Blade Runner is available on HD-DVD, and I thought that worth adding to the blog itself. Strange that they aren’t advertising HD-DVD, but that should have HD-DVD owners feeling a little more secure.)

Perhaps most significantly, I found this quote on another blog: “During the Black Friday period, BD titles made up 72.6% of all high-def purchases, with HD DVD totaling 27.4%, according to Nielsen/VideoScan figures cited by the [Blu-ray Disc Association].”

What to do? Personally, I’m rooting for Blu-ray, even though I have both a PS3, and a Toshiba, but it doesn’t really matter. At worst case, if you pick the format that doesn’t survive, you’ll still amass a collection of many dozens of movies, (before the dust has settled) for the format you start with, and you will always be able to play them as long as you have a working player.

With prices on Blu-ray and HD-DVD players at their current levels, my advice to all of you with home theater projectors, or planning on one soon, is to definitely get at least one format immediately. The differences between standard DVD and either hi-def format, are astounding on the big screen. It’s more than just resolution, the overall picture quality is usually dramatically better for viewing. Those of us with home theater projectors can truly appreciate these differences. Go for it. -art

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