Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ever Launched a Format Before You Finished It?

Gizmondo has provided an excellent rundown of the current state of the HD DVD format, to compliment their state of Blu-ray Disc piece from last month.

As you may remember, I recently declared my love for HD DVD (as well as my timidity and frustration—thanks format war!) in a column. Gizmondo's enlightening rundowns only make me more confident in the future success of HD DVD. The HD DVD piece juxtaposes the slick and agreed-upon HD DVD standard with the still-in-the-air features of Blu-ray, whose various manufacturers can't agree on anything. A comparison of the user experience of the "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" discs is most enlightening.

"Never mind that you could watch the entire HD DVD with pop-up actor-commentary windows on screen—if Warner had implemented this in the Harry Potter Blu-ray, it would have been compatible with exactly one currently shipping Blu-ray player.

The surprising thing was, even when you compared the exact same experiences, the HD DVD behaved much better. Every so often an icon appears in the top left corner of the screen, indicating a behind-the-scenes featurette about that particular scene. On the HD DVD, you click it, watch what you want to, then click Enter again to return to the point you left off in the main movie. With the Blu-ray, the system had no way of returning you to the movie; it could only dump you in the featurette menu, where you were stuck watching more of those."

Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go in the format war, but it's clear that Blu-ray can no longer be painted as the runaway winner.

And at the current bargain prices available from retailers like, you can get an HD DVD player for similar prices to up-converting DVD players. I'm routinely impress by how well my HD-A3 plays standard-definition DVDs on my HDTV.

NOTE: The Amazon deal linked above now charges $50 more for the player and gives two fewer free discs than it did a short while ago. And it's still a good deal.

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