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Blu-ray and HD-DVD: is it Worth waiting for?

The Highlander

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Blu-ray and HD-DVD: is it Worth waiting for?


Ali vs. Frazier. The Stones vs. the Beatles. Godzilla vs. King Kong. VHS vs. Beta. And now? Try Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD, the latest raging format war to see which shiny disc replaces the DVD as next reigning home-entertainment kingpin—both display content in impressively crisp, clean high definition (HD).



Presently, no clear winner has emerged: each format, with discs and players incompatible, has its benefits and backers, its negatives and naysayers. (HP currently supports both formats, which will also be used for PC data storage—both realizing a big leap up from traditional CD and DVD storage.) Let’s take a look at how both stack up.



In this corner, weighing in with more capacity, Blu-ray



The Blu-ray format can hold an impressive 50 GB (HD-DVDs hold 30 GB). A high-def film requires close to 15 GB of space. Blu-ray’s champions include Sony, Pioneer, Samsung, Philips, Hitachi, Disney, Fox, Paramount, and Warner. Sony’s next-generation PlayStation 3 gaming console also has Blu-ray technology in place. Another plus—this noted by Adrienne Downey, a senior analyst at Semico Research—is that the Blu-ray disc may scale up to 200 GB over time—representing a whopping lot of data archived on a single disc!



In the other corner, and first to market, HD-DVD



So far, HD-DVD players and drives are less expensive than Blu-ray’s. For example, Toshiba’s first HD-DVD player, the HD-A1, is being sold for $500. Comparatively, at launch, Blu-ray players cost between $1,000 and $1,500. Remember that HD-DVD discs hold 30 GB compared to 50 GB for Blu-ray discs. The format is championed by Toshiba, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, Toshiba, Paramount, Universal and Warner. In addition, Microsoft is offering a $200 HD-DVD add-on to its Xbox 360 gaming console.



Freedom of choice, freedom to wait



If you’re an avid gamer, alignment in one camp may be a simple choice of going Blu-ray if you favor PlayStation 3, or going HD-DVD if it’s Xbox 360. But even if this is the case, it might be better to wait it out—if you’re not a rabid early adopter—to see which format emerges as the true champion, with tipping-point support, as VHS eventually did in its rumble with Beta.



For the more general consumer and office user, waiting it out seems a sound course. Even if the battle is not completely decided, say a year from now, prices will certainly come down for devices and software/movies for both formats, making the proposition a less cash-on-the-barrel gamble. Even CNET, in a related story, recommends you “refrain from buying a Blu-ray or an HD-DVD player in the short term.” Nobody wants to end up as the twenty-first century’s first Beta-like loser, and that’s not just a matter of wonky techno-hubris.



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