This past Christmas season two giants were fighting tooth-and-nail to win your high-definition loyalty. First, we have Sony’s Blu-ray, and second, we have Toshiba’s HD-DVD. Both promise to herald a new era of home theater, and both offer an incredible look and sound. Both format’s discs cost $20-$35, and each player will play your “olde tyme” DVDs as well. And with 350 titles to choose from on either side of the fence, you may be wondering which to go with, if any at all. (Note: There is absolutely no reason to switch if you do not own an HDTV with either an HDMI or DVI port to connect it to your next-generation player.)
Blu-ray is the more advanced format. Hands down, it holds more data, which is great for cinephiles who want a documentary on the director’s choice of toilet paper with their film. The players are expensive, thought, averaging from $500 to $1,000 and up. The Playstation 3 remains a cheap(er) solution for someone who enjoys video games and films at (cough) $499.
(Second note: Different studios back different formats. It sucks, I know. Do your homework.)
Now, onto HD-DVD. It triumphs cost-wise, with players at less than $200. For Xbox 360 owners, you can buy the $180 external player. Another advantage is that there is no regional encoding. This may sound confusing for novices, so let me clear it up. Traditional DVDs are “encoded” to only be played in one of nine regions around the world. One of my favorite Japanese films, “Battle Royale,” was never released in the United States, and therefore, I could never legally watch it here, not even if I bought the Japanese DVD. Blu-ray players also have a regional encoding, though less restrictive (three areas). HD-DVD has none.
Ultimately, I say save your money. Downloading is the real future, though it’s probably five to 10 years away. If you can’t wait, be prepared for the pain that comes with early adoption. I thought it was hilarious that Apple dropped the price of the iPhone $100 only a month after its launch. From what I hear, the people who stood in line to buy them didn’t even crack a smile.